I’m heading to London on the 08.59 train. I like this one, it misses the commuter rush but still gets you there fast. It’s usually half empty, so finding a set and table to write at is easy too. Today, two men sat opposite me, both very smart, sharp suits. The older, clutching the daily paper, a leather document wallet and coffee and the younger holding nothing. They sat in silence and i commenced my favourite train game: guess the story.
Both very smart: solicitors? Maybe a barrister and trainee? The younger chap is around thirty. Maybe consultants off to do a pitch? Strange that he sat there for ten minutes just staring into space. Some people read, many use laptops, some sleep or stare downwards, but few stare ahead. The older chap just read the paper.
Then, as i ran out of ideas, the younger turned to the older and said ‘dad, how should i answer this question…‘. Interview!
My perception of the situation changed fast: maybe going for a job at dad’s firm? Maybe just coincidentally both heading to London, one to work, one seeking it? I was most interested in the dynamic: ernest conversation on how to manage the interview. Dad, calm and reflective, son urgent and wide eyed. Clearly an important day.
I found myself thinking of all the information that may have flowed through this relationship: dad holding the back of the seat to launch son on first wobbly ride down the garden path on new Christmas bike. Dad berating son for late night return after drinking with teenage friends. Dad helping with university choice with unwanted ‘helpful’ relationship advice to boot. Maybe none of the above, maybe more.
The nature of learning within families is strange as it changes so radically within our lives: from the fundamentals of how to tie your shoe laces to the more reflective conversations about love, life and living. And the arguments about borrowing the car and shared holidays.
Does dad know best? Maybe sometimes: he’s certainly been there and done that. Everything about their body language contrasts. Dad, grey hair, relaxed, assured, firmly in his stereotype, son in smart but newer suit, unsure, learning. I hope he does well.