Setting: The London Underground, around 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. KF, with a graduate class to prepare for Tuesday, is sitting reading In Memoriam. Sloane Square; doors open; respectable looking man, aged c. 35, sits down on her left, and addresses her in an Irish accent.
RLM: Do you mind me asking? I hope I'm not intruding at a moment of personal grief?
KF (slightly startled): Er, no?
RLM: ... because I can't help seeing that you're reading a book called In Memoriam. Do you mind if I take a picture of the cover? [extracts iPhone, takes picture]. You see - a very good friend of mine just passed away, and I'm looking for something to read at his funeral, and that looks like poetry, and I wondered if it might have something.
KF: Well, er, um - I'm so sorry for your loss ...
RLM: My friend - he was a real gentleman. An antique dealer. And he was an atheist - so I'm looking for something that might have a little bit of comedy to it.
KF: Ah - I don't think you're going to find that in In Memoriam. They didn't really do comedy and death in 1850, not in this sort of poetry.
RLM: So it's Victorian? My friend - he loved William Gladstone.
KF: Really! Let me try and see if I can find a section that might work [desperately thumbs pages]
RLM: So I heard Clive James on the radio the other day - he's really ill, you know - and he had this great poem about a maple tree, and I thought this might do, because my friend, he was in a lot of pain too, at the end [shows me poem on iPhone].
KF: You know, that really might be more suitable. Though this section's possible ...
RLM takes photo of page on iPhone, and leaps off train just as the doors are closing at Earls Court.
That was a very strange encounter.