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Peak/Off-Peak: A Southern Rail Ride to Canterbury - Joel Fisher


Here’s what happened: everyone died; a typical end to commuters bound for Canterbury. Those exiting pawing at the door, those boarding massing on the other side. The pause, the light, the frantic stabbing at buttons.

The beep. The eternal moment when eyes met and no-one gave way. Then the scrum – shoulder first, get in low. The elderly and infants dropped first, crushed underfoot; tumbled, torn and bloodied. From the floor, the old ones raised their sticks, aimed for knees. There’s no space to swing so they stabbed, stabbed, stabbed – authors of their own fate as three large commuters fell hard on them. Breathe! But they couldn’t and more heavy feet settled for purchase in their mouths, crushing down until – pop! Something gave at the back and the mass collapsed down to the tracks.

Soon, the train started up, sluicing blood onto the platform’s walls. At the next station, people were pleased, surprised to find so many free seats on a morning train to London.


This is what happened: no-one died; it’s not that sort of story. The gentle fields, sown with swans, fell away to history. The train settled at Canterbury and, after a dignified prompt, the people queued politely for the door. They were British, after all. The door opened and they filed, one by one, through a just-so gap in the waiting boarders. A medieval somnolence greeted them as they tip-toed quietly through the turnstiles.

As the last shoe left the train the parted sea of boarders closed and a new foot mounted the step. Those waiting filed gingerly inwards, to London, seeking opportunity and fortune. They picked among seats and sat the journey; their time had come!

Several years later, one of them who’d made it returned to bestow Christmas lights on the city’s walls. They were good lights, built to last. They twinkled as the city slumbered through another thousand years.

Image Credit: Greg Plominski

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