I climbed onto the long-delayed train heading in the wrong direction, and unpacked my camera and my new post-its and sharpie. I'd expected to be in a reserved seat on the crowded London train, using the crowds to be disguise what I was doing. But a theft of copper cables from Slough a week before meant that didn't exist, so I was sitting on the Birmingham train in an empty carriage. At Bicester Shopping Village, a handful of people got on, mostly sitting behind my left shoulder, but right in my eyeline was a massive African man with smart suit, bags and bags of designer shoes, and the largest head I'd ever seen, as wide as his shoulders and coming straight out of them. He was my man, and he was going to have Father Christmas's head. He obliged by immediately nodding off to sleep. This was too easy.
I carefully took out the post-its, angled them to fit his body, and drew a quick Santa as discretely as I could. As I finished, I had a stupid paranoid feeling that people were watching me. Although I knew this was ridiculous, I looked around. Five people were looking at me, some sniggering and some just sneering.
Ha ha, I smiled. Just drawing Father Christmas on a post-it. Not trying to superimpose it on anyone's body or anything, oh no.
I waited ten minutes until everyone had forgotten, and subtly got out my camera. I used the camera's viewing screen as a rear-view mirror. It was OK – everyone was looking out of the window. I switched on the camera and disabled the flash. Millimetre by millimetre, I edged my Santa picture into the middle of the table, and sank low into my seat to line up the photo. It was hard to line up. I went lower, and lifted the post-it slightly. Still no good. I slid down as far as I could – that was it, more or less, except the picture was much bigger than the man. I stretched out my arm as far as it would go, and pressed my head back into the seat. Now it was lined up, but the post-it was in focus, and the man wasn't. I focused on the man instead, and the post-it went blurred. Hmm, not great, but worth a test shot. I squeezed the shutter. The light flickered for a few seconds, then lit up the carriage with a bright flash. There was giggling and tutting behind me. I felt myself reddening, and struggled up off the floor and back onto my seat. I glanced backwards – six people now sneering at me. I spun back round, tutting myself now as if my camera had gone off independently. The large African man was scowling at me, as you would if a tosser with a post-it had woken you by taking a flash photo of you uninvited.
I switched off my camera, and gave in to the shame, wishing I was skilled, cool and subtle like October Jones, or, better still, just somewhere else. I didn't take the post-its on the plane.