On Friday, while standing in the queue for the S5 Oxford to Bicester bus I saw, for the third time, a man with long, unkempt, black hair and wearing a medieval-like tunic. On Saturday, while passing some time in Bicester I went to the library and sat and wrote the following beginning to a story based on the man from the bus. The first person narrative came immediately, however what didn’t was the identity of narrator. Most of what you see below was written without me knowing if the  narrator was a man or a woman…

Out Of Time by T E Shepherd

I first saw him on the tram where I boarded it outside the church of St Barnabas in the centre of Wren Hoe. It had been just an ordinary day at work, not particularly tiring or stressful but I was looking forward to geting home and relaxing in front of the television with a glass of wine maybe. I heard him him first, his deep, venacular, voice as he talked to a fellow passenger. At first I thought they were friends but as the conversation progressed I fast realised that they didn’t. She was remarking on his clothing, and he was saying how he had made this, and that – and showing her. It was then that I turned around.

The man had thick, long, slighly unkempt black hair and a beard, and wore a hemp tunic, and leather jerkin. He had a half circle of wrought metal on a leather cord hung around his neck. He looked at first – and second – glance to be someone straight out of the middle ages, were it not for his large, plastic, toolbox on his lap. I should have snapped a picture of him on my smartphone if I’d have known then what I know now.

At the northern transport hub I changed for the bus back to the little market town where I lived with my two housemates. I saw the medieval blacksmith – as I now resolved to call him – change for the same bus but somewhere between then and when we all dispersed from the bus in the market square I he had gone. For all that I cnsidered this, which was not much, I supposed he must have got off at an earlier stop. I had become engrossed in my book by that point, and in the dark of the cold winter’s evening I could easily have missed him getting off. I had meant to mention the man to my housemate, in a ‘a weird thing happened today’ kind of way, but I forgot and soo drove it from my mind…

Until I saw him again for the second time. He was on the same tram, and in the same clothes but this time he spoke to no one. When I travel on public transport I find that in my mind I latch on to one person sitting somewhere near me and feel like I have some kind of connection with them. I never speak with them, and I rarely find out their name, unless it is accidentally through the overhearing of a conversation of which I am not part. I just find it comforting to imagine that there is meone else on this journey I am taking who is taking this journey with me. On this occasion, my medieval blacksmith was this person. By the time we arrived at my destination, and everyone dispersed from the bus into the night to go there separate ways my medieval blacksmith was gone.

A week went past before I saw him again. I was queueing at my stop outside The Randolf – possibly the second most posh hotel in Wren Hoe but which always like to think of itself as the poshest. While I waited for the tram to arrive he turned up in his tunic and leather jerkin. If it wasn’t for the incongorous plastic toolbox that he carried then I would have been happy to indulge my wildest fantasies that he had just stepped out of medieval times.

After seeing someone three times on the same tram route you feel like you should really know the name. I wanted to talk to him now, but the tram arrived and I boarded, and lost sight of him. When I changed for the bus home I was still imaging the conversation that I would have with Edmund. Yes, I had named my blacksmith! It somehow seemed appropriate. I remembered the conversation I had overheard the first time I had seen Edmund as I imagined what our conversation would be like. He was warm, and friendly, and altogether a true gentleman.I didn’t see him again on that journey. Just like with the other times, he vanished into the crowd.

*

‘Freyja, you’re mad!’

My housemate has a, very direct, way with words.