I’m on a fast train to Glasgow, a quick visit to see a kiwi nephew and family. In just 20 mins we were out of London and into the smooth pastures of English countryside. Soft light, stunningly green fields – England looks so mellow.
In hopeful anticipation of working, I booked a table seat in the ‘quiet’ carriage, But sitting facing other people in an area specifically designated for people not to talk is a pretty weird choice for me. Silence is not my natural state.
It’s ironic that in the women’s toilets at Euston Station there is an ad for tubetalkers.com aimed at encouraging people to talk to others during boring train commutes. People sign up and wear a lapel badge to show they are willing to converse with strangers. I could do with one of those in this silent carriage.
Talking is so natural to so many of us, it can be challenging to recognise how difficult some people find it to talk to others outside their social circle. The lower the literacy and education skills someone has, the smaller their social identity and community, observed a staff member at the National Literacy Trust yesterday. Family, people in the street, a few friends and perhaps a local school, or church or sports club – that’s their social sphere. Community campaigns to raise literacy have to take that social scale into account. And increasing people’ confidence to talk with people they don’t know, including on trains. But not in the quiet carriage.