The Singing Girl on the Piccadilly Line.
Last week, on a crowded Piccadilly Line train, I found myself smiling inadvertently whilst pretending to read my book - or, if my short-hand tutor is reading this, reading Chapter 8 of my enthralling and captivating Teeline book.
The reason for this was the singing American girl. There in front of me, in the middle of the train, was a blonde American singing - predictably maybe - "American Pie". Now, I know that as a rule people who sing on trains should be clumped over the head with large blunt objects, or at least thrown off the train in question. But this is normally because their ability to sing is rather lacking. And if you are not in tune on the train then whatever horrible things happen to you are entirely your own fault.
But this girl could sing. And did not care. Maybe this is because Americans have lesser inhibitions than the British with their starched collars, I don't know. As she made her way through the verses, slowly, all the miserable people in the train began to notice. Even the ones that were pretending to read their papers, or, in fact, their highly riveting short-hand books, were having trouble not to crack.
"I knew a man who played the blues / And I asked him for some happy news" sang the silky voice. By now all were openly enjoying it. Well, except for one, but I'll come to that shortly.
She sat down two seats away from me, still singing. I could see the man opposite me, a serious business sort, who presumably didn't really believe that the golden rule of not speaking on the tube should be broken. He was actually quite enjoying this and I swear that I could see him mouthing the words to himself.
The girl stopped. All heads turned her way as if to say: "Oh, but we were enjoying that".
Another girl struck up a conversation with the singer. I caught the last bit of it: "Sorry, it's just so strange to hear someone singing on the tube. No-one normally even talks. It's nice".
Meanwhile, I turned to the Singing Girl and point out a simple fact:
"You missed a verse".
"I was being true to the Madonna version", comes the quick ripost.
Fair enough, I think and go back to my book - er, sorry, my short-hand. Soon enough the sound of the girl singing comes again. This time it's Mr Big's "To Be With You", a huge hit somewhere back in the early nineties for the band, who had hair so big that it had it's own post-code. They made Def Leppard's hair look like a feeble attempt at extravagance, and that's no mean feat. The last time I heard this song I was drunk in a bar on Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta. Memories come flooding back ...
So the train continues to rumble through the tunnels. Singing Girl starts on a Shania Twain song. Hopefully this won't inspire her to shoot her other half like that lady in the news recently. The train comes to its next stop and she departs, taking her smile-inducing singing voice with her. Well, it would be careless to leave it behind after all. Someone might sit on it.
Doors close. The train trundles along. Everyone talks in hushed whispers to their companions about how great it was to have someone singing and being happy on the tube. Except for the girl next to me. She beckons her boyfriend over to her and tells him (OK, so I'm ear-wigging someone else's conversation and that's not terribly decent, but what else is there to do on a packed train when you've done your short-hand?):
"That girl was really pissing me off. Singing on a train. Who does she think she is? I mean, 'hello' you're on a train ... bloody Americans."
Or something of that nature.
I want to tell her to look around the carriage. If she did she would see that the collection of miserable peak-time travellers are all smiling. They weren't before. And there's only one thing that could possibly have cheered up all these people at the same time: Singing Girl.
In fact, I want to tell her to stop being such a misery. Fair enough if the girl's choice of songs was not to the girl's taste, but at least she could sing. And at least she did something that cheered people up.
So, Singing Girl, if you're out there reading this, next time you go on a train, sing. Sing with all your might. Recruit other good singers. Tell them to sing on public transport (but in tune). Hit those notes with a smile on your face, whether you be singing in the shower, the train, the supermarket or the police station ... And see how many lives you can brighten up because London needs more people like you.
And if you happen to come across a girl looking miffed that you are singing whilst she is trying to have a quiet time, then it's probably Misery Girl who was sitting next to me. Stand especially close to her and sing some really bad songs, just to get her back. She is only upset because her own voice probably sounds like someone strangling a cat. Badly.