2016

Eleanor was sure they had left on time, but she still checked her watch while they were on the platform. “We’ve left on time love, don’t fret,” Richard grumbled to her in his friendly way. “Yes I know, I know, I just don’t want to keep him waiting.” “Pah, with all the technology these days he can probably see exactly where we are, at any time! Bloody satellites.” Eleanor breathed an inward sigh of relief when the train decided to pull into the station at that exact moment. A distraction, good. Otherwise she’d have to listen to how satellites were ruling the world for the next ten minutes. For all his suspicion about technology, Richard spent an awful lot of time on the Internet reading obscure articles. Still, it kept him off the streets, she supposed. And she liked how he stayed curious about the world.
Today she was saved a lecture as they had to get on the train. It was a big step into the carriage, it seemed bigger than it used to be but that was probably just because her hips were going. They almost managed to get seated before the train pulled up again, and only had a slight wobble. They were so slow these days, with their old bones and muscles. Eleanor looked at the youth around her and was mystified by their flexibility, their speed. Richard pulled her out of her reverie before she got too depressed.
“So what’s this thing we are going to again?”
“I told you, it’s Sam’s first exhibition. That he’s curated I mean. In the Whitechapel gallery, you know. The Victorian place…”
“Free entry to educate the poor sods in the East End, yes I know. What’s the exhibition on?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Something arty, I expect. He didn’t really say to be honest.”
That was a lie. Their grandson had told her it was about digital art, but Eleanor did not want to start the conversation about digital art not being real art, while they were still on the train. There was plenty of time for that later over tea.
At Peckham, some bearded men with tattoos came onto the Overground train, which prompted Richard to ask whether Sam still kept “that messy excuse for a beard.”
“Yes he does actually. I believe Dominic quite likes it.” Richard harrumphed. “In my day, if you were going to have any facial hair at all, you’d make sure you kept it neat and tidy. There could be food stuck into it for all we know.”
“It’s the fashion, dear, there’s no stopping it.” Eleanor patted her husband’s arm. He was always a bit nervous when they ventured into the East End these days. It was nothing like what he remembered it to be, with all the drawings on the walls and young people with multi-coloured hair. It made him feel out of place, he complained. As if he was not a real Londoner any more. Eleanor did not have such strong feelings about it, but then again, she had not grown up in London. She’d only come over as a young girl in the sixties, looking for work and excitement. She’d found both, and then Richard, too. Their children and grandchildren all grew up in the capital, including Sam who they were visiting today. He was their eldest grandson, and they were tremendously proud of him, even if he did have a beard and lived in Shoreditch.
The train entered the tunnel in Rotherhithe and they could suddenly see themselves reflected in the carriage windows. Two old people in an old town, Eleanor thought. There’s nothing to be done about it. The capital was renewing itself, changing and growing. No such luck for them, any more. The sudden transition from darkness to light as the train emerged into the sunshine pulled Eleanor’s thoughts away from the future. They seemed to go there very frequently these days. But today she and Richard were still alive, and able to enjoy this city for all it could give them.
“So what was this about satellites you were saying earlier, love? Is there anything new I should know about?” She knew this would fill the time till they arrived in Whitechapel.
“Well, I was reading this bit the other day…” Richard was off. Eleanor held his hand as he informed her about the latest developments in spy technology.