Thursday, 13 June 2019

Joad Again: Scrambling

I can't seem to escape the long (pot-bellied, pipe-smoking) shadow of the egregious Professor C.E.M. Joad, erstwhile celebrity intellectual (see here and here). Browsing in The View from Devonshire Hill, a memoir by the unjustly forgotten Elizabeth Jenkins, I was startled to come across the dread name again. Jenkins knew the great man in the late Thirties, and give this account of his notorious ticket-dodging activities, which casts now light on the sordid business...
'Coming up to London by rail as he often did, he realised that the London express made a stop for a few minutes at a point on the line below a steep bank that led out of some fields. By posting himself on the bank at a given time, he was able, when the train paused, to scramble down the bank, wrench open a carriage door and seat himself inside. This meant that he made the journey to London without a ticket. This curious practice is hard to account for in a man who made a comfortable income ... At the terminus he would wait, inconspicuously, until the crowd at the exit had dispersed, and then wander about as if he were looking for someone, before walking calmly out. Finally an inspector on the train saw him coming in at the carriage door, and exclaimed: 'This train doesn't stop here, sir!' To which Joad responded: 'Then I'm not on it.' [Ever the philosopher!] This was a neat reply, but it was a mistake: it called public attention to his practice. I think he must have been a marked man for some time. He came before a magistrate and was found guilty of cheating the railway company.'
The image of the rotund philosopher scrambling down the bank and hauling himself aboard a train is one to cherish. 

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