Yellow socks and a crush

Commuting. You have to love it. No, seriously, you have to. If not, you leave.

I pondered this earlier when wedged between the armpit of a rather handsome man (he smelt of lovely aftershave too – would it have been wrong to mention this to him?), a middle aged lady, two young men (one rather smiley and the other behind me so I could only hear him) and a young woman. How we all managed to occupy a space of about one sq meter I don’t know, but it’s some special magic applied to the likes of the Jubilee Line at London Bridge.

Middle aged lady and I couldn’t help but laugh as we pulled into Southwark and no one wanted to get off. All we could hear was ‘for godsake’ coming from the equally crowded platform.

Eventually, as we pulled in to Waterloo, someone wanted to get out of the tin can and I had to force my way off, pushing smiley man out and to the platform, moaning as I went that I probably wouldn’t get back on. Smiley did what he obviously does best and smiled back at me. Encouraged by the eye contact of a fellow commuter I asked why we do this. He laughed and agreed and then, when the people had finished exiting the train, he waved me back on before anyone else. Thank you Mr Smiley.

I found this brief mutual appreciation of our hell from a fellow passenger rather soothing. Two stops later and I was even granted the gift of a seat! When I departed my train, I followed a rather jolly man with squeaky shoes and the most amazing socks. Yellow with black dots. I was mesmerized by these and quite disappointed that they weren’t there to entertain me while I was trying not to launch my bag into the sensitive parts of Mr Handsome from the Jubilee line. It’s these little things my friend, that keep you sane when wedged in a train/tube.

I found myself apologising profusely to another gentleman when I squeezed (ok, pushed) myself onto the Bakerloo line. I can’t help but apologise. It wasn’t his fault there was no room. Although having to spend one stop on tiptoes in order to not stand on some other poor man’s feet was, perhaps, a bit too much.

The other dilemma when commuting is hair. Men don’t tend to have this problem, but as a woman with long hair, it’s a nightmare. When you are squeezed between people, you are trapped. If the hair is down, you risk overheating. If the hair is up, you risk everyone around you getting a taste of your latest shampoo and/or hairspray when you turn. Or in my case, the latest frizz controlling product.

I was feeling rather pleased at Paddington having survived the tube part of my journey. More smiles headed my way as the guard at Platform 11 was trying to herd people to their correct trains.

The problem of knowing where your train will leave from, is when things change. He saved multiple people from missing the right one and mostly because he recognised them! Good work that man!

The little things

It’s strange what can bring a smile to the face of a weary commuter into the capital.

Having faced regular train delays getting both to and from London, I found myself on my usual train this morning staring out of the window. My usual routine of doing some work or listening to music interrupted, I gave myself the chance to just, look. How often do I forget to do that? It’s actually quite relaxing watching the world fly by.

As we sped past Slough, I glanced up at the dappled sky and watched as two swans gracefully flew over the train and I couldn’t help but smile. While sat in my office over looking the Thames, I forget about nature. The glass buildings and concrete jungle masking this beautiful, giant beast which continues to live no matter what. I’m starting to understand why so many of my fellow City workers go on retreats!

If you can spare 5 minutes from your day today, stare at the sky/grass/tree or whatever nature has to offer near you. Just appreciate the free anti-stress experience she offers us everyday. I think I’m going to try and make it a regular thing.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Commuting and Summer

There is nothing quite like London in the Summer. Taking lunch by the Thames, the sun caressing the Shard, exploring Borough Market while avoiding the numerous cameras of tourists and being tucked under the armpit of a man on the Jubilee line.

As Queen’s, ‘I want to Break Free’ came on my Spotify playlist, my tube train pulled in to Waterloo. It opened its doors, welcomed several suited and booted men into the spacious 2 square feet of train I had all to myself and crammed me, sardine-like, up against the side of the train. In all fairness, I was tempted to compliment the owner of the armpit who had obviously taken great care in his personal hygiene today. No mean feat in the heat of the London Underground system. The owner of the size 10’s who stood on my foot twice however, was deserving of a slap.

This morning was slightly less of a trial I admit. Although I do wonder what happened to the American tourists at Baker Street who lost a child due to trying to get on the train when the doors were closing. They all got off, but left him on there. The woman was obviously distraught, but one of the gentlemen in the party simply said ‘He’s a big boy now, he’ll be fine’. There was no sign of said child at the next stop.

I was tempted, meanwhile, to shout at numerous people on the tube though. Walking slowly off the tube because you are reading your magazine/phone/book/paper/kindle/map/tourist guide (delete as appropriate) is not a good idea. If you cant multitask, focus on not hitting everyone while you move!

While writing this, trapped (although with a seat) on my First Great Painful train home, I have also been kicked. The man in question apologised, however,  he is having to cope with me elbowing him every two minutes. I think we are even.

