07 June 2007

Ciao to Arms

Yesterday, when my train pulled in to Paddington and cleaners descended on it as they often do before I have quite finished whatever I was doing to amuse mself on the journey (writing a case note on a judgment of the Court of Appeal on ownership of employee inventions, as it happens), the girl collecting rubbish in my carriage makes her mark by saying "grazie" to a passenger who hands her a coffee cup for disposal.

In the pocket in front of the seat next to mine she finds a book, and holds it out to me asking (in English) whether it's mine. No, I say, but it's a very good book: she offers it to me, which is hardly the way to deal with lost property, but I decline - "I've read it" - and she puts it in her pocket. If she keeps it, she's saved herself precisely 10 pence in a charity shop, for it was an ancient paperback edition. Probably she's doing this menial job far from home with a view to improving her English, and she'll benefit from reading it.

"Ciao!" she calls as I leave the train. A few moments later, it occurs to me that perhaps my recommendation was misplaced - the Italian army didn't come out of A Farewell to Arms very well, did they?

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