I may have overdosed on train journeys. Last week I chose one of the worst days possible to ‘take the train’. What should have been a four hour journey turned into a six and half hour marathon, which included swapping from train to train to avoid landslips and fallen trees. During the journey you inevitably become closely acquainted with a clutch of strangers, who you exchange sighs and sometimes smiles with as train announcers crack jokes and flustered guards repeat reasons for the delays. About 5 hours into the journey that famous English sense of humour proved it could soar above adversity, when the train announcer finished his update on progress south by telling us our lifejackets were located underneath our seats. There was a ripple of laughter, which did help lighten the heavy atmosphere in the carriage, as people were murmuring into their phones to let loved ones know when they might actually arrive at destinations. I was laughing, but I did wonder for a fraction of a second if lifejackets were stored on trains…but no, that would be silly, wouldn’t it? I resisted the temptation to check under my seat.
The English sense of humour and the cheeky banter is one of the things that help us through those rainy, dreary days. And nowhere has better banter than Nottingham. Apart from being one of the best shopping centres in Europe it’s also irrepressibly friendly. Having travelled on trams and buses around the city, it’s the only place I know, where people pass £5 down the crowded tram to pay the conductor who can’t reach them and then pass back the change over people’s heads, without a second thought. ‘Hey up me duck’, what’s odd about that? That’s what’s so brilliant about public transport. You’ll probably get asked where you’re going if you have a large bag or a rucksack. If you look lost, there will inevitably be a clutch of passengers to chip in and tell you when to get off. I once joined in a kind of monopoly game using public transport around the city. We were armed with clues about each destination we needed to reach. The passengers realised we were on a mission and it wasn’t long before they were all chipping in with the best stop to get off and directions about how to get to the next location.
The banter is on the streets too. Last week as I sauntered past a white van and three workmen in high vis jackets peering into a large box full of wires at the side of the road, I noticed an older couple stopping to chat with them. The man exclaimed loudly, “but how on earth do you know which wire goes where?” I half wondered if he was their supervisor, but he wasn’t dressed quite right. The workmen were shaking their heads and seconds later there was a burst of laughter and I realised he was just stopping to have a joke with them. The other people walking past smiled as the couple sauntered off down the street, leaving the baffled workmen to their rewiring. I couldn’t see that happening in London.
Now back in Cyprus, I’m realising our sense of humour and the ability to tease people we don’t even know, is one of the things I value in life. No matter what your problems are, someone sharing a joke with you can lift your spirits. Laughter really is the best medicine because there’s nearly always a funny side to any problem.