Coco Khan

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The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents -

One of the train lines that ran through my neigh­bour­hood when I was grow­ing up was known as the Goblin line. The nick­name en­dured, pre­sum­ably be­cause of the joke it in­spired – “The Goblin line: if it runs on time it must be magic!” – though the deriva­tion is much more bor­ing (it’s a con­trac­tion: the Gospel Oak to Bark­ing line, there­fore GOBlin).

In the ju­niors’ play­ground it was the sub­ject of much mythol­o­gis­ing. There was the tale of “the Goblin”, a shad­owy fig­ure pa­trolling the lines at night, prey­ing on chil­dren who had stayed out too late. Oth­ers said the line was blessed by an­cient cock­ney goblins and ev­ery­one who rode it would re­ceive good luck.

For me, trav­el­ling on the Goblin line was just an­other mys­te­ri­ous thing big peo­ple did, along with taxes and sit­ting dur­ing par­ties. Princess Jas­mine from Aladdin rode a magic car­pet; adults rode the Goblin.

I re­mem­bered those myths this week when stuck on a rush-hour Goblin, sand­wiched be­tween one per­son’s un­re­pen­tant chew­ing and an­other’s loud sigh­ing. All the magic in life is dead, I thought. I have never been one for the oc­cult, whether that means horo­scopes or those teenage spam emails about a curse that can only be lifted by for­ward­ing them on (who knew su­per­nat­u­ral spir­its were so into rais­ing their in­ter­net pro­file?). But there is some­thing about that child­like sense of won­der, of imag­in­ing when there is no know­ing, that I miss.

Maybe I’m at an awk­ward age: too old to be­lieve in magic but not yet old enough for the adult’s. By adult magic, I mean those truly won­drous things: cre­at­ing a child, or sum­mon­ing su­per­hu­man strength when a loved one passes.

Or maybe it’s my fault. I have a de­vice near-per­ma­nently at­tached to my hand, so I can con­duct a search on ev­ery thought that crosses my mind. And I will fol­low the re­sults with aban­don, through Wikipedia pages to pod­casts and be­yond. I have lost the abil­ity to tol­er­ate not know­ing, and to fill that space with dreams, even for a mo­ment. Per­haps it’s me who has sucked all the magic out of life.

Then again, while writ­ing this I dis­cov­ered there is an en­tire on­line com­mu­nity ded­i­cated to the Goblin. More than a thou­sand strangers con­nected in our hos­tile, un­friendly cap­i­tal, by an in­ter­est in a train line. So maybe it was magic, af­ter all

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