Thursday, May 31, 2007

Walking the walk

My journey to work starts at around twenty past seven in the morning. Not when I get on the train, but when I leave the house, marching purposefully out of the front door and across the road, then back into the house to collect whatever it is I’ve forgotten. This is invariably one of two things: my mobile phone or my train pass – oddly, I never seem to forget my keys anymore, although The Wife would no doubt point out to me that this is because I followed her advice and started keeping them in the same place every night. I’ve always taken the actual train journey as the focus for what I write on this blog, but in fact, the trip from my house to the station is an adventure in itself, and just as deserving of attention. The people I encounter (and in most cases pass) every morning are like characters in a soap opera – consistent, predictable and above all ever-present – and all contribute to rich tapestry of commuting experience with which my current occupation provides me.

When I first moved here, I used to regularly encounter a couple of about my age, who lived at the end of the street I walk down to get from my house to the main road. He works for a law firm. I don’t know what she does but then we shouldn’t all be defined by our work should we. Being new to the area and keen to make friends, I made several overtures in their direction but was not welcomed with any great enthusiasm so I gave it up. These days they’ve started getting a later train – can’t stand the pace – so I guess they just aren’t ready to hang out with a guy like me.

It takes me about twelve minutes to get to the station. When I reach the bottom of the hill |I turn smartly right on to the main street bypassing the centre of the charming little market town where I live, and stride past a bus stop, where a number of ladies of mature years are waiting for a bus to take them into Luton. It is an enduring mystery to me why ladies of mature years would want to go to Luton at any time, let alone half past seven in the morning, but maybe they know something I don’t. If I had a cap, I would at this point doff it respectfully in their direction, but I don’t, and even on cold days when I wear my woolly hat, the effect would not quite be the same, so I just march on past.

When I reach the local theatre, there is always, without fail, a car waiting to pull out of the driveway, and so we engage in a brief game of After You Claude, each waving frantically at the other to indicate that he should go first. As always happens with these things, we both reach the decision that the other is definitely not going to accept the invitation at precisely the same moment, and move forward into one another’s path. Cue much waving of arms in a distinctly Gallic manner, followed by brief exchange of sheepish grins, and I’m off on my way again.

Much the same thing happens at the zebra crossing I reach a short while later, where things are further complicated by the dog-walking brigade. There are three doting dog-owners who regularly take the half past seven slot to exercise their canine companions. The first of these is a burly bloke with a big black beast (probably a Labrador, but I’m no expert). I have to say I was a bit nervous when I first encountered this fearsome-looking pair, but without justification – I’ve never been subjected to anything more aggressive than a tentative sniff. And nothing from the dog either. The second of my barking brigades is a proper pack – a younger lady with a brood of those big white fluffy creatures that look as though they have come straight from the hair salon. Nothing to fear from this group, although passing them is complicated by the fact that they occupy the whole of the pavement – so to get round them I have to walk right out into the middle of the road, into the path of oncoming traffic, which can be inconvenient. Finally, and inevitably, there is the poodle-walker. Now as is always the case, the smaller the dog, the more vicious the little maniac is, so to for the sake of trousers and ankles, not to mention the dogs, it’s best to get clear of these creatures as soon as possible.

It is at this point that my nemesis, Goliath-lite, appears. Goliath-lite is a really really skinny bloke with implausibly, ridiculously, long legs. Now, there’s something you should know about me – as I’ve alluded to before, I am a bit of a shortarse, and as such carry around on my shoulder a chip identical to that carried by many vertically-challenged people, which manifests itself in a burning desire to walk faster than everybody else. It’s not so much a competitive streak – if it was I would probably be a lot sportier, and would have shown at least a passing interest in physical pursuits at school. It’s more of a petty conviction that if I can walk faster than everyone else, I am on some level displaying my physical superiority, and proving that being short is no barrier to being The Best. Sadly, by dint of sheer physics, there are some people I just can’t outwalk, no matter how hard I may try. Goliath-lite is one such person. I may well get past the dog-walkers, the schoolkids, the businessmen in their power suits, but Goliath-lite can give me a hundred yard start and still overtake me before I reach the station. He also walks with his hands in his pockets, the model of nonchalance, in complete contrast to my own arm-swinging, gut-busting pose, which lets everyone know how hard I am working. It’s really quite dispiriting.

Of course, I carry a bag, a heavy one that slows me down. Otherwise I’d leave him choking on my dust.


At 7:25 AM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

JD you're quite the man with the words and your dry humour is sharp-
"tentative sniff. And nothing from the dog either"
Goliath-lite: great name for a beer for football-hooligans (philistines) Trip lanky up!
When I'm out and about I take in every detail. I could tell you (well nearly) if someone does not belong in the area within a mile radius of my house-make no bones about it. Ha!
Love your stuff. Great!!!
Y;-) Paddy

At 11:23 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Paddy I'm glad you enjoyed it. I thought this post was a bit dull after the breakneck excitement of my last two posts.

I would love to trip lanky up but I can't get near enough to him.

And Goliath-lite beer - like it. When I was in Dublin I went to the Porterhouse and read all about their microbrwery and how they like ot wind up the big boys (for example Probably - The Best Lager in the World). Maybe we should take the idea to them.

At 4:27 PM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

VERY amusing post!

At 7:38 PM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Sure I'm all for it, we could get rich together.
OK make mine a Carlsberg too, and a
Jack the lad to chase.
Cheers! Paddy;-)

At 1:43 PM GMT+1 , Blogger her indoors said...

you are very observant, i tend to walk round with blinkers on, not that i do much walking the car and me have a very good relationship!

At 7:36 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Chopski said...

I dont think there is anywhere near enough cap doffing anymore!!


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