Sunday, 24 December 2006
No, only kidding – I managed to persuade my company to bestow on me a season ticket loan
It’s not something they normally offer actually, but I think they took pity on me as their furthest traveling employee! Can you believe that? Silly me travels the furthest to work of anyone in the company (about 50 people), as far as I know. This must mean there is something wrong with me, surely. I’m never the person to be ‘the most…’ anything, or ‘the least…’ so this has come as a bit of a surprise.
Anyway, seasons greetings to anyone reading this. I trust you all enjoy the time off work. Make the most of having a decent lie-in (if you are lucky) and not having to go to the office.
Is anyone working over the Christmas period? I’m lucky enough to have the whole time off as the office shuts down. However, in my last job in London, the office opened for two days between Christmas and New Year so you could choose whether to take the time off or not. Needless to say, both Christmases that I worked for that company, I decided to take the opportunity to get out of the house and go to work, where we sat around in the morning chatting, and then went to public house at lunchtime where we stayed for the rest of the day. Taxing stuff huh. The sensible option to saving annual leave for when you really need it! However, back then I was fortunate enough to be relatively close to my place of work. Not so easy to work inbetween Christmas and New Year when you are visiting relatives half-way across the country !
Thursday, 21 December 2006
After three months of buying monthly rail cards, I have decided I need to commit to my train commuting lifestyle. I need to acknowledge that this is my fate in life for at least the next year. I shall no longer be in denial about it and pretend that this is merely a provisional situation and that I shall actually be moving to live just 5 minutes away from my workplace.
I shall purchase an annual season ticket
A gold card eh? That makes it sound rather elite, as if I will be a member of a very select club that only very special and exceptional people are qualified for.
And then I enquired at the train station as to how many British Pounds it will cost me.
How on earth can they validate charging so much? I know I would actually end up paying more than that if I continue to pay monthly, but still! If I pay them that much in one go, it is as if I am saying to them, ‘look here, it’s ok if you persist in providing a crap service to me, it’s not as if I can do anything about it since I’ve already paid you well in advance. You have already banked my money and are reaping the interest from it. There’s nothing I can dooooo’
And another problem. Where am I going to uncover that sum of money from in a lump amount? So, a humble trip to Accounts is in order I think!
But, at least I get a little ticket that says ‘Gold’ on it. Hehe. That makes me special.
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
When I travel on the train to work, I step into my little cocoon. My world of books and sleep. An occasion to catch up on sleep and thoughts before I get off at my stop and enter into the real world of work. The train is a place where I am a nonentity; nobody knows me (well, except for chance encounters) and I can simply escape into my own little world for a time.
Sometimes, as I have frequently mentioned, I nod off on the train. Perfect. I never go to bed early enough anyway. What better opportunity to catch up on sleep while travelling to and from work?
Every so often, when I fall asleep, my mouth drops open slightly. We all do it. It occurs when you fall asleep whilst in an upright position. It’s the uncomplicated law of gravity that Sir Isaac Newton himself ascertained. Just substitute that apple with my drooping chin, and voilà ! Gravity explained!
If I attach this picture of gravity in my post above left, will you think I’m clever?
Anyway, there I was one evening after a lengthy, arduous day at work, sitting on the train. My head began to loll a little to one side. My hands began to feel weak, so I put my book away. Indeed, the hands are usually the first signs that I’m feeling drowsy. It begins to feel like too much of a hardship to continue to hold the book up, my hands are feeble and they want to relax. My eyes get weary. My eyelids droop. I begin to relax even more. And before you know, you’re asleep.
You stay in blissful sleep until you wake up, gather your things and get off the train. And that’s all you know of it.
Except, I forget that two of my colleagues often take the same train as me.
There is no justification for forgetting. From time to time we appear at the station at the same time after work and travel part of the way home together.
So, once I had put my book away, leaned my head back and started to sleep, that was it, I was gone.
The next day at work, one of my colleagues came laughing into the office and said to me,
“what were you thinking last night?”
“Pardon? Erm….[slightly embarrassed]…what do you mean?” I stammered. I didn't think I was going to like where this was going.
