Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The C Word

I've dated them. I sit next to one on a daily basis. I'm even starting to embrace being one.

That's right, I'm now a fully-fledged commuter.

Commuting is something people always tend to moan about. The early starts, the timetable disruptions - not to mention the time spent with your septum wedged in some less-than-fragrant armpits. But the truth is, I love it.

Yes, there is the odd day when you wish you cycled ten minutes to work somewhere dainty like Stow-on-the-Wold. One such was Monday night, when someone's delightful decision to end it all between a fast train and the tracks at Wimbledon meant I left for work at 7.30 and got home at 9. You know you're a hardened commuter when your first sharp reaction to a fatality announcement is, 'Why not a Southern train, you Guildford-hating bastard?'

So, why do I love the extra two hours (at least) added to my working day?

The Gift of Time

I'm one of those people who rarely uses their flopping-on-the-sofa hours after work wisely. I would rather watch trashy TV than pick up a novel, read Glamour in the bath or do my nails than go to an evening class. But my mind is miraculously hungry on the 7.51 train, and that's when I get my reading done.* One morning a week I learn Greek on my iPod, although vigorously mouthing a grecian 'Are you here on work or pleasure?' or scribbling a baffling alphabet in a notepad is unlikely to win me any commuting admirers.

The Sound of Silence

Ah, the sweet, sweet sound of seasoned commuters ignoring each other. Now and again a rookie will step into the carriage, talking loudly on their phone or blasting Rihanna from inadequately insulated headphones, and we who have committed to this unwritten code of aural lockdown will glare deafeningly in their direction. Britishness at its best.

The Sense of Purpose

I like to be going somewhere. I'm not someone who enjoys spells of unemployment (I know, I know - wrong industry), or longs to live a WAG-tastic life. The feeling of getting up early, having a brisk walk, then watching suburbia shoot by and the city roll into view just suits me fine.

The Extended Morning

This is less poetic, more pragmatic. If I were ever to live ten minutes away from my workplace, Lord knows what I would do. A bag of Mary Poppins proportions supplies me with make-up, moisturiser, a hairbrush, spare shoes and even on occasion, breakfast. On those cursed days when a sprint for the train means flats, frizz and perspiration, all can be rectified on the move.

So while I may aspire to move further into the city this year or next, and perhaps sacrifice my morning train time by doing so, for now my commute adds more to my day than simply hours. Don't see it as a waste of time; put it to good use and you'll be well-read, frizz-free and desk ready by 9am.

*I've just wept through the end of The Book Thief and started on Wolf Hall, both glorious. As you can see, my stack of morning reading is fairly substantial, but new tips are always welcome.

Top photo: steve_w