A chill London breeze whipped rain onto Liza’s trousers and into her soaked shoes, twilight swiftly descending. She took the map out of her pocket to check her location. I’m totally lost, she thought, feeling sick.
The tube strike complicated matters. Only for that, it would have been easy to meet Emma at Liverpool station. The walk had been easy earlier that morning, but now she was being swallowed up by the mist and darkness.
Buses disgorged commuters, who rushed by, clearly keen to be home out of the drizzle. Some ignored pleas for directions, others had no advice to offer. She dodged puddles, turned this way and that, seeking the right direction in vain.
Finally, she darted into a hotel, blurting out her dilemma. The desk clerk told her: ‘The Bakerloo line is still working, luv. That’ll get you there.’
Liza entered the tube at Oxford Circus, her relief palpable. Sitting in the train she felt almost light-hearted. A cinch, she thought, why did I worry?
Passengers left and entered. The next stop was Liverpool. To her dismay, the train whizzed past. I’ve no choice but to alight at the next station , Liza thought, biting her lip. How on earth will I find my way back in the rain and darkness? Another voice consoled her: it’ll be all right.
She exited the barriers, about to consult an official in uniform, when he began giving directions to a tall, handsome young man . ‘Ten minutes walk and you’ll be at Liverpool station.’
The stranger scored his map with a pen.
Hoping he was a knight in shining chain-mail and not an axe murderer, Liza asked: ‘ Do you mind if I tag along?’
A warm smile. ‘Not at all.’
The pavements gleamed wetly in car headlights as they negotiated a twisting confusion of streets, and ascended a bridge over disturbed waters, then following a path beside the lapping ripples of a canal, gleaming with coloured images of the city. It seemed odd to be sharing her little adventure with a total stranger.
‘The name’s Liza – I’m visiting my daughter in Bath. She’s a painter – just finished her Masters in Fine Arts.’
‘I’m Luke. What a coincidence: I’m also an artist. Did my Masters but I’m now working in commerce. Love painting but it doesn’t earn enough.’ Luke was running late for a dinner engagement
Ten minutes walk became fifteen, twenty…
Light spilled into the pools of rain outside a pub. Liza’s knight seized the opportunity, asking a passer-by whether they were still on the right track.
Then Luke pointed towards a large building. ‘That’s Liverpool station.’
Liza thanked him profusely. ‘Even in the twenty-first Century, chivalry is alive and well.
He laughed, and bowed. ‘Have a good evening.’
(This blog first appeared in radio national pocket docs)