“On the train last night. I was going to come and take a seat with you but I saw you were asleep. Your head was back and you had this HUGE grin on your face while you were sleeping. [does an impression of my huge grin]”
“Oh my god”
“it was very funny, I thought ‘she must be having some very nice thoughts'”
He has managed to pass this slightly embarrassing story around to a few people now, to general hilarity.
Monday, 18 December 2006
At this time last year, when I was residing in London and taking the charming Northern Line to work everyday, I noticed a distinct plummet in the numbers of people squeezing themselves into moist, condensation-filled tube trains every morning. It seemed that the Christmas period had encouraged masses of people to take the last week before Christmas off work. As a result, the tubes were a fair bit quieter than average.
Consequently, I have anticipated seeing a similar outcome on the South West Train that I now take into work every morning.
fewer people+quieter trains=happier sleeping me.
This is not the case. This morning, the train was crammed full of over-excited, adolescents and their hormones shouting and squealing, and generally talking at the tops of their lungs in a carriage full of people who really don’t deserve such an aural beating.
It is almost as if the Christmas period has had the reverse effect on teenagers. They are all turning up to school/college this week (probably because there is less work and more partying) and getting incredibly energised by it. I can’t understand why a collection of teens need to shriek at each other in the morning on the train. But there you go.
Perhaps this is the first sign of many that I am now, legitimately, a ‘grown-up’. It makes me cantankerous and grouchy to see these youngsters having fun in the morning. It annoys me. I wish they would just turn the volume down on their loudspeaker vocal chords and sit quietly in their seats, just as I do.
So, perhaps it is January I need to wait for in order to witness a slump in commuter numbers. In January, these teenagers may not feel quite as chipper in the mornings and, here’s praying, actually sit down and shut up.
Oh dear. I’m grumpy.
Saying that though, the office gossip this morning from Friday’s Christmas festivities have perked me up a little. You’ve got to love inappropriate behaviour amongst work colleagues haven’t you? Not me, that is. But witnessing it is extremely amusing indeed.
I also enjoyed a rather drunken ride home on the train on Friday evening after the party. On a lovely quiet train with no teenagers bawling at each other.
And I’m ashamed of it now, in the cold light of Monday morning, but on Friday night in my drunkenness, I even put my feet up on the seats…..
Friday, 15 December 2006
Considering it was the BF’s work Christmas Party last night and I still had to awaken at 6.30am this morning, I wasn’t feeling in a remarkably social disposition. I would rather not have seen someone I knew this morning to be frank. I would rather have slumped into my uncomfortable carpeted train seat and fallen asleep as swiftly as possible, wallowing in the depths of my hangover and universal tiredness.
However, I had to appear alert and make dialogue. Under normal circumstances, I am happy, even slightly ecstatic to see someone I know in this new town of mine. Today is not a normal circumstance. I was already hung-over this morning and was on my way to work to do more drinking still. It was all I could do to muster up the motivation to sound alive and, dare I say it, intelligent.
Not sure how I fared on that one. Hopefully, he didn’t notice. Fortunately his stop was about halfway along my journey, so I had at least half a journey to catch up on sleep.
Off to the Christmas lunch in 1 hour 15 minutes. Merry Christmas!
Thursday, 14 December 2006
In the spirit of Christmas merriment resulting in a higher level of mundane chitchat at work, some people today were enquiring, ‘how on earth do you sleep on the train? I just couldn’t, I would be so fearful of missing my stop.’
This led me to consider.
Somehow, everyday without fail, when the train pulls into my destination, I awake. I return from my peaceful slumber to the harsh reality of the working day. I don’t know how I comprehend in my sleep that it is my stop. I just do. I don’t think it is a consequence of the train stopping, because I sleep through previous stops without difficulty. There is just something that tells me, ‘Right, I’ve spent nigh on 58 minutes in this seat now. It’s time to wake up.’
There’s no science to it. Perhaps that is the vaguely worrisome thing about it. No science. No system. Therefore, there is every likelihood that, one day, the system fails. I’ll sleep past my train stop and end up in Waterloo.
Now for the maths bit....
