a more mysterious life

by Dan

On either side of the flyover there were billboards, the kind that changed a few seconds, from elite model cars to mascara on one side and from the latest Marvel film to a picture of Beyonce on the other. Beyond these were parks, mosques, tower blocks and yellow bricked Fuller’s pubs and residential side roads where strolling Saturday morning people breathed in the clear blue February air.

Kevin thought he would never lose the sense of excitement he felt when approaching London from the West on public transport. Train was good but coach better, perhaps because the longer journey time allowed his sense of wonder to build, or perhaps just because there was more life to view.

As a married man, a father of two, working everyday in a location defined by boundaries, he simply never had the chance to be regarded as anything strange or unfathomable. He never got to be one of the swarm that filled the streets around Victoria Coach Station or physically express the possibility, from a distance at least, of a more mysterious life being lived.

He was neitherbrave nor a man who flourished in changing circumstances but in London nobody knew that for certain. Not even him. Ever since he had first visited the city as a teenager he had believed that given the circumstance he could find a different version of himself here. He couldn’t help but feel that if he dreamed hard enough, one day he would wake up in a new alternative, universe.

And if the hordes of people he encountered didn’t really give him a second glance or thought. Well, It wasn’t them he needed to impress but himself.

At home he was constantly being greeted by former pupils in Tesco’s or being happened upon by neighbours whilst running. There was no opportunity to whistle menacingly or step into a high street tanning centre like a private detective, without someone he knew seeing him and asking why. Once he had spent a single afternoon wandering vaguely around a part of Swindon called Gorse Hill but he failed to feel anything like the excitement he did when visiting London. On this occasion he had been seen “loitering” by one of his wife Claire’s works colleagues who decided he was having an affair and told her about it. Claire remained suspicious of him for months.

Here and now, he had all weekend to unleash his imagination and all he needed was his little suitcase containing several hats and pairs of glasses, an antiquated but cool looking camera that didn’t work and a well-thumbed 1980s A to Z.

At 11am he could sit outside the South bank nursing a shockingly expensive cup of coffee and waiting for a clandestine meeting with Manuela Di Santiago at the Tate gallery, she was an artist, occasional sex worker and situationist who travelled the world having affairs with coke barons and foiling revolutions. Or would have been had she existed.

At 12.30 he was going to pretend to trail a man from Fleet Street to Clerkenwell. He hadn’t yet decided whether this would happen in late Victorian times or the second world war, it might depend on whether a moustache or a pair of shades came to hand.

People looking on would merely conclude that he was just a bloke getting on and off tube trains in very mild disguises, walking about aimlessly and drinking too much coffee.

But this was London and Kevin was free.

By 2 PM He would be sitting in the café at Natural History wearing horn-rimmed glasses, holding a pipe which he never smoked and pretending to read a copy of The Origin of Species. Occasionally he would snort with derision.

He would then visit an overpriced City Centre Trattoria and pretend to be a food critic, making copious fake notes on sheets of paper.

By around 4 he’d be on Hampstead Heath where he’d pretend to be a spy or perhaps a gay actor before the legalisation of homosexuality.

Sometime after 5 he’d then be handily placed to travel further up the Northern Line to Colindale for the ostensible reason for his trip. Visiting his old university friend Martin and going for a pint and a curry with him and staying over. Martin, a geologist, was more boring than Kevin. He didn’t even have daydreams. Unless they involved Roche Moutonnee and terminal moraine. It was a relationship Kevin maintained solely to facilitate his trips to London and so that he could answer Claire with proof to the contrary when she said he should make friends with people because he hadn’t any.

It was the price he paid for his freedom.

Martin was writing a never ending thesis on plate techtonics. He could talk about them for 8 hours at a time without ever hesitating or deviating. The rest of his conversation was somewhat lacking.

“Do you remember Jane Frankel?” Martin would say, immediately after an important point about lateral variations of the mantle, Kevin who had been drifting off into a fantasy about escaping from Corsairs on the Barbary Coast in a laundry basket would at this point return to the room only for Martin to conclude. “Well she was supposed to be at the NGS conference but I didn’t see her there.”

Anyway Kevin didn’t have to worry about Martin yet for his coach was pulling into Ecclestone Place and the wondrous gateway to a different life that was Victoria coach station.


After what seemed like days but may have only been a few minutes, the bad cop returned, he was a balding beast of a man in his late thirties who weighed over 17 stone and had a pink face and newly installed white teeth.

Did he (Kevin), or had he ever known Omed Bin Haddine?

Did he, or had he ever known Robbie Anderson?

Did he, or had he ever known Mykhail Medvedev?

Kevin stuttered and stumbled to collect his thoughts. For some reason it was bothering him that Martin would be in the Royal Bengal in Colindale right now ordering onion bhajees and he couldn’t phone because his phone had been confiscated.

