Monday, January 28, 2008

So this is how sardines feel . . .

Where did all these people come from? I'm certain London has got busier whilst I've been away. Maybe a lot more people have moved to the Beautiful Market Town where I live in the past month, and they are commuting into London at the same time as me. More likely, though, it's just that I've adjusted my travel times slightly with the arrival of The Little Commuter, and as a consequence am coming home just when the rush hour hits its peak.

I've started travelling earlier, you see. Not just coming home earlier, but going in earlier too. He's been waking us up between five and six, so it makes sense to bring everything forward in proportion. Now, this actually means that I spend longer in the office, because London gets so congested after about quarter past eight in the morning that everything takes twice as long. By arriving in town before eight, even though it is still busy, the buses run fast, trhe pavements are less densely packed and everything moves twice as quickly, effectively meaning that for every minutes you save at one end of the journey, you save two at the other. So I've been getting into work well before anyone else, allowing me time to get settled and have a nice cup of tea before the hordes arrive.

This also means I leave on time every day. Not early, but less late than I have been doing for the last year or so. All very nice because I get more of an evening with the family, but sadly it does mean hitting the absolute peak of the evening rush hour. Getting a seat on the train has become nothing more than an abstract concept, or at least, something that happens to other people.

This evening was especially extreme. It was full when I got on, but then people just kept on getting on behind me. Of course they were all abnormally tall, so I got the full in-yer-face armpit treatment, as well as getting breathed and sneezed on. It was crammed at Kings Cross, but it just got silly at Finsbury Park. I had managed to get the tabloid section of my newspaper into a usable shape (revealing a hitherto unsuspected gift for origami) but then two more Goliath-figures got on at Finsbury and we all shuffled closer together to make an inch or two of room for them. The two of them hemmed me in, one to my left, the other in front. One of them shoved his arm past my head to lean against the partition, meaning that I had to bend my back at a funny angle because I couldn't move my feet. Then the other one pulled out a newspaper and casually started to read it! I had long since given up on reading my own, but this touched a nerve - hemmed into a space not big enough to stand up straight in with one big guy's arm shoved in my face and the other one casually perusing a newspaper above my head. Defiantly, I hefted my own paper once more, found I was completely unable to fold it, and re-read an article I'd already looked at. I felt I had made a point.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Things I've noticed

More accurately, this should be headed "things that have made me sit up and take notice). I've not been commuting recently, as "regular" readers of my blog will know (God, that sounds pretentious). My Paternity Leave, however, comes to end next Wednesday, and I'll be back on the rails come ten to eight on Wednesday morning. I'm not too upset by that fact (although I may feel differently come Tuesday evening) because I've had an incredibly precious month or so with my wife and newborn son. We had a bit of a scare when they both had to be admitted to hospital for a week, but that is now, thankfully, behind us and everything seems to be developing nicely. I have even done a bit of work from home in the last couple of weeks, helping out with a couple of tenders, which has helped me stay in touch.

A couple of things have happened in the last few weeks which have tickled me enough to want to record them, just in case they ever come in handy in future conversation or, dare I say it, writing. Firstly, I watched Question Time last night and there was some childish (as she had the good grace to confess) Tory woman called Louise Bigend, or something like that, going on about how this government is responsible for the collapse of civic society, yob culture, the sinking of the Titanic and generally everything. Nothing remarkable there, but what did tickle me was the way that Liam Fox (Dr Fox? Surely not! Somebody must ask him about his taste in music at some point) totally undermined her over the issue of 24-hour licensing laws. She was banging on about how Labour brought in the 24-hour laws and now they've got to admit they were wrong because lots of teenagers are carrying knives in Coventry (I think). He immediately shot her down in flames, saying that he thought it was much deeper than that, and blaming 24-hour lisences completely missed the point. Smashing!

Now, as far as I recall, one of the justifications for bringing in 24-hour lisences was that it would put an end to the spectacle of hordes of drunken pub-goers spilling out on to the streets en masse come closing time, thereby creating an inevitable flashpoint. Still, whoever heard of the Tories passing up an opportunity for cheap political point scoring? Later on in the pregramme, on the subject of the US presidential election, she announced grandly that her husband ("who is an American") will be voting for John MCain ("a real war hero) to which my immediate response was "If that's the criterion then presumably he also backed John Kerry?" Consistency? Pah! This is politics, after all.

The other thing that really made me laugh yesterday, believe it or not ,was a trip to the dentist. Actually, I have to admit that I'm terrified or my current dentist, but that's an issue for another day. Yesterday, I was having a couple of fillings put in, and she had just finished sticking needles into my gums, wrenched my jaw open as wide as it could possibly get, shaerpened her utentils, cracked her knuckles (I may have imagined that bit) and was just about ot get down to business when what should come on the radio but REM's "Everybody Hurts". Laugh? I very nearly did, with potentially serious consequences.