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Commuter says no

January 2, 2015

So, I have become a ‘commuter’. This is less an activity as a state of mind… I commute, therefore I am (knackered). It’s not a means of transportation, it’s a way of life. No longer is a train journey a simple method of getting from A to B. It’s 25% of my waking day, largely spent in the company of other droopy-eyed, wearily shuffling people, who (like me) barely get past the ‘rush hour crush’ section of the Metro before succumbing to sleep. I’m writing this on the train right now, laptop wedged on the impossibly tiny shelf on the back of the seat in front, next to the laughably shallow drinks cup indentation, from which only the tiniest shudder of the train can cause a paper cup of scalding hot coffee to fly halfway down the carriage.

Without shifting in my seat, I can see at least five people in the land of ‘train sleep’, mouth open, head cricked to 45 degrees, occasionally jerked awake by an uneven train track, with the panicked stare that precedes the grateful realisation that they haven’t yet missed their stop, or given their neighbour a second degree burn from their half-finished Costa, and can wipe the drool from their chins and have another quick snooze before alighting. There is no one yet snoring, but we are not quite past Royston, after which it is non-stop to Kings Cross, and the lack of bing-bong announcements, coupled with the soporific effect of the heaters blasting our ankles, reduces practically the entire carriage to an eerie silence otherwise not experienced outside a long-haul flight, or the mid-section of ‘The tree of life’. I reckon if the train gently pulled into a siding and just sat there motionless for a couple of hours, we’d barely notice (and be grateful for the extra sleep).

Regular readers of my blog (I apologise to both of you for not having written in so long) will know I have something of a fondness for ranting about trains. Whether it’s a diatribe on the unfair and outdated approach train operators have towards the class system, or the fact the wrong kind of sunshine can shut down the train network within minutes, it’s a fairly safe bet that I’ll find something to moan about.

I’m actually *not* going to mention the extortionate train fares that are weekly costing me more than groceries, mainly because the thought of how much hard-earned cash is being fed through that ticket barrier is just too depressing to contemplate. Today, UK train fares have increased by an average of 2.5%, and I am quietly hoping my fellow commuters will be sufficiently inspired by such daylight robbery to have a full-on Russell Brand-esque tantrum about how the annual price hike in fares perfectly mirrors a consistently poorer, later, shoddier service, that not only refuses to take responsibility for its own rubbishness (Abellio thanks its customers for their patience, as opposed to apologising for its own ineptitude) but also demands more money for the privilege of standing nose-to-armpit for four hours a day, on older, more rickety trains.*

Of course, no one is forcing me to daily embark on this epic journey. But until London magics its way 50 miles closer to my boat (I guess, practically, it might be easier to make the reverse true), I can be found in a state of bewildered sleep somewhere around the third carriage of the 6.52 from Ely, clutching a cold coffee and attempting to make a blanket out of the Metro. I will be dreaming about a bright future in which teleportation affords me an extra two hours in bed each morning, where I don’t spend a further fifth of my daily wage at the Little Waitrose recently (ingeniously) installed at King’s Cross station, and in which I can accidentally make eye contact with a stranger without fear of being yelled at for privacy infringement. Don’t wake me (unless I’ve gone past Ely – I really don’t want to end up in King’s Lynn).

*Oh dear, it appears I am.

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