Posted by: smithdavid | February 3, 2013

Suburban Boarding

It’s not particularly late but already it’s dark and cold as I walk from Tim’s apartment to Notting Hill Gate Tube Station.  I’m light-footed and on my lips is a smile that broadens each time a passer-by does a double take. Now that I’ve walked for a while I can feel her strap dig into my shoulder. A wind gusts and I have to hold her tight to my leg so that she doesn’t get picked up. A few years ago I might’ve felt foolish – taking a surfboard on the Tube is not what you’d call normal behaviour. But I need to get Matilda back to the house in Ealing and these days I care less and less about how things appear.

Now I’m thinking back to the night, a few weeks ago, when I saw her again for the first time since my return from SA. It was Saturday and we were out and it was snowing and it was starting to stick. The whiteness and the time of night and the delicate faces of the girls we were with brought inspiration to Tim.

where matilda should be

where matilda should be

‘Let’s snowboard!’ he said. So we meandered through Notting Hill, finally back to his basement apartment where his specially imported wine fridge and his French books and his custom coffee brewer waited. And when he opened the door to his under-pavement storeroom to find his snowboard I looked in with a quickening heart because I knew that this was where he had put her when he brought her back from Heathrow Left Baggage after they had refused to take her to Jo’burg. And she was there and I took her out her bag and felt her weight in my hands once more and felt the way that she tapers at the rails.

I remembered being on Tim’s snowboard and not liking the way my feet were bound and wishing that I was out in the blue with Matilda.

Now I walk down the stairs and to the turnstiles. A blue-jacketed Tube man looks Matilda up and down. ‘How long is that?’ he says. This is de jevu of the time in Heathrow and I feel a little less light than before. That nagging sensation that she’s jinxed returns.


Then he’s contacting ground control on his radio. ‘You can’t take it on if it’s longer than 6’6” – hold her up against that door, that’s about 6’6”…’ he says.  The engineer in me is calculating how to hold a 7’3” board against a 6’6” door frame and make it appear like the board is smaller.


tube, but not the right one

As I near the door I notice that it’s open and inside is the chief of ground control and the exercise in science becomes one of humanities.

‘C’mon, it’s a Sunday, I’m getting onto the Central and going straight to Ealing Broadway, no changes…’ I say. He looks at me and looks at her and he smiles and waves me on. Blue Jacket Tube Man opens the baggage gate and waves me through as if now suddenly, on the say so of his gaffer, I’m royalty.

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