Identity Verification.

I arrive at the Southbank for 9am    It’s good to be home – and attend meetings
until  2.30pm. Check emails. Someone is going to tatoo my poem onto their body. Wow.  Bags packed and ready I get on the northern line from Waterloo. While rushing through Waterloo station I remind myself how good it is to be alive, to be doing what  I love doing.

I arrive at Euston station and try to buy a train ticket to Huddersfield from the ticket machine but it rejects my cards and will not authorise my payment. I have fifteen minutes until the train leaves at 3.20pm.  I remain calm and call my bank who give me a
fraud line to call.   Turns out  my recent sojourn to America highlighted “irregular activity” on my account so they shuit it down.  Strangely a man stands next to me while I am on the phone. he is not in a Q  and seems incongrous somehow. It’s a fleeting thought.  Within ten minutes on the phone  after passwords are shared dates of birth given and identity  verified my card is confirmed  “it may take up to fifteen minutes to be activated”
says the person on the phone. Ten minutes and the train leaves. I am aghast but still try the card immidiately. it works.  Now for the train.

I turn only to be confronted  by two police officers   “What’s your problem” says a female officer with no trace of irony.  My brain slips what is this?  I explain with alacrity what
had just happened.    Apparently a black man late for a train, near a ticket machine on a mobile phone is suspect, is what it is.  She considers my explanation while I consider
what is happening in this surreal moment.   “Okay go ahead”  she says as if she was letting me go whcih she was. I had been held.

I get to the train queue only to be told that my ticket is not valid. Still I stay calm. I had called train enquiries and was informed which ticket to buy. Baaaaad information.  I explain this to the ticket man. Then someone stands next to me smiling –  Marcus
Brigstock, with whom I was in the Arctic only a few months ago.   I suggest Maarcus get his seat and that I will catch up with him.

“I recognise you” says John the british rail man “and I recognise him” . The ticket gets  sorted, I pay a supplement and I get on the train and chat and laugh with Marcus all the
way. He gets off at Stoke and I arrive in Huddersfield via manchester at 6.45pm.    At 7pm the director of Huddersfield Literature Festival meets me at the hotel and sorts out the booking details. I am on stage at 7.30pm.

It is a blisteringly beautiful gig.  the Q and A that occurs after the reading the head of Huddersfield Literature Festival asks if I would be Patron of The Huddersfield Literature Festival.  It’s an honour, an absolute honour.  After the event I go to the Indian restaurant
next to the hotel. The food here is excellent. There are newspapers strewn on the tables. While waiting for my food I read one – The Mnahcester Evening News. A newspaper the shadow of itself in years gone buy. I used to ahve my own column in it.

 “soccer star in cops own goal”  reads  “Premier League star Victor Anichebe had an
unpleasant welcome to his new home town when police swooped on him as he did a
spot of window shopping. Two police cars surrounded the Everton striker and
officers handcuffed his friend as they looked in a jewellers window in upmarket
Knutsford, Cheshire. The star – who is on crutchces with an injury – was left
“upset” and “distressed” after police swooped suspecting them of preparing to
rob the king street store.

My adult life has been punctuated with events such as this.  Once I had given the chief of Police an award at a big do at The Piccadilly Hotel in Mnachester (it’s manchesters dorchester) on the walk home I was stopped by two police officers in a car.  The question “what’s your problem” sshould never be answered “you. you are my problem”.

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