If I continue to do this commute for, let’s say, 5 years (god help me) then that’s about 1,165 train journeys. Let’s say the chances of me sleeping in is a 0.5% chance (pretty insignificant if you ask me). However, that means I’m going to sleep past my train stop 6 times! Bugger!
This is the problem you see. My train stop is not at the end of the line. Indeed, it’s far from it. If I stay asleep, it could well be a misfortune that means I miss half the morning’s work. Obviously, that would be dreadful. I love work in the mornings! However, I’d need to produce a sparkling explanation as to why I was late. I think ‘I overslept on the train’ would only induce ridicule and, well, that’s hardly professional is it! :-)
It’s not even like I stir whilst the train is on its way between the stop before mine, and my stop. No, that would be too dependable. I awake once the train has already stopped and people are already queuing up to get off. I then hastily seize my bag, rub my eyes clear of sleep, and join the queue, to the restrained amusement of some of my fellow passengers who observe my rushed jumping up from my seat.
Perhaps I should set an alarm? ….
Christmas party number one tonight !!!
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
You’ve got to love them really. Mine is on Friday. It will be my first party with this company as I joined in September. I’m looking forward to it, even if some of the more cynical amongst my colleagues are not. All the “youngsters” are though! It’s free drink, a free afternoon off work, and an extremely fine opportunity to get to know the people I spend everyday with a lot better!
From what I hear, it promises to be a really drunken affair. Nothing new there then. What else do you expect from a party with limitless supplies of free alcohol?
The slightly bad thing is, I have my boyfriend’s work Christmas party to go to the evening before my one (which is a daytime turning into an evening bash, so it’s an early drinking start)
So, I am going to TRY not to drink too much at the BF’s party (as if) so that I can still raise my weary head at 6am to get the train to work to go to another party.
I can just tell this is going to be a disaster.
I tend to drink quite a lot when I’m in a slightly awkward situation. I think the BF Christmas Party just might count as one of these situations. Standing around with a group of people I don’t know, who don’t know me, and making random conversations all night long.
And then, once I have decided to leave my own Christmas party (which I can tell is not going to be until late – I never am good at leaving a party early), I can battle with the trains home again. Whilst drunk. Perhaps I’d better make sure that I don’t go home steaming drunk during rush hour. I’m also fearful of some kind of incident on the train. Such as being sick. At least there are loos.
I had a friend who was once just sick in her lap on a packed train of commuters from London. She then had to sit there with everyone screwing up their noses in distaste at her foul behaviour. I really would rather not do that. I have already thrown up in the car this month. Not a good thing to do. Especially not if you put your head out of the window but forget to look backwards… if you understand me.
Anyone would think I didn’t want a Christmas party ?! I dooo !!! Just not two in a row !!! I’m not hardcore !!!
Monday, 11 December 2006
Well, I’ve changed my mind.
I LOVE THE TRAIN IN THE MORNING! It is by far the best way to commute to work. It’s fast, comfortable and you can do other things whilst you get smoothly taken to your chosen destination. Hell, you can even sleep.
Why the change in attitude?
I drove to work this morning.
If I thought taking the train for 58 minutes was bad enough, I was sadly mistaken. Spending 2 hours in the car this morning with only Radio 1 for company while I endlessly release the clutch for just a few meters of first gear bliss, was one of the most stressful ways to get to work.
Despite leaving the house at 7.10am I was still 10 minutes late to work (start time is officially 9am). Plus, I was bursting for the loo, something which I have mentioned that always seems to happen to me in the car in my very first post.
By all costs, avoid the M27 and the M3 in the mornings. What a drag!
I can’t wait to get back on to the trains tomorrow!
Friday, 8 December 2006
It reminds of a French text I studied years ago in A Level French, ‘Boule de Suif’ (Guy Maupassant). This short story revolves around a group of people thrown together in Wartime France (Franco-Prussian war of 1880s) attempting to escape the country in a ferry from Le Havre. For a reason that now eludes me they ended up sitting in an immobile horse and carriage for ages and had to strike up conversation with each other eventually. It turns out that one of the passengers is a former prostitute. A former prostitute in a carriage-full of vicars, mayors, businessmen and their wives. Naturally her status in life does not go down well with the bourgeoisie of nineteenth century small town France. She was accordingly alienated from the group.