Alone

Well, it’s been a considerable amount of time since I last penned a post. A lot has happened since then. I had my work trip to Rio and then got swept up in a million and one things that I didn’t really have much control over. It’s been a tough last few weeks and today, on the 2nd anniversary of losing my Grandfather, I’m finding myself in a generally reflective mood.

One of the things that has been on my mind for a few months now, is the subject of loneliness. At what point are we actually alone? The reason for this trail of thought is due to a man, probably in his 80’s who I used to pass everyday on my journey to work. He would be walking to, or already sitting, at the bus stop as I drove past. He was always on his own.

It made me sad to see him there like that. His walking cane rested against his left leg, his eyes bright and a small smile as he waited eagerly for the bus to arrive. But why? He could very well have been going shopping, or to visit his friend/loved one in hospital, or perhaps just going to meet someone for a coffee. But what if he had no one? What if this man, whom the years had painted with wrinkles and the sun had weathered his skin, was completely alone in this world.

That last point made me stop and think. He’s not alone. He may not realise it, but every day, even now, when I pass that bus stop I think of that man. If someone is thinking of us, are we ever truly alone? So I don’t know his address or even his name, but he’s in my thoughts and, were I a religious person, he would be in my prayers.

We all have times when the days, weeks, months and yes even years, may drag us down and we all feel that no one knows what we are going through. But why is it that no one understands? In my case, it’s purely because I take no time to let people in and allow them to get to know me. That is easily fixed in time. There is always someone who will understand. Be it a therapist, friend, lover, colleague or anonymous stranger (The Samaritans for example), there is always someone to turn to.

Sometimes we need that grounding, to be reminded that we aren’t alone. We all have to muddle through and carve out a path in life. Rich, poor, hungry, full, married, single. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we take the time to make sure people know that they are never alone. When you next goto the shops or to work, take a look around you at the people you see everyday. Those cars that pass by every day. Those people on the train with you. The people and those cars may be nameless, but chances are that at least one of them will recognise you and notice if you’re not there.

I haven’t seen that man at the bus stop in a few months now. I hope that it’s purely a change in his routine and that nothing has happened to him. My office will be moving soon so I will never see him again, but I hope that he is happy and safe. It may seem a weird thing to say about someone I have never (and will never) meet, but it goes a long way to remind me that no matter what happens in life, there is always someone who recognises you and probably thinks of you.

And for as long as that goes on, I can never really say I’m alone.

How to leave the day behind…

Every day when I leave my office, I can’t help but smile. The City at night is a beautiful sight. The tall buildings lit up against the brooding night sky.
One of my fondest memories from my time working in Canary Wharf was at Christmas. The tree branches delicately strewn with blue lights, paving the way to the sky scraper outline which signifies part of London’s financial heartland.
It’s amazing how much this can relax you after a long week or just a bad day. In a similar way to walking out of the office, breathing in the cool evening air, stretching your arms out wide and throwing your head back to stare up at the star speckled sky. Grinning manically is an option at this point. Yes, I’m sure most think I’m crazy when they walk past, but this, like the sight of the city lights helps clear my mind of the working stresses and puts everything into perspective.
My only reasoning on why this is, is that the size of the buildings or the sight of the vast expanse of the sky, put into perspective the days stresses.
Ok, so there are aspects of my day that some would find frightening, but in reality, its TV. Not life or death. If it reaches life and death then I will resign and find myself a remote farm on top of a hill in Wales with no internet or phone signal.
Its just a shame that there isn’t a beautiful view in St Neots as I step off the train or that the throwing arms out wide and staring at the sky doesn’t work twice. If it did, I may have slightly fewer dark thoughts about First Capital Connect. I think I’ve had the slowest journey ever from Hitchin this evening and it’s not helping my happy state that I left London in. Argument for moving into the City? Don’t think so. I’m not that desperate. Give me half an hour and my smiles will have returned. Can’t keep me down for long.

