Notes from the Brighton mainline

I’m halfway through week five of New Job, and it’s been a very pleasant 4.5 weeks indeed. Well, inside the office, anyway – which is shiny and glassy and full of people who seem to genuinely want to be there, so as workplaces is go, it’s not bad. We had a minor blip on my very first morning when they insisted I attend the two-hour welcome meeting, despite having worked for the organisation for two years already, but never mind; HR have probably got a lot on.

Outside the office is another story: the commute. Oh, the commute. Five weeks ago, I was blasé and blithe – “sure, it’ll be fine. I’m not a morning person now, but I soon will be! It’s just loads of extra reading time, really, isn’t it? Oh well, we do what we have to do.”

As a result of now having a wake-up time of 5.40-something, and spending roughly four hours a day at the mercy of either Southern Sodding Rail or Gatwick Ruinously Expensive Express, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve had the time – loads of it – to be ponderous. None of it’s particularly deep or meaningful, but it might amuse you, so do read on.

  1. I am now obsessed with sleep. How much I’ve had, how much I’m losing, how much I can resist the urge to “catch up” at weekends (you’re not supposed to do this, according to ‘sleep experts’ – which sounds like a jammy gig – it’s bad. It just makes it harder to get up on Monday morning if you spend Sunday wrapped around your pillow, promising to never abandon it again. Apparently. I’ll take my chances, I think). I’m an expert train napper now. I don’t even care if I fall sideways onto some unsuspecting businessman’s shoulder while I’m dozing. I don’t think it’s happened yet, but I’m sure it will. My newly acquired sleep skills were tested last week when I came home with a migraine, only to find our upstairs neighbours were having, by the sounds of things, some sort of power tool showcase in their flat. I counted at least one drill, some sort of sander and two hammers. All going simultaneously. For hours. I STILL MANAGED TO SLEEP FOR SIXTY MINUTES. I’m currently writing this to a soundtrack of a continuous sullen rumbling. It’s not DB’s latest musical endeavour; it’s the plumbing in our flat (we’re getting it sorted, Mum, don’t worry). It’s annoying, sure, but will it disturb my sleep tonight? Un-bloody-likely.To-read pile
  2. I was right – it is extra reading time. I’m on my fourth book in ten days. I’m downing chapters like espresso martinis, and getting all of the buzz but none of the hangover. I’m finally working my way through my to-read list. Having Christmas, a birthday and then leaving a job all in the space of three months meant I had a lot of books to get through, and it’s glorious. I’m reading like I did at nine years old; speeding through novels in a matter of hours. Stand by for a Sunday Seven that’s entirely book-based (I’ll try  not to make this a reality, we’ll have a bar or a recipe or an album to break things up a bit).
  3. I am worried about my health. It can’t be good, can it – hauling oneself out of bed around 6, day in, day out, coffee becoming as necessary as water, being in a perpetual state of rage at the uselessness of our rail services, being squashed up against other human beings on the Tube? I’ve never been so grateful for the fact that DB and I only go out for dinner or order a takeaway very, very rarely. Don’t take me to the Salt Room, DB, just make me pots and pots of ratatouille. Tomatoes and courgettes will totally undo the work of the caffeine and the sugar and the anxiety that’s coursing through me the rest of the time… right? And on a side note, I can’t say I’m totally enjoying DB’s supermarket reductions habit – we currently have a whole coconut in our kitchen that I’ve no idea what to do with – but he’s also acquired some good salad stuff and a lot of biscuits, so I’m getting some quite good lunches out of it.
  4. I think I might be a raging socialist. I might end up going into politics.  Zoe WilliamsMainly because the railways need renationalising, stat, by people that know how to provide a service rather than screw over their customers, but also because I’ve read both Caitlin Moran’s Moranifesto and Zoe Williams’ Get It Together in this week alone. The latter in particular – I’d recommend seven bells out of it; it’s so concise and no-nonsense and sensible. She takes apart our most pressing problems – tax avoidance and evasion, the housing market, what to do with the NHS, poverty, (un)employment, and so on – in such a clear-eyed manner, you hardly realise you’re reading about Serious Issues. Her overarching point is that these social ‘systems’, and therefore the problems within them, are all man-made – so we can un-make them. We can come up with new systems that better serve our needs. We just have to want it badly enough, and demand change.
  5. I might practise for going into politics by starting a campaign to get work to give me some sort of coffee-and-concealer allowance.
  6. If you wake up to a pre-6am alarm, it sort of doesn’t matter what time it actually is. Once I realised that this was going to be my life for the next few months, I thought ‘fuck it, might as well try getting up at 5.30 and going for a run’. I have done this exactly twice – but I felt AMAZING both times, so I might give it another go. Besides, it’s the only time I can actually fit in exercise – which is important for addressing point 3.
  7. I don’t see enough of Brighton, but I think I see its best bits. Brighton and I share the quiet moments: 7am, when the sun’s not been up long and the only people around are the street cleaners, the men doing the daily deliveries to Primark and Sainsburys, and occasionally, the students still going from the night before. And then the evenings, when the sunsets are either fiercely pink-orange, or muted, misty bluey-greys.

    After a couple of days of bad weather, this was the calm, somewhat sheepish sea that greeted me yesterday evening.

And on that note: to bed.

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