Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ideas above my station

I am going to miss writing about the train when I walk to work. Well, I will miss writing about it but I’m definitely not going to miss getting up at 6.25am, leaving the house at 7 to walk a mile and a half in 25 minutes and then doing the same thing 12 hours later, in reverse. I may even get to see Neighbours! Although since the move to Channel 5, it looks weird. Plus, I don’t recognise anyone in it. I suppose the point is, I could watch it, if I wanted to. More to the point, I can start running again, huzzah. Theoretically I could run now, but I get up as early as I can bear now and I get home so late that I’m absolutely ravenous when I get in the door. Running as well would either mean going on an empty stomach and not having the energy to enjoy it or waiting until I’ve digested a little bit which would mean me having enough time to run, return, shower and go to bed. This does not a happy commuter make. My start date is yet to be confirmed but I assume it’ll be around the last week in October-ish as I finish in Cambridge on the 17th, which is a Friday.

However, I will still keep up with the writing – I find it really soothing and it’s great to be able to write without it having to be technical or useful or reviewed by the team. It’ll probably have more reviews though!

I got on the train at Norwich this week to find two people fast asleep on the seats. One person was hidden in a hoodie and the other had music on and was middle-aged. It wasn’t even half seven yet so I guess I’d sleep on the train too. I’d also just watched the train come in and everyone get off, so I knew that I was the first person in the carriage getting on at Norwich. Most importantly, the hoodie was in my seat! I exchanged glances with one of the quiet Natives, a guy who gets off at Wymondham and also occupies the same seat each morning. He shrugged. After a bit of deliberation I decided to wake the older gentleman by poking him in the shoulder. It took a couple of tries – he was sound asleep and dreaming, bless him. When he woke up with a bit of a jump I explained that the train was at Norwich, to which he grabbed his stuff, thanked me and got off. Hoodie followed as he’d woken up by then too. It was definitely a fun start to the morning.

I had the chance to employ some of this social responsibility I’m always talking about the other day. I can’t stand the way everyone’s happy to let everyone else wreck our communal spaces because they’re bored/stupid/whatever. In the current climate I’m definitely more careful about what I say to people, but if someone walks into me or drops rubbish, for example – I’ll let them know about it. Anyway, I was on the train at Cambridge and a boy sits in the vacant seat of the pair I’d occupied. He dumped his schoolbag at his feet and took out a card. I admit it. I peeked – it was a birthday card for his dad. He disposed of the rubbish by releasing the table, shoving everything on it and then closing the table on it. I spent the next ten minutes quietly fuming. There are bins between seats and at either end of the carriages on those trains and if there weren’t any – take it home with you! It was a bit of plastic, not anything smelly or heavy. Why should the people who empty the bins on trains and clean up after the rabble have to check every table to make sure some wide-boy hasn’t decided to squeeze their litter in there? I had therefore decided to remind this sixth former about social responsibility and consequences of actions. He got off at Ely and I waited until I knew he was going to leave his rubbish before freeing it from the table, poking him in the back and handing it to him. He took it without grace but he did take it. Score one to the responsible (and perhaps a little busybody-ish) citizen. He may have dropped it off the train, but I hope he didn’t.

I overhead a couple of hilarious phone conversations in the last week. One was from the biggest man I’d ever seen – he was TV fat and I worried about how he was going to fit in the seats, to be honest. It was snug but surprisingly easy, in the end. He got on with an equally proportioned (well, near enough) friend but the train was quite full so they had to sit apart. That didn’t stop them though – they were the loudest Geordies I’ve heard for a long time. That was entertaining in itself, but then his phone went off. The ringtone was a police siren. I kid you not, dear reader. He then proceeded to tell whoever it was that someone or other had no right to take away her money, which sounded interesting except that it wasn’t. He then enlightened the carriage with his knowledge of the local geography, announcing at Attleborough that he was “in Cambridgeshire”. In case you’re as unfamiliar as he certainly was, Attleborough’s firmly in Norfolk. I suppose, to give him some credit I wouldn’t know all of the counties in other parts of the country, but I’d at least have the sense to realise that the train would’ve crossed at least one border after an hour and keep quiet about it.

I was most fortunate to sit in front of an extremely Norfolk young man on the phone to what I can only assume was his beloved on a different journey. I can’t remember the exchange word for word, but it involved him trying to get her to meet him at the train station by employing all manner of tactics. One was emotional blackmail “Don’t meet me, I’ll walk on my own” , while another was threat “Well, I may as well just turn around and go back again”. The best one was when he said he’d get a taxi from the station and then changed his mind almost immediately, going back to his “I’ll walk on my own” effort. The funniest thing was the high pitched shrieking I could hear on the other end which increased in intensity when he started the conversation with “What you so moody for?”. The climax was definitely near the end of the call, when he said “I luv ya Chelsea” with a straighter face than she could have hoped for from me.

I’ve been thinking about treating myself again. Ooh, the cons have arrived but they’re waiting at the sorting office, boo. Mr Charming hasn’t collected them yet (it’s Mr Charming because I am as yet unqualified to drive) as the books haven’t arrived yet either and I couldn’t stomach two trips to the sorting office in a week. I hate that place. The staff seem hand-picked to be the rudest , most unconcerned employees they could hope for. I’ve had to endure numerous conversations about their weekend while they wander about looking half-heartedly for my parcel/free lightbulbs/under stamped letter and three thousand others wait behind me. They always ask for id when you could give them a train ticket and they wouldn’t care and they don’t accept debit or credit card. Who doesn’t accept card? It’s no wonder Royal Mail are in trouble. There’s a crappy hand written sign in black marker which states “Credit or debit cards are not accepted” in capital letters. The sight of that sign makes my blood boil.

I digress. I think I may treat myself to a week’s long season ticket in First Class for my last week. The seats in there are easily double the width of standard, twice as comfy and even better – there’s never anyone in there! It all depends on how much it is, obviously. I would estimate a 50% increase in the standard ticket which would make it about £95. Hmm, that’s quite steep. It would be fun though.

I read my second Philippa Gregory last week: The Other Boleyn Girl. I don’t like her writing style at all. I struggled through the monotony of the first hundred pages and managed to actually get to the end in a decent amount of time, but really I only finished it because I like the costumes. The characters are badly written and if I ever see “gleam” attached to people again I’ll kill someone. Their voices were indistinct and I had a hard time telling who was speaking, especially in scenes with the Boleyn family meetings. I found the ‘history’ aspect interesting, but I think I’d be much better off reading the actual history books referenced at the back. Or wikipedia. I remember people raving about all of the Philippa Gregory books and about how great they are. To me they’re bodice rippers with a tinge of history, which elevates their status slightly. I suppose the same could be said for Harry Potter, which is just The Worst Witch re-worked for modern audiences. That’s not to mention the countless other ‘nods’ Ms Rowling included from Diana Wynne Jones to Ursula LeGuin to Tolkien himself. While we’re on the subject, does anyone else ever feel like not jumping on the bandwagon? As if Ricky Gervais was actually marching down Oxford Street naked, and everyone stands and applauds? I’ll never understand the fawning over that man’s stand up. The Office and Extras I can go some way to appreciating, but that’s for everyone else and nothing to do with Gervais.

Anyway, enough celeb bashing. I hope to read some of my new books soon, the aforementioned Middlesex is high up there, along with New Moon and Twilight Watch. Huzzah. I should make more of an effort to look like I’m working, I think.

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