Whether it's the sudden snapping of bonds between lovers or shopping on Oxford Street, Maeve Binchy finds the unexpected truth in experiences so real that every woman will recognize them. Filled with her delicious humor and warmth, the twenty-two stories in London Transports will delight and captivate as they take us to a place that is far away--and yet so familiar...Where having an affair with a married man brings one woman to a turning point...Where another finds that looking for an apartment to share can be a risky business...Where nosing into a secretary's life can have shocking results...Where a dress designer just had a god-awful day...And where Maeve Binchy captures the beat of every woman's heart.
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May 28, 2007
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Excerpt from London Transports by Maeve Binchy
People looked very weary, May thought, and shabbier than she had remembered Londoners to be. They reminded her a little of those news-reel pictures of crowds during the war or just after it, old raincoats, brave smiles, endless patience. But then this wasn't Regent Street, where she had wandered up and down looking at shops on other visits to London, it wasn't the West End, with lights all glittering and people getting out of taxis full of excitement and wafts of perfume. This was Shepherd's Bush, where people lived. They had probably set out from here early this morning and fought similar crowds on the way to work. The women must have done their shopping in their lunch hour because most of them were carrying plastic bags of food. It was a London different to the one you see as a tourist.
And she was here for a different reason, although she had once read a cynical article in a magazine which said that girls coming to London for abortions provided a significant part of the city's tourist revenue. It wasn't something you could classify under any terms as a holiday. When she filled in the card at the airport she had written "Business" in the section where it said "Purpose of journey."
The pub where she was to meet Celia was near the tube station. She found it easily and settled herself in. A lot of the accents were Irish, workmen having a pint before they went home to their English wives and their television programmes. Not drunk tonight, it was only Monday, but obviously regulars. Maybe not so welcome as regulars on Friday or Saturday nights, when they would remember they were Irish and sing anti-British songs.
Celia wouldn't agree with her about that. Celia had rose-tinted views about the Irish in London, she thought they were all here from choice, not because there was no work for them at home. She hated stories about the restless Irish, or Irishmen on the lump in the building trade. She said people shouldn't make such a big thing about it all. People who came from much farther away settled in London, it was big enough to absorb everyone. Oh well, she wouldn't bring up the subject, there were enough things to disagree with Celia about . . . without searching for more.
Oh why of all people, of all the bloody people in the world, did she have to come to Celia? Why was there nobody else whom she could ask for advice? Celia would give it, she would give a lecture with every piece of information she imparted. She would deliver a speech with every cup of tea, she would be cool, practical, and exactly the right person, if she weren't so much the wrong person. It was handing Celia a whole box of ammunition about Andy. From now on Celia could say that Andy was a rat, and May could no longer say she had no facts to go on.
Celia arrived. She was thinner, and looked a little tired. She smiled. Obviously the lectures weren't going to come in the pub. Celia always knew the right place for things. Pubs were for meaningless chats and bright, nonintense conversation. Home was for lectures.
"You're looking marvellous," Celia said.
It couldn't be true. May looked at her reflection in a glass panel. You couldn't see the dark lines under her eyes there, but you could see the droop of her shoulders, she wasn't a person that could be described as looking marvellous. No, not even in a pub.
"I'm okay," she said. "But you've got very slim, how did you do it?"
"No bread, no cakes, no potatoes, no sweets," said Celia in a businesslike way. "It's the old rule but it's the only rule. You deny yourself everything you want and you lose weight."
"I know," said May, absently rubbing her waistline.
"Oh I didn't mean that," cried Celia, horrified. "I didn't mean that at all."
May felt weary, she hadn't meant that either, she was patting her stomach because she had been putting on weight. The child that she was going to get rid of was still only a speck, it would cause no bulge. She had put on weight because she cooked for Andy three or four times a week in his flat. He was long and lean. He could eat forever and he wouldn't put on weight. He didn't like eating alone so she ate with him. She reassured Celia that there was no offence and when Celia had gone, twittering with rage at herself, to the counter, May wondered whether she had explored every avenue before coming to Celia and Shepherd's Bush for help.
She had. There were no legal abortions in Dublin, and she did not know of anyone who had ever had an illegal one there. England and the ease of the system were less than an hour away by plane. She didn't want to try and get it on the National Health, she had the money, all she wanted was someone who would introduce her to a doctor, so that she could get it all over with quickly. She needed somebody who knew her, somebody who wouldn't abandon her if things went wrong, somebody who would lie for her, because a few lies would have to be told. May didn't have any other friends in London.