Wednesday, May 09, 2012

From racing cars to double agents

Once again my train travels bring me something new. Today, as I sat at the station waiting for my Kings Cross train, a man asked me where to get food (the coffee booth was closed). I directed him to the little shop and he returned, roll in hand, and asked if I minded if he sat down next (but one) to me. No problem.

He then talked. Quite a lot. He was from Thailand, visiting his country of origin to renew his passport, sort out his visa. We chatted generically about Thailand - about how he loved the people there and the temperate climate. Under 33 degrees and he'd be shivering. So, on a cold, wet, Decemberish May afternoon, he was a little out of sorts.

He told me he'd come to our town to meet an ex-Formula One driver, now a thriving (and determined) businessman. My fellow traveller's past had included mental training for racing drivers, amongst, it was hinted, many other things.

He talked about how life in Thailand was good, if you had money. I said not much call for my profession out there - a fundraiser. I talked a bit about my job and he told me about a friend he'd known who had died of Alzheimer's. A man called Eddie Chapman. Zigzag.

He told me a bit about Mr Chapman, and the sad state he eventually saw his friend in during his last days. Dementia is no respecter of the past, or of the person. My travelling companion (we got on the same train) described Eddie as a war hero. He mentioned an old film with Yul Brynner (and yes, you can find the film on the internet - 'Triple Cross'), and how Tom Hanks has bought the film rights.  What he didn't mention is that Eddie was originally a criminal - part of a gang that blew safes.

I didn't talk a lot about myself, for whatever reason this man wanted to talk, and didn't seem to want anything from me except that I listen. We talked a bit about mental capacity and the conversation ended up with him telling me about his son. His ten year old son had been kidnapped by his mother - taken to the other end of the island - and the first thing that my traveller friend had to do when he got home was to hire two policemen to help him retrieve his son. He has legal custody, he said.

It seemed a bit odd - what was he going to do with his son whilst he was in England? I didn't ask, but I wondered. A slight hole in the plot there. The wife had taken the son back to live with her and her two further children by an Australian partner, and had unregistered him from his home school and registered him with her school. So, not just a temporary care situation then.

But the man seemed quite chilled about it. He described a phone conversation with his son, and had a very relaxed attitude to what, one would think, is likely to be a tricky situation.  He said he'd always been self-employed. Somtimes he was rich, sometimes he was poor. Financially he was poor, but he was the richest man in the world in having his son.

It could, of course, have been a complete fantasy - from racing driver, via WWII double agent, to kidnapped son. But what would be the point? I don't know, but one thing he said was 'don't worry about the big things, sort out the little things and the big stuff will follow'. I hope it works for him.

Car photo credit:

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