I think she ended up sleeping with the Prussian guard in order to save their sorry lives, despite their petty attitudes in the face of danger during the war. A classic tale of wrongful assumptions, the underdog saving the day etc. Sorry if I have just thoughtlessly given away the plot there!
I’m trying to think of other novels where the plot revolves around being stuck in a strange situation with a group of people you otherwise would not spend time with. Can you think of any?
Anyway, the comments to my post (back to the topic!) got me thinking about talking on the train, an enclosed environment, and how this is generally deemed to not be a good idea for varying reasons!
And then I remembered something my Mum telling me about her ‘Train Gang’. She used to commute into London everyday. A 40-minute journey (not as long as mine now, Mum!) that she used to call (in a far from affectionate manner), ‘The Journey to Hell’. On that commute, over the years, she began talking to the people she saw everyday on the same trains. Her reasoning was, ‘it just gets a bit embarrassing to see the same people all the time, making eye contact sporadically, yet still to never actually utter any words to each other!’
They built up quite a solid comradeship as the years and train miles passed. I think there were about 5 of them. A couple of men, a trio of women. One by one, they stopped travelling on the train for various reasons (redundancy, change of location, general knackeredness) but they still meet up today for ‘Train Gang’ meals and reminisce about those days on the trains. (good days, but according to Mum, mostly bad days).
She hasn’t been a train commuter now for about 6 or 7 years. Yet, she still meets up with them at the Café Rouge/ASK restaurant of choice each year. Incredible.
And I baulk at the thought of even smiling at anyone on the train!
Thursday, 7 December 2006
Why can’t UK cope with any adverse weather conditions? A spot of rain and the entire transport network breaks down! Just a couple of months ago, the alarm buttons were frenetically being pressed because we don’t have an adequate supply of water following such a drought over the last year. Yes, we should be delighted to have all this rain come down and fill up our dehydrated reservoirs!
I’ve just read about a ‘tornado in London’ on the road where a friend of mine used to reside. Chamberlayne Road in Kensal Rise (my friend always used to assert it was Queen’s Park actually, but I can’t talk. I used to live in Brixton but insisted it was Clapham really). Strange times indeed. I suppose it is all to do with climate change. Or just another English winter finally starting (sadly)
Wednesday, 6 December 2006
I think that travelling on the train to work daily and relying on reading a good quality book to get me through the journey has actually modified my reading habits in a couple of ways.
1.it has transformed me into more of a prolific reader. I now read about 2 or 3 books a month rather than 1 book every 2 or 3 months.
2. it has made me impatient with books that don’t grab my attention easily in a train journey. With things going on around me such as tannoy announcements, people sitting down next to me, listening reluctantly to people’s conversations, ticket conductors etc, it makes it harder to concentrate on the literary prowess of the book in hand
Point 1 is undoubtedly a positive thing that has come from my train commute.
Point 2 on the other hand, is not. I now necessitate a book that will grip me and is relatively undemanding to read.
So, no classics, no booker prize novels, no orange prize for fiction novels. I now need to veer more towards the Richard and Judy Book Club. Sometimes there is a cross-over between the two. But more often than not, there isn’t.
I don’t mind this. In fact, I rather enjoy the novels recommended to me by this celebrity-married couple. But it makes me alert to how the train has made me intolerant to a book that requires a morsel of thought. A bit of concentration.
I am currently reading Harry Potter (see below). I have recently read the following:
The Dice Man: Luke Rhinehart (not one for the train, a little sluggish in parts)
Perfect Match: Jodi Picoult (average. effortless for the train though)
Saturday: Ian McEwan (easy to read and somewhat engaging. Perhaps it is because this is a short book)
Jules et Jim: Henri Pierre Roche (a bit of a haphazard choice actually. Not one for the train. Perhaps more for French film buffs!)
A Sparrow Falls: Wilbur Smith (recommended by the BF. Perfect for the train. Easy to read, good hearty family saga type thing.)
