20 Jul 2012

A body on the line

I caught the 07.18 this morning to Newbury and beyond. Ten minutes out of London’s Paddington Station the train stopped. “Ladies and Gentlemen I’m sorry to report that there is a fatality on the line ahead of us”. That is all the driver ever told us on his intercom.

I look out – there is a bridge beyond us. Did someone jump? Did our train hit the person? Did the train ahead hit the person? I’m shocked to realise that my next question is “how long am I going to be here? How long does it take to clear ‘a fatality’?”

Then I began to think about this presumably tortured soul. Had they woken up in a dark depression and decided this was when and how they would end it. I cannot begin to imagine it was an accident – there are no level crossings here and few would play near the line at such an hour.

Next week, Channel 4 Goes Mad. It is a challenging series of programmes about mental health. The essence of the season is to look at what would happen if we were open about our mental health issues. Would we still be employed, housed, and more. In short what would happen if people knew?

Did anyone know what was going on in the tender head of the body on the line beyond my stationary train? Did anyone employ her, or him? Was he or she loved and understood. I wrestle with my discomfort that my carefully ordered day has been detonated. I have been stationary for half an hour – maybe by the time you read this, much longer. But it is so hard to erase my own frustration in favour of this isolated lifeless bundle lying on the line ahead.

The windows of the train are sealed other than for the little horizontal ones above my head, through which I cannot poke my head. How civilised we are that we hold all trains for so long and let the bundle stay until the police, the ambulance, and the rest work out physically what happened.

Mentally, they will never know unless perhaps somewhere in the human wreckage there is a note. Neither the emergency personnel attending, nor I, will probably ever know what possessed the person to leave our world. It’s too small, too regular a story for the media to report much. Will there perhaps be one paragraph in a West London newssheet? Who knows?

So we shall almost certainly never know what disrupted my smooth-ish life and detonated theirs. But amid our thinking about mental health I will try not to forget this particular “body on the line”.

Follow Jon on Twitter @jonsnowC4

Tweets by @jonsnowC4