August 7: they f— you up your mum and dad. they do not mean to but they do.

There was a woman on the train from La Rochelle to Paris with a young boy, her son, opposite her. I could see the woman but the boy’s back was towards me and I just had the nape of his neck. The boy was probably about five; the woman forty. They played a game of cards and another game with little coloured plastic pins which once fell all over the floor of the train. When they were playing cards the mum said “Ca, c’est ce qu’on appelle un coup de chance.” (That’s what you call a stroke of luck) And later in the game the boy repeated the same expression back to her “Ca, c’est ce qu’on appelle un coup de chance.” But the mum said no, it’s not, you intended that. They had a nice relationship. She didn’t talk down to him and he was a bright inquisitive boy making observations on the countryside and stations as we passed through. There was something engaging about the woman. She had a range of expressions even with a five-year-old. Often grown-ups limit themselves to just a few with kids. However, there was something about her face that didn’t flatter it. It was only when the boy turned round in his seat that I saw what it was, because he and his mum sported the same feature. The same rubbish haircut. A short, practical cut. A fringe plastered onto the forehead in a style that eliminated all volume and made it look as though the hair was a thin lick of paint that had been applied to the skull. Rubbish hair cut aesthetics are passed through families too. Larkin was right.

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