THE TOFF, ENGLAND, 1963

Bowler hat, dark jacket, pin-striped trousers, briefcase, neatly rolled umbrella – he was obviously a toff. As he sat down he opened his pristine copy of The Times (in those days a broadsheet), intruding on the space of the people on either side and uncomfortably close to those opposite.

The other passengers sat on two bench seats facing one another, their clothing and their Suns and Mirrors marking them out uncompromisingly as working or lower middle class.

We were on a commuter train coming in from London’s south-eastern suburbs, passing through mile after mile of drab semi-detached two-storey houses.

As we approached the London terminus, the train slowed to a stop, whereupon the toff looked up, folded his paper and, briefcase and brolly in hand, opened the carriage door, exited and promptly fell out on the track.

Somewhat dishevelled and bright pink from embarrassment, he climbed back into the carriage and, pushing past the knees on either side, exited through the opposite door, intent on alighting on the platform that just had to be on that side of the train. Unfortunately, we had only paused at the signals, so he again fell on the track. The English are usually a reserved bunch, but on this occasion there were many smug grins as our puce-faced and dishevelled toff lurched back up into the carriage.

— ROBIN SEN

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