The Glass Palace: Amitav Ghosh (another good read, although copious Indian/Malasian names make it hard to follow in parts)
Next on my list once I have finished Harry Potter is to be Daphne Du Marier’s ‘Rebecca’. Something tells me this will not be a particularly good ‘train read’, but I really want to read it all the same!
If anyone has any good suggestions for good commuting books, I would love to hear them.
Tuesday, 5 December 2006
One man has written to some variety of Agony Aunt, in the form of Auntie Yahoo in this case.
“What can you say to a girl on a train?
im in london and every day i get the tube to work or wherever..but i always seem to see pretty girls on the train..they look at me i look at them, but never know what to say..then i or she gets off and i never see her again!! what can i say with out looking stupid, or freaking her out?
I don’t truly think about this sort of thing on the train. I mean, I simply fall asleep, or sit there and read. Or think. Predominantly, I think. About things in my life. From time to time, I observe a handsome man here or there. But mostly not.
But this summer, I was taking the train into London and a strange thing happened. As I disembarked at Waterloo station, a man in a suit let me pass before him when queuing to get off the train. He then walked beside me as we all strolled/marched (*delete as applicable depending on whether you are late or not) down the platform towards the barrier. The bottleneck began and we had to slow down to a more leisurely pace as the mass of people got denser.
He turned to me and said,
“This is going to sound a bit strange, but can I have your number please?”
I was verging on the dense here. I think I knew what he might be getting at, but didn’t dare assume that would be the case. So I asked,
The poor guy. He most likely hadn’t realised he had selected someone who would insist on him spelling out his every objective. He looked a little flustered.
“Oh, well, because I think you are really attractive and I’d like to go for a drink.”
Wow! That doesn’t happen?! So, I said,
“No, sorry, you can’t have my number.”
I think I tried to smile to alleviate the blow. I mean, I do have a boyfriend after all.
“No worries.” Said he. And we parted company.
I wondered to myself, ‘he is extremely courageous to ask outright for my number.’ I felt some sort of admiration for him kick in. I would never have the nerve (and neither the inclination to be honest) to do something like that.
And then, the other side of the coin presented itself to me.
‘Hang on,’ I thought, ‘if he asked me out and has taken the rejection so effortlessly, how many times does he do that? Every day does he pick out some unsuspecting female in the hope that, by asking many, one just might be audacious enough and, most importantly, single, and say yes? In fact, I’m not special at all. He does that everyday!”
It did give me a slight spring in my stride it has to be said. Coupled with the fact that I was on my way back to London having being offered a new job. Well, that made for a good day.
I find it also depends on the book I’m reading as to how long it takes for me drift away into DreamLand.
Before that, I once had a birthday party to celebrate my 22nd year with a Harry Potter themed bash. It was wonderful. I bought the soundtrack. I bought the piano score. For the party I invented an odd Sorting Hat game. I read the books in French while living in French Canada (hey, it was an excellent language exercise!) and then in English (again).
But the fifth book was long, dark, and too adult-like! So I only read it once (!) and somewhat instantly forgot the plot. Apart from remembering who died.
So now I’m onto the sixth book. I have to say I am enjoying it immensely after a three year break from all Harry Potter books. Although I struggle to remember the intricate plot details from Book 5.
In any case, Harry Potter 6 is one of those books that should, in theory, prolong my falling asleep on the train. Purportedly I am too engrossed in the book to think about feeling tired and warm. Although that didn’t work this morning.
J.K Rowling, you need to work on this!
Monday, 4 December 2006
As a relatively young female with only 2 or so years of working life under my belt, I’m hardly rolling in disposable, spare cash. So, what is the point in showing interest in the wonder of the stockmarket. Surely that is for big (they are always big in my mind for some strange reason), rich, confident, risk-taking types. Not me. Not me who saves a little a month, adapting a rather dedicated approach to finances rather than a flamboyant one. Why would I want to give up my averagely performing savings account for the perils of what is, essentially, gambling?