The bad cop switched off the tape and hurled a white china cup past his head.

“This story of yours, It’s a pack of fucking lies and you know it!!!” He roared.

“11.12 am . Bomb on the South bank, Cameras show that you are sitting nearby wearing a fucking beret!!!! You say you are meeting an imaginary girlfriend.

12.41pm-12.57!!! Just before the one o clock explosion outside Clerkenwell Tube Station which had killed two people. You are seen on 7 cameras, you are clearly trying to follow this man,” he waved a photo at Kevin. You say you don’t know who he is?”


“I don’t be fucking lieve you!!! This is Sir Graham Moggridge, who works for the ministry of defence and is on the news every day.

“And Here you on are fleet street wearing a fake beard at 12.43, in Chancery Lane at 12.48 smoking a fake cigar in a doorway and on Bowling Green Lane carrying a copy of the Times Newspaper. Do you deny that the person we saw was you?”

“No.” Said Kevin weakly. He was beginning to think that perhaps he needed legal representation after all.

The Good cop, was a blonde woman in her forties who had been quiet up to this point.

“We do not feel you are the ringleader” she said “Look it will go much better for you if you co-operate with us and tell us who you were working for. We already know you were at the natural history museum just before the stabbing incident that took place just outside there this afternoon.”

“You’ve been a very busy boy.” Interjected the bad cop.

“By this time we had a trail on you ourselves.” The good cop continued, “You spent most of the afternoon in a restaurant writing notes, in some sort of code!”

“We’ve got some of our best people trying to decipher it right now.”

“Finally we followed you to Hampstead Heath. Why did you go there?”

“Wearing a pink scarf and hiding behind trees?”

The cops were staring at him more intently now.

He continued to try the truth.

“I was pretending to be a gay spy!” he stuttered.

There was a pause

“And there we have it!” shouted the bad cop triumphantly. “Do you think we are idiots?”

Kevin’s humiliating arrest on Hampstead Heath by six armed policemen, had resulted in his arm being heavily bruised and his ankle being twisted. He had wet himself during the incident. Two diet cokes and four coffees was the actual reason he’d ducked behind the tree. Now they were telling him he was lucky not to have been shot.

His little suitcase was brought to the table.

“For the purposes of the tape we are now examining the contents of exhibit one.”

When it turned out that Kevin had in fact known Robbie Anderson, a far-right extremist who had once been a nondescript member of his geography class, Kevin began to realise he was in serious trouble.


On either side of the flyover there were billboards, the kind that changed a few seconds, from elite model cars to mascara on one side and from the latest Marvel film to a picture of Beyonce on the other. Beyond these were parks, mosques, tower blocks and yellow bricked Fuller’s pubs and residential side roads where strolling Saturday morning people breathed in the clear blue February air.

Kevin had now lost the sense of excitement he had once felt when approaching London from the west on public transport. In fact he now associated London with disaster, humiliation and danger. It had taken nearly a year for him to clear his name and even now it, his name that was, didn’t seem very clear.

Almost nobody, not Claire, his kids, his school head, his MP, or the police could quite accept his story that he, a 42 year old geography teacher, who as the prosecution had pointed out had hitherto shown no signs of possessing an imagination, roamed round London pretending to be people with exciting lives just for the hell of it. Or that he had done so at the exact moments at which a series of orchestrated terrorist incidents in London had taken place.

His eventual innocence had been proved by Sir Arthur Baxendale-Finch QC but only at the expense of any reputation he had left as a sensible human being. The Daily Mail’s tone of voice had changed from calling him a monster to painting him as some sort of sad, lost Walter Mitty figure who had somehow wasted the nation’s time by walking about with a false moustache.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury” Sir Arthur had said “Let us examine the mental capacity of this man, a man no less, who pretends to be an intellectual by changing his glasses and as, CCTV has proved, reading the Origin Of Species UPSIDE DOWN!!!! Barely evolved wouldn’t you agree? Then let us consider the question, Is this man capable of organising a terrorist plot? Is he capable of the logistical detail the prosecution alleges??I put it to you that he is, most certainly, not!”

Divorce and the termination by mutual agreement of his work contract had followed.

Now Kevin was headed back to the same coach station where his troubles had begun exactly a year ago.

He was then getting the tube to Colindale to stay at Martin’s. Martin was the only person who had properly stood by him though Kevin felt that the pay off was that he might have to listen to Martin’s entire PHD thesis that night, with additional powerpoint slideshow.

The next day though, he was departing for a new life, in Europe. Headed Paris on the Eurostar, there he would start again.

As his coach pulled into Victoria coach station he stopped his google search into Parisian fancy dress shops and reached to the shelf overhead to grab the rucksack which now contained his few worldly possessions.