The Mystery of the Christmas Cup

The cup lays there on the tracks, its shape pristine, shining from the rain that pours down this morning at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest station, or so I’m informed by the signs dotted around.
The cup resembles Caffe Nero’s familiar light blue, but it has lost its brightness, the way litter does when it is left out in the sunshine to disintegrate. The company’s logo, its name emblazoned slap bang in the middle, is cocooned within a red wreath. The kind one might hang on their front door, as long as their door wasn’t red.  
I look at the cup curiously. The faded colour and the Christmas motif allude to the fact that the cup has been there some time, on the track next to platform 6, home to trains heading towards Reading and Waterloo & Eton Riverside. But it is the shape that confuses me. The perfect cup-shaped shape.  
It has rained a lot lately, as it tends to do these days during this month. Paper goes soggy when it gets wet, so why hasn’t this cup crumbled from the rain? 
But it is designed to hold water. Hot water in fact, infused with a little, or a lot, depending how you like it, of caffeinated coffee beans, or perhaps some hot chocolate. So it needs to be strong enough to hold hot liquid. Surely it can withstand a little rain?  
But I do not want to give the tall, sorry, regular, cup any more credit than it deserves. It should hold a cup of coffee, yes. Maybe two. It shouldn’t be able to withstand 8 months of rain.  
Of course it hasn’t rained for eight months solid, though it feels that way sometimes here. But we’ve had a lot of heavy rain this August.  
It is August. Almost the end of, but still the eighth month of the year. That is why the Christmas cup is so out of place. Has it really kept its shape for so long? 
My disbelief remains instilled within me.  
Perhaps they ran out of regular cups? Resorted to using the leftover supply of Christmas cups? No, this seems an unlikely explanation; surely they may run out of Christmas cups but not the other way around.  
Perhaps the cup belonged to a beggar, one who sits on the street with his hand out, waiting for a few coins to buy a sandwich or a bottle of White Lightening. Perhaps he (I am presuming the tramp to be a he), finally got enough to put himself on a train to Windsor, where he can visit the Eton Riverside.  
Unlikely, let’s face it. While they do have pubs in Windsor and even Eton, down by the Riverside, I’m sure, there are plenty of pubs to be found in Clapham Junction, should the tramp have received enough to pay for a pint.  
Maybe someone kept the cup, refilling it every day with coffee from home, being either too tight or too poor to buy a new coffee everyday. Someone with a complicated relationship with money but who likes to keep up appearances. But no. Someone resorting to those kind of tactics would surely not give themselves away by using a Christmas cup all year round.  
Also, I argue to myself, someone who is holding onto the cup for whatever reason, is not going to cast it away across the tracks at Platform 6. No. That is the behaviour of a guy in a suit, a businessman who is predisposed with his latest business deal to care about disposing of his trash in such a manner. Or perhaps a young dude in a hoodie, who also doesn’t care about littering the station.  
If only there was a witness I could ask. The way all the great detectives do. Excuse me madam, have you ever seen this cup here before? 
I think before I answer.  
No, I say. I haven’t ever seen this cup before. I have seen the torrent of water that falls from the roof next to the Pumpkin cafe, the one that is cascading down this rainy day. But I have never seen the cup that lies within reach of the drops that pour and splash over it.  
Am I an unreliable witness? I am here on the platform every day. Every working day at least. Most days I stand right here, where I am now, the best spot to get on if you want to get off closest to the stairs at Richmond. 
Why haven’t I seen the Christmas cup before? On the days I arrive with time to spare, I spend my minutes waiting for the train by looking around. I notice the far away platforms, the workmen’s building opposite, the footbridge. I even remember a beer bottle, Stella perhaps? Surprisingly unbroken despite being tossed away from the platform. But I don’t remember the Christmas cup.
The next day I return to the scene of the crime. A crowd has formed, and I struggle to get a good look at the evidence. Eventually I see it, and I am shocked at how it has disintegrated since yesterday. Of course, this autopsy reveals that the deterioration could not have occurred in such a short space of time. The cup has now been spun around, and I can see the inside of it is not a pristine white as one might have expected upon first viewing yesterday, but instead a dark black from all the dirt contained within. The perfect cup shape was no longer, having turned into more of an oval. The outside, no longer shiny from the rain, was a dull, faded colour. The Christmas motif is still there. We finally have our TOD (Time of Deposit) – which is given as December 2014/January 2015.

The mystery of the Christmas cup solved, I continue on my way to work. I will think of the Christmas cup as the new Christmas cups are unleashed in the coming months, and of course every morning, as I clap eyes on it at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest.  

Written 24th August 2015

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