I don’t really I suppose. That’s why I have taken up the idea of Fantasy Shares. Yehha!!! MSN Money have given me one hundred thousand of her Queen’s pounds to play with to make me my fortunes and change me my life. Oh yesss..
So I’ve been doing it for about, um, er, three days now. Where’s my fortune?! The riches!? The success?! The offers of chairperson of large multi-conglomerates!?
Rats, I’ve gone and lost £169 so far without a smidgeon of satisfaction to go with the experience. Ok, I have picked 6 companies based on careful considering and pondering of the finest detail of the share performance charts and close monitering of how the FTSE100 has performed over the last three days.
Or not. I picked the company I work at, the company I used to work at, the company my boyfriend works at, a company whose name I like, and another company whose share value has dropped in the past month at such an alarming rate that surely it will come up to skyscaping levels in the (hopefully near) future and make me loads of money.
Ensured of success am I not?!
Oh, I’ve just found out it’s not real money………..
do not write about work do not write about work do not write about work do not write about work do not write about work
In fact, blogging came to my attention as a result of reading about the woes of certain bloggers when their blog turned from intimate musings to explosive life-changing incendary device.
I have (not very inventively) called my blog, "Girl on a Train" , simply because this is top of my mind as I create this page.
Yes, I spend a lot of my life on a train. Like many people do in the UK. The simple necessity of Full-Time Work means I get to sit on a train for 1 hour each way to get to the office (oops, mustn't mention work!) and spend 8 hours there and then sit on the train home.
Actually, that makes life sound rather dull doesn't it? Most people wince slightly when I tell them of my train journey. But you get used to it. You have to. In fact, I marginally enjoy it. I get to read books now. Lots of them. That certainly beats sitting in a car for 40 minutes getting more an more irate at the inadequacy of other drivers, or feeling frustration at the impending traffic jam. Or needing to use some facilities desperately, yet knowing you have at least 20 minutes on the road before you are home. In fact, there is nothing more annoying than that, and it seems to happen to me strangely frequently!
Ah yes, back to trains. Onboard facilities are the norm, so your hour-long journey doesn't turn into one of excrutiating pain/discomfort.
And then there are your fellow travellers. Each in their own world, just like I am, staring out of the window, or staring vacantly straight ahead, or sleeping, dribbling (often that is me) in sleepdom, engrossed in a good book, engrossed in a crap book, reading the paper, partaking in a spot of sudoku. It used to surprise me when I was a child that people would travel so far from home every day in order to get to work. My mother was a commuter for a time. I couldn't understand. And now here I am (for the second time in my relatively short career) spending over an hour to get to work.
And, damn, is it expensive! Probably one of the most expensive forms of travel in the UK, I estimate. You can fly to Manchester from London cheaper than you can take the train (maybe, I'm not sure about that, but it sounds good. I have been told this by a few people but have never bothered to check the verity of it). I'm not sure how train companies justify those prices. Some providers are particularly poor service. Fortunately, my provider is not too bad (so far, but I have only been doing this route for 2.5 months now. Not long enough for me to start assuming the current performance will develop into a trend) apart from my 'first week at the new job' scenario. More about that another time, I think.
If only the standard commuter train was like the train advertised on the Virgin Trains advert (You know, the ridiculous ad with the red indian riding alongside the train, supposedly attempting to steal the 'entrepreneur' type's notepad with million dollar making ideas written inside it. And then the red indian gets knocked to his death by the fast on-coming tunnel. Charming that is, Branson.) whereby you can sit there in comfort with a table to yourself, drinks poured at your demand and plenty of leg-room. Perhaps this is how it is in the exclusive 'First Class' carriage. Although not the First Class of my train provider, it looks just the same as 'standard' class, to me. Not worth the extra buck. Although perhaps a tad less crowded. Fortunately I am usually cunning enough to get a seat on my train. I never understand those people too afraid to ask people to move their damn bags (there's a shelf for those don't you know/) or budge up a little.
So, from the looks of this first blog, my life consists of exciting tirades against train companies... I can understand this may have made for a fascinating read. Hmmm.. Well, I promise to liven this up a bit. Perhaps less social commentary about train life huh?