I was on the train, when a Japanese couple got on. They were rather attractive and cool-looking despite – perhaps even because of – the man’s long pony-tail (which makes me wonder, in passing about the way the semiotic value of hairstyles varies among different ethnocultural groups, e.g. the different meanings associated with a mohican sported by, respectively, a punk and an actual Mohican. Obviously, almost any caucasian male with a pony-tale becomes a figure of fun, but this Japanese guy somehow made it work).
They sat down, and both took out a jazz magazine. One of the jazz magazines was simply, and unimaginatively titled Jazz Magazine. I didn’t catch what the other was called. The woman was wearing a long grey woollen dress, over some thick grey woollen tights, a look she rocked (or jazzed, perhaps). He was wearing a sharp suit. They were a striking pair, and I felt a strong urge to engage them in discourse. I suppose I wanted to show our visitors (and visitors they clearly were, based on the heavy luggage, and the fact they chatted in actual Japanese) that not all Britons hate the rest of the world, that sort of thing, even though, personally, I don’t really like abroad, or anywhere that isn’t on the Jubilee line or in Yorkshire.
I was considering asking them if they were over here to take in the jazz venues. I tried to think of some, but jazz isn’t really my thing. Ronnie Corbett’s? Didn’t sound quite right. The Jazz cafe? Too obvious, surely – that ‘Jazz’ had to be ironic, and it was really a heavy metal venue. And then I hit on Haruki Murakami, jazz-loving author. Perfect. These two looked like exactly the sort of Europhile Japanese who’d be big, even obsessive Murakami fans.
However before I had the chance to start conversing, I was overtaken by one of my titanic, hay-fever induced sneezing fits. One, two, three, four, a pause, wait for it, five six, seven. Luckily I had my hanky handy. When I finished I looked up, expecting a smile from the Japanese couple. The woman was rummaging in her bag. Perhaps looking for a tissue, I thought. She pulled one of those anti-pollution masks, and strapped it to her face, resolutely refusing eye contact. I wanted to explain that it was only hay-fever, and not swine flu. ‘Look,’ I wanted to say, waving my cleanish, unslimed hanky in front of her. ‘Air, it was just air…’ But it was my stop, and I had to gather my things and jump off.