Grey-hair-in-a-bun was apparently not alone and she began to address the space next to her, "What's that you're doing? Why have you coloured the sky pink? Have you ever seen pink sky? What's the name of that friend of yours? Why don't you eat your sandwich? Don't you like cheese and pickle?...."
There was evidently a child sitting next to her as from time to time a small voice tried to fend off the barrage of questions with "I don't know, Gran," or "I can't remember". But the contest was unfairly one-sided and Gran continued to rain heavy blows down on the child in the form of relentless questions.
I had to do something if i was ever going to get any peace. "Excuse me," I said, "have you got the time?"
"What you want to know that for?"
"I need to make a connection"
"Where you going?" "What's your name?" "Where you been?" "Where do you work?" "Are you married?" "Where...why...what....who?"
I parried the questions as best I could while trying to formulate a plan in my mind which centred around asking her how old she was and whether she'd always been such a nosey old.....when something rather marvellous happened.
"Where you gone now, you little minx? Where are you? Why can't you sit quiet on the train like everyone else?"
"It's OK, she's here"
"What? Gone under the seat? What you do that for?"
"It's OK, she's fine", I said as I moved over to let the child sit by the window seat.
"Hmmph! Well, if you don't care, I'm sure I don't. You won't get no sense out of her though, I can tell you. They can't do nothing for her, she's got a condition."
Little hands opened the book. A pink pencil wrote slowly and carefully A - m - a - n -.
A - m - a - n - d - a - J - a -
A small tongue curled out of the side of her mouth with concentration as she shaped each letter. Grandmother had gone back to her puzzle book leaving me to make of it what I could. The fields, green and yellow, sped past the train window.
Amanda-Jane Writtingstall the name was finally complete. "Hi, Amanda-Jane, I'm John." I felt as though the reputation of the whole grown-up human race lay on my shoulders.
"Yes" said my new friend.
"You've done some nice colouring."
"Yes.......Oh dear! The pink's broken!"
"I can sharpen it if you like."
"It'll need a sharp knife"
Luckily the people who designed my camping knife had incorporated just such a blade, a special-for-sharpening-little-girls'-pink-pencils blade.
She sat and coloured. Red sky. Blue hair. Green rabbits. Brown balloons and purple dogs. The little tongue firmly in the corner of her mouth. I gazed out of the window at the passing fields and woodlands, the houses and factories flashed by inevitably and without questions. We passed through tunnels and crossed bridges as the evening sky turned slowly pink.