A real life sequence of events can suddenly jog my memory, remind me of a song, a film, a book. A favourite poem in this case. Sitting on a train not so long ago, Clapham Junction, south west London, I saw someone on the platform who caught my eye. Before taking a photograph, I usually weigh up the situation in terms of how good the picture is, the risks involved etc. However sitting in my carriage I felt somehow protected. The train started to move, and I raised my camera and snapped. My subject saw me and smiled. But with every second the distance between us was increasing, and I knew I was safe. Not the bravest way of conducting street photography, but no less valid for it either.
And here is the poem I was reminded of. I first read it in The Independent, I don't know how long ago, maybe ten years. But I have never forgotten it. A mad scramble to find the cutting when I got home, (I cannot recite it by heart), but luckily it turned up.
By Dannie Abse
Not Adlestrop, no - besides the name
hardly matters. Nor did I languish in June heat.
Simply, I stood, too early, on the empty platform,
and the wrong train came in slowly, surprised, stopped.
Directly facing me, from a window,
a very, very pretty girl leaned out.
When I, all instinct,
stared at her, she, all instinct, inclined her head away
as if she'd divined the much married life in me,
or as if she might spot, up platform,
some unlikely familiar.
For my part, under the clock, I continued
my scrutiny with unmitigated pleasure.
And she knew it, she certainly knew it, and would
not glance at me in the silence of not Adlestrop.
Only when the train heaved noisily, only
when it jolted, when it slid away, only then,
daring and secure, she smiled back at my smile,
and I, daring and secure, waved back at her waving.
And so it was, all the way down the hurrying platform
as the train gathered atrocious speed
towards Oxfordshire or Gloucestshire.