Escape

In the good old days you could catch the train at the very last minute and find yourself in a carriage with no exit except a door that - if you shoved down the window and leaned out to turn the handle - opened straight into the flying countryside. 

I sat. Six seats, one other passenger: after five minutes, he put down his Telegraph and came over to sit next to me, asked me, without preamble, if I had a girlfriend. We were passing Pluckley then, an hour to go before Charing Cross, so I told him 'No'. He wrote his name and address down for me in beautiful, calligraphic handwriting and explained to me how his ancestors had fled, how their neighbours had chosen to begin hating them and how they'd found a kind of peace in Spitalfields.

He said Arbuthnot was a Huguenot name but I've never bothered to look it up, knowing that, at least, will be true. (One quarter of us they say, one quarter have their blood swimming through us in salted memory.)

He'd tried to learn French three times, he said, but he was no good at languages. I thought he was going to cry then and I was glad when we got to London, glad when he helped me open the carriage door.