It was a day like any other, shortly after the July 2007 bombing in London. The underground was full and people looked as calm and self contained as they do in this country.
A few minutes into the journey a faint smell of smoke begins to be felt; people pretend nothing is wrong but glances and uneasy shifting reveal the growing tension.
The smell increases and people start looking “discreetely” worried, the tension is palpable.
Then an old lady gets up, walks towards a teenager who is standing next to the doors, nodding away at the music from his iPod and blissfully unaware of anything around him.
The lady waves in front of the boy’s eyes to attract his attention, he uncorks his ears and the lady, pointing at the boy’s feet, says: “young man, I believe you trousers are on fire”.
The boy stares for a minute uncomprehendingly, then looks down and notices the smoke rising from the back of his right shoe.
Fuck, shit, man, oh shit fuck fuck, says he stamping his foot while an uncontrollable contagious laughter spreads among the passengers who even look at each other, something usually not done.
The lady returns to her seat, grinning and very pleased with herself.
The boy had probably stepped on a cigarette butt and the frayed rim of his jeans had caught on, burning slowly as jeans do, and melting the shoe’s rubber.
The tension that had become almost visible vanes as suddenly as it had arisen.