Thursday, 10 January 2008

Commuting is fun (repeat)

Hello and Happy New Year – finally! Luckily everything did get sorted, with minimum disruption, and now all is declared fine, which of course makes me suspicious. But enough of 2007, let’s kick things off again!

As you may remember, the self-imposed deadline for finishing my novel is now ticking loudly in my ear. I have to, without fail, finish it by Jan 24th; at least to complete a first draft. There are a couple of reasons for this date, one is that I am going on holiday with friends on Jan 25th to Cape Town, where my lovely pal S and her fiancé are getting married, and I am her bridesmaid. I have been looking forward to this for so long (it was already in the budget!), and I always saw this as the deadline for finishing the book. Not only that, but my project manager friend C will be on the plane with me, and she expects to read a copy on the flight, so I cannot fail her! The other reason is, of course, that I need to start earning real money again soon, which is something I have been thinking a lot about recently!

So with that all in mind I have been reading Paul McKenna's book of confidence, which is great, although I don't think all the positive thinking in the world can put a happy slant on commuting, which is something I may be going back to sooner rather than later. I know no one likes it, but I had managed to forget how completely awful it can be. Such as yesterday evening...

The following takes place between 7pm and 10pm...


All day: Every time I glance at my mobile I realise the battery is dying. Oh still there! No, dying. Oh… dead. Whoops, no mobile. Still, I won’t need it, right?

7pm: I am in west London (Shepherds Bush tube station) and have decided the easiest way to get home (with minimal walking / steps involved) will be catching the Central line to Oxford Circus, the Victoria line to Highbury & Islington station, and the overhead train from there. The minimal walking thing is because I not only am I lugging a suitcase (work stuff, not fun stuff inside), 3 carrier bags (also mainly filled with boring work stuff) and a handbag; I am also wearing boots that are killing me. Never mind, onwards and downwards… I stagger onto the Central line.

7.25: Lug my stuff off at Oxford Circus to change for the Victoria line, only to hear the announcement that the Victoria line is severely delayed. Ah. Bugger. Quick, maybe I can lurch back onto the Central line… The doors close in my face. Bugger. Again.

7.27: Ponder whether the announcer was lying. You see, they sometimes say a line is delayed and that you should really travel another way, when in reality the problem might be cleared in a few moments and then you get a seat on a fairly empty tube. Decide however that this time they mean it, as the platform is packed with disgruntled commuters who would have been on the Victoria line. Now we are all trying to get back on the Central line to get the tube further down, as the next place to change should you want to go north will be Holburn, for the Piccadilly line. I will then go to Finsbury Park station to get my overhead train, rather than Highbury & Islington, which is only accessible on the Victoria line.

7.30: The tube draws up and there is a small sigh of dismay in the air as the tube is packed and no one is shifting. However, along with that sigh is the steely eyed determination everyone on this platform has about getting home. People square shoulders as the tube doors open – young, old, male, female – it is a no holds barred fight for freedom. Me, my suitcase, 3 carrier bags and stupid annoying handbag are swept into a corner of the carriage roughly the size of a small pea.

7.31: My trailing scarf (another enormously stupid idea) has trailed itself over several commuters, all of which doing their level best to ignore it. I ignore it as well, being that I cannot move to free it anyway.

7.38: Holburn! I can breathe! Ah, but it looks like everyone wants that Piccadilly line. And the reason I wasn’t changing here in the first place is because there is a long walk, and stairs, and an escalator… bugger.

7.48: Made it to the platform, except it is just as bad as the one at Oxford Circus. I stagger down the far end (a good tip is always to go to the ends unless you know where your exit is!) in the hope that an end carriage will be emptier.

7.51: End carriages are packed. Cannot get on the first train. Listen to an argument between commuters about someone pushing ahead. It sounds vicious.

7.55: Finally get on tube. My view is a small triangle of window (showing rushing blackness) between people, arms reaching up like branches to hold on where they can. I can smell after work drinks, cigarette smoke, sweat… I focus on that fact that it is only six stops to go. Or seven… damn.

8.20: The Piccadilly line is delayed. The news is met with apathy; nothing surprises anyone down here in the pit.

8.35: Get to Finsbury Park, and remember that I have to now lug everything up a spiral staircase to the overhead trains. I have no time to get ready for this as I am caught in a sea of people, all determined to get up those stairs. So up I go, yet people are also coming down… Now there are quite a lot of people coming down, so that should make you wonder what is going on with the trains up above, however I don’t have time to stop and think, a man has just barged past me carrying a rucksack, hitting everyone in the face with it, including me. I think of ways to trip him, and by the sounds of the mutters in the crowd, am not the only one. Another man barges into me, but says sorry, so I forgive him. I forgive him even more when he asks if I need help with my suitcase and carries it up the other 2 flight of stairs. Yay! A nice person! Just the one!

8.45: Am finally up the stairs, and up the other stairs to the overhead train platform. It is totally and utterly packed. This is a bad sign, as it means one of the train lines isn’t running. I rest up in a small corner by a drain hating everything – trains, suitcases, handbags, that stupid trail-y scarf, these amazingly stupid boots, the train guard as it’s surely his fault…

8.50: The announcer has said there are no trains, none to where I need to go anyway. I go to call J and realise my mobile is dead. Damn… but then I see those old fashioned pay phone thingys and lug everything over to one. After the slight gasp of horror that it now costs 40 pence (40 pence!) I fish out two 20’s and call J. Nothing happens and I realise that the phone is out of order. Oh typical… I drag everything to another phone and have the novel experience of queuing for a pay phone. What year do I live in again?

8.55: Slot in my two 20p’s, and listen to the phone ring, and ring. Damn, where is he? I go to put down the receiver but then that stupid 1571 answer phone thingy kicks in, and I lose 40p. This somehow, after everything, makes me even crosser. I slam down the phone and the shifting queue behind me (has everyone’s mobile died?) look alarmed. ‘Does it not work?’ asks one man with panic in his voice. I reassure them that it is only me that has a problem. They all look relieved. The sods.

9.00: Decide to drag everything down to the Piccadilly line again, and try and get to Southgate, as from there I can get a cab.

9.20: Tube terminates at Arnos Grove, the stop before Southgate. Mr Livingstone, I just want you to know that at this moment, 9.20pm on Wednesday 9th January 2008, I was thinking of you, and not in a nice way.

9.30: Back on tube, get off at Southgate and stagger to the free phone to call a cab. This is great, it goes straight through to a really reliable cab company, and within minutes I was sailing home.

10pm: Arrive home to J, who gets plus points for having a surprise dinner ready, but minus points for not hearing the phone over the wonders of the Setanta Sports channel.

So today I have been back writing, thinking please, please spare me the commute! The novel is surely the only way out but I am still on chapter 13 (what with various things going on, nothing has advanced very far since we last spoke!) and that means I have 5 chapters left to go in 14 days. Can it be done? Stay tuned to find out! *Quickly reaches for the Paul McKenna book*

No comments: