…it’s mainly because I’m one of those people who a) works in the middle-of-sodding-nowhere-ville, and b) is feeble enough to not be able to drive. (I tried, for a long time, but kept being beaten by the fear of the disasters that can occur when one is travelling at high speeds in a metal box. I think there’s something wrong with my brain.)
The job I have, if I’m honest, is far more hassle than it’s worth. Rail fares are jumping up, I spend over three hours on a train most days, and the job itself makes my brain melt with its lack of creativity. After doing the Sodding Masters (to give its technical term), I was happy to rest on my academic laurels and earn some money by reading bills, insurance policies and the odd textbook for hours on end. The only good thing I can say about it now is it keeps me from having to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just feel it’s better to stay employed if the work is there. And it gives me something to do and, more accurately, something to complain about.
Knackering though the commute is – and it really is* – once I’m on that train, I really don’t mind it. I get uninterrupted time with my iPod/a book/my own thoughts. I can people-watch, people-judge, and people-crush to my heart’s content.
*When you’re a kid, you imagine adulthood to involve eating Smarties for breakfast, staying up late every single night and never having to do Maths homework. Turns out it’s just “get up hideously early, spend hours on a train – often with morons – do a job that both bores and frustrates you (also often with morons), spend hours on a train, eat dinner, sleep”. On repeat.
I’ve said before that I fall in lust regularly whilst travelling on trains – and I’ve found that I’m pretty open-minded about who I lust after. Men, women, anyone’s fair game. Recent train-crushes have included the geek-chic, suited and bespectacled chap with whom I shared a smile, once, when we both jumped at Boris Johnson’s “today’s the day, folks!” Olympic message as it boomed out across the station. This guy looked like Francis from Made in Chelsea, if that helps. He doesn’t get the 08.13 to Caterham anymore, which is a shame.
Then there was the glamourous woman who looked like Rosamund Pike (like this), and was dressed immaculately in a navy maxi dress with a butterfly print and a cream mac. And the nice, friendly conductor who was sweet in a David Miliband sort of way, but who lost points for saying “that’s a long way” when I bought a ticket from Littlehaven to Uckfield. Don’t I bloody know it, sunshine. The impeccably-dressed guy I saw for 2.7 seconds this morning – shirt, jumper, jeans, Converse, long wool coat, stubble and untidy hair. The pouty blonde girl with the amazing eyelashes, who looks like she has moody tendencies and maybe a useless boyfriend she has to keep tabs on (she’s always on her phone).
Then there’s the rare, but warm-and-fuzzy “aww!” moments. Like the tiny little black girl who wears a stiff school uniform topped with a red beret. All I see when she walks down the platform, escorted by her mother, is huge brown eyes and a little hat. Too cute. And the guy I saw a couple of weeks back, who looked kind of thuggish but was clearly besotted with the well-behaved Staffie that sat at his feet, eyeing up the pigeons.
Sure, there are people that annoy the living daylights out of me (this wouldn’t be me if it was all warm-and-fuzzy and puppies ‘n’ rainbows). The girl in the paint-splattered jeans who knocked into everyone today, and who positively reeked of weed. The couple who look “alternative” and are all cute and publicly affectionate. I don’t care how in love you are, 8am is too early for that shit. And the girl just looks like someone who would describe themselves as “quirky”, and the boy seems pretty whipped. (I’m really getting my bitch on tonight. Eek.) The business types who look important as they hash out Powerpoint presentations on their MacBooks and talk in infuriating, meaningless jargon. Please. Speak. Properly. Or I’ll re-brand you.
I’m definitely guilty of romanticising train travel. If I had my way, we’d still be relying on steam trains. Young wives running alongside trains as they pull away, waving their handkerchiefs at stern, yet kind men, who’re saying “I’ll write every week darling, I promise!” would be a regular occurrence. With all those people in such a small space, you could meet your soulmate on an otherwise very ordinary train journey. If you believe in soulmates.
It was Samuel Johnson who said that when one is tired of London, one is tired of life. I’d re-phrase, and mangle his idea: when you’re tired of quietly observing all kinds of people as they pass through somewhere like a busy railway station, then you’re probably tired of people.
On that note, have a bit of this. I’m not sure if I’m late to the party as far as this song is concerned (I’m not great with singers other people have heard of. Sad but true):