People around us

Today was definitely a challenge. Hadn’t felt the best when I woke up and to be faced with the prospect of my working area of the City being close off due to the student protest on tuition fees, was not something I was relishing.
My journey in provided me with the perfect tonic. Just a couple of stops in, a gentleman got on and sat opposite me. He was sporting leopard skin boots. The weirdest part was that other than the footwear, he was dressed very sedately. Dark coat and dark coloured jeans. I was in too much shock and sat far too close to take a photo as proof for my blog.
I couldn’t imagine leaning over to him, ‘Excuse me, sorry, I’m just taking a photo of your boots, hope you don’t mind’. Guessing I’d get an amused look back and he’d either think I had a foot/boot fetish or was one of those annoying commuters who tweets/blogs on trains about everyone else. While I’m on that subject, the man opposite me now is eating a flapjack and drinking coffee. I’m jealous.
Anyway, while I was still staring at the mans boots (probably now just thinks I have a fetish), the train filled up and a woman got on to sit next to me. Up until this point I was considering tweeting (@sportmadchick) about the man in the boots, but thought better of it.
The woman sat down and from her small backpack, she pulled two knitting needles, a ball of wool and a partially knitted item. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone knit in the 8 years I’ve been doing this journey. She continued knitting until we reached London where she happily put it away and got off the train. I hope she manages to get it finished in time. Looked like it was for an item of babies clothing.
Oh and an update on the Finsbury Square camp… Couldn’t see a HR tent, but they do have a First Aid one. Safety first.

Commuter 0 – Train and Tube Utd 1

Tuesday evening didn’t start in the best way. I left work at 17:50, determined to make it the 15 minutes across London and still make my 18:10 departure. Navigating my way past a few protesters on their way to/from Moorgate (from the Finsbury Square protest), I made it on to the platform to see the next Tube was 3 minutes away. Resigned to the fact that I’d be half an hour late home, I relaxed and tuned into my iPod.

When the train arrived (4 minutes later) I duly got on and fixed myself near the rear doors in order to be first off at Kings Cross. Little did I know, that the driver had other ideas. To explain, Barbican and Farringdon are short platforms. This means that the Metropolitan Line trains leave their rear doors closed. This is not the case at Kings Cross.

Until today.

Bags, laptop cases and several commuters went flying through the carriage as we headed to the second to last set of doors, all anxious to get off the train before the hoards of passengers tried to get on. I powered off the train and up the stairs as fast as, well, the man in front would allow.

I made it on to the concourse, running as fast as I could to the platform where the train was waiting to leave. The best part of being a seasoned commuter is the ability to see oncoming traffic (tourists) and gracefully avoid them. I can only assume that the young child holding on to his mother’s hand had less faith in my ability than I did. I ran, coat flowing behind me, heading for the gap developing between him and the person to his right. As he saw me approach, he jumped to his mother’s side and promptly screamed. I swiftly turned, apologised to both him and his mother and arrived on the platform with less than 3 minutes to spare.

My usual 12 carriage train is a packed commuter service. Tonight, it was an 8 carriage cattle truck. It never ceases to amaze me that they will allow people to travel in conditions deemed unsuitable for animals. Especially, as most of us pay in excess of £4000 a year for the privilege. To say I feel let down by the entire railway network at the moment, is an understatement.

I ran to the front of the train and spied a 3 man gap down the middle of the carriage. Squeezing myself on to the train, I promptly instructed the man in front to shout at the people in the carriage to move down. As I expected everyone ignored him. Eventually two of the gentleman around me explained to those further down the carriage that if the guy in front wasn’t listening, a tap on the shoulder should make him aware of you, then you can request that he move. Give or take 5 minutes into our trip, the people in question moved, allowing us all a little more room.

The journey was painful but the entertainment from the passengers around me was brilliant. Soon many of my fellow commuters got off and I made a bee-line for a seat for the last part of my journey. It’s at this point that I realised how much I actually enjoy commuting. I’d made a new friend with one of the men who’d been stood next to me. We spent the remainder of the journey discussing Chelsea, Liverpool, Cheltenham Town and St Neots Town before I started demonstrating Twitter to him on my phone.

As it was Tuesday I decided it was time for another trip dancing. Yet again, I decided to wear a football shirt. My reason being that they allow ease of movement, are very comfy for classes and it’s what I want to wear. As they were at home to Crewe, it had to be Cheltenham Town this week (match report).

To say that the dancing men of St Neots have no clue on football, would be an understatement. One looked at me as if I’d verbally abused him and another just stared. The women looked just as confused.

It’s times like this that highlight just how society perceives us. A man could turn up to anything (which didn’t have a dress code) in a football shirt and trousers and be greeted in a normal manner. A woman turning up in a football shirt, to anything other than football, however, causes people to stare, whisper (with some pointing) and then to be approached with caution. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t offend or bother me and I’m not about to jump on some sexist bandwagon, but I am finding people’s approaches to me somewhat confusing.

In another way, this may be an understandable reason why I don’t tend to get approached by member’s of the opposite sex. I guess I need to be on the look out for a guy who has no concerns on being around someone who goes through her days reluctant to be bothered on other people’s views on her life. Not to say that I don’t get bothered by people’s opinions, comments or actions towards me. I’ve not perfected the ‘water off a ducks back’ attitude yet, but I won’t conform with society just to appease those around me.

I’ll dress the way I want and live my life to make me, my friends and family happy. Most of all… I won’t apologise for it.