• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 10
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The World of Reality Has Its Limits

In the gap between the levels of our consciousness and imagination is an ever-moving barrier. My grandmother had experienced so much of life that her barrier barely gave an inch when the Tube doors slid open. Where I saw a soldier’s rucksack and a stolen lawnmower, she saw a trip hazard and a bomb.

Her fear was such that she clutched my arm and dragged me upward against the flow of humanity flooding the metal edged steps of the Underground. The same steps she’d puffed down only minutes before, rushing me on to catch the arriving train.

My not so quick young mind wanted more time to understand what I’d seen. Narratives stormed my brain: army surplus wearing gardener going to work in Knightsbridge, broken van, wealthy client, important first contract. Or two men: one home on leave, curled up asleep out of sight, the other a thief whose only night-haul was a suburban lawnmower that he had no use for in his high rise flat. Or, a grandad, determined to mow a crease for his city grandkids who knew nothing of their Yorkshire heritage. More work was needed on matching the rucksack to its owner, but one thing was sure: there was never going to be a bomb in it.

Grandma won of course. Frail old people can be surprisingly strong where their families are concerned. I let myself be pulled up to the traffic and bumping crowd, to spend the rest of the day wondering if the kids had learnt the rudimentaries of cricket, what the gardener had done with his expensive grass cuttings, and whether the exhausted soldier had anyone to make him a cup of tea. As for the thief? Well, he got a tenner and a big laugh when he wheeled the mower into his local. Job done.