Before moving to Milton Keynes I spent around 5 years working in Manchester city centre, which – despite the long travelling times – I really enjoyed. It was the buzz of the whole place which I liked to get caught up in, and even my daily walk down Whitworth Street from Piccadilly Train Station felt like a stroll through the centre of the universe. I still think Manchester pips London as my favourite UK city, and we even went back up there for our joint stag/hen do earlier this year.
I was working in Halifax before that, for the same company, and it was a lovely guy called Dave that got me the job in Manchester. I’d worked with Dave on a couple of projects, and he eventually found himself in a position to need Project Managers and brought me across to the head office in Manchester to work for him. I learned a lot working for him, and the best thing was that it was like working with a mate, rather than being an underling. We had stuff in common – both West Yorkshire lads, both liked a drink, both fans of music. Probably the best boss I’ve ever had. What a dude.
So anyway. Me and Dave both traveled in from Huddersfield on the train, so quite often we’d travel together and put the world to rights. Occasionally we’d also go for a beer or two after work, and it was on the journey home from one of these nights that we came across THE SCRIBBLER on the TransPennine Express service from Manchester Piccadilly.
Despite sounding like some horrific fucking ghoul from a Guillermo del Toro movie, The Scribbler is actually quite the opposite. The Scribbler is stuck in my mind as a paragon of what life could be like if only we stopped caring about what others think, and focused unwaveringly on only the things that make us happy. The Scribbler is a beacon of hope for anyone feeling lost in the world, or like they are cracking under the pressure of social expectation. A beacon which was reignited a few days ago when Dave’s photo of The Scribbler popped up on Facebook as a memory from 5 years ago.
The TransPennine Express was usually rammed. Getting a seat for the journey home normally required commitment and forward-planning. You had to know exactly where the doors of the train stopped in order to be ready and waiting on the platform. You also had to be willing to fight your way through the crowds to reach that privileged platform position, and then once the train pulled in you had to be willing to use elbows. Don’t try and help people either – the weak are to be cast aside and left to wait for the next train. To hell with them. This is how evolution works after all. Only the strong survive (unless the weak are packing umbrellas – dirty tactics).
On this particular night, The Night Of The Scribbler, the train was nice and quiet. This was due to our extra-curricular drinking activities. It was probably 7 or 8 by the time we sat down – and rush hour had already been and gone.
“Look at this guy!” said my boss, pointing over to the table opposite. “What’s he doing?”
We both watched as The Scribbler took his position.
The Scribbler was a young-ish lad, probably about 28 or 29 years old, and he was wearing a very cool blue Cookie Monster t-shirt. He was happily listening away to his mp3 player as he pulled his rucksack up onto the table and pulled out an over-sized wine glass with a gold-painted rim, and an expensive looking bottle of red wine. Rioja, I think it was. He uncorked the wine and poured himself a generous glass, then fished deeper into his bag and pulled out a packet of Walkers Cheese & Onion.
Me and Dave looked at each other.
“What a cool guy!” I said. “Even brought his own goblet. May as well travel in style eh?”
The Scribbler took a long gulp of his wine, looking longingly at the glass as if he wanted to savour the colour as well as the taste, and then delved again into his rucksack. This time he pulled out a pack of felt tip pens, and a Sesame Street colouring book.
“Dave!” I said to my boss, pointing at the colouring book. “I think we’re in the presence of a zen behemoth. This guy just does not give a fuck.”
“Imagine that,” said Dave. “Just imagine being able to go through life like this guy – with apparently no worries in the world. I wanna be like this guy.”
“Me too Dave. Me too.”
We continued to watch on as The Scribbler carefully selected a page in his colouring book, and then began his evening’s work. Not for a second did he stop to look at the world around him. He didn’t care about the scenery flying past the window beside him, or the tannoy announcements about the estimated arrival times. Nor did he care about the 2 lads sat across from him – slightly tipsy and immensely jealous of a life lived with such a carefree abandon. He also, it appears, didn’t care about colouring in the lines. He was getting that yellow pen all over the place. Oscar’s bin was being polluted by the colour of Big Bird’s feathers. What the fuck man! This guy was dangerous.
We exited the train at Huddersfield station, leaving The Scribbler to be alone with his Rioja and colouring book, and for some reason the thought of this guy has never left me. 5 years have passed and I still have unanswered questions: Was he taking the piss? Did he have learning difficulties? Or was he just an absolute legend, beamed down from another planet to teach us humans about the importance of happiness in the face of social pressures, possibly with a wanky subtext about staying in touch with your inner child?
Whatever it was, I think we can all learn a lesson from The Scribbler.
And what does this story have to do with alcohol recovery?