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!

Travels of 2014 – Trip 1b(?) – well it wasn’t for work and wasn’t abroad

Following my week in New York, I had a week off booked. This was my first week off since September last year, however I didn’t feel like I’d had any time off for a lot longer. Work has been hectic and with a lot of deadlines and difficult project work to complete. My week away from my mobile and laptop was to be spent tidying up the house and then taking a trip to the North to see some old friends.
Thursday morning I hopped on my train and headed up to Durham. Frankly this was a trip that I shouldn’t have bothered making. N, was due to meet me in Durham so that we could have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch up. He’s been working hard on building his own business and I did have a sneaky feeling that our catchup wouldn’t happen. Sure enough, at midday, he asked if I would be able to meet him a little further North. With a serious lack of funds due to waiting on expenses (and the fact that I was already travelling for 4 hours) I declined and we had to cancel. I was very disappointed, however understanding that he has been putting his heart and soul into trying to get his business going, I sadly conceded that there was nothing to be done or gained from being too upset.
However, emotional and still suffering the after effects of jet lag, I found myself, watery eyed, staring out of my train at London Kings Cross, contemplating what I could do with my short time in the Durham. In fact, I spent most of my journey trying to work out what to do. And there was a lot of journey. I left my house at 10.30am and at 3pm I was still sat on my train, just outside Grantham staring at the fields. At 5pm, I arrived at my hotel. Slightly worse for wear due to enjoying one too many glasses of wine.
Tired, emotional, tipsy and feeling generally rubbish, I headed for the hotel bar and had a meal there before retiring to bed early.
Friday morning I woke with excitement as I was to head to York to meet an old (and very close) friend. As I departed the hotel I looked across the River Weir and realised that my last trip to Durham had also been very short. It had centered around the building opposite, as I was there to train some staff joining the BBC (well, it had become Siemens) Technology team. It was at this point that I also remembered the steps that you have to take up to the train station.
After too many steps to count, a big hill and lots of regret over bringing spare shoes in my luggage, I arrived at the station. Frozen, hungry and a little hungover, I awaited the packed train heading to Manchester Airport, which would see me arrive at a slightly warmer York.
When I arrived, I walked through the City, aiming to locate my room for the night. My usual hotel choice had been spurned for this trip and I had booked myself and 3 friends (joining me on Saturday) into a pub in town.
The Roman Bath was a place that I had only ever walked past and glanced in before. It had been chosen primarily because it would allow one night stays on the weekend and secondly for its central location. When I arrived I was greeted in the most cheery and upbeat manner by Chris. His bright conversation and quick wit was welcomed after my dismal Thursday and I looked around to see several people enjoying a drink and food in the bar. I was shown to my room and I must confess to being pleasantly surprised. A small, but functional double room with an ensuite shower, TV, wardrobe and a proper key. None of this swipe card fun and games which usually results in being able to access your room at 3am and waking up everyone around you!
When I re-entered the bar later in the day, following a walk to my favourite Tea Room (Chloes, near the Last Drop Inn), I was greeted by Paul (who runs the Roman Bath), as if I were a regular. By this time of the evening, the place was buzzing, every table occupied by diners and drinkers. I had a swift half (of very good beer) and then proceeded to meet my friend, V, in the pub down the road.
The night was a lot of fun. We had a meal and then went back to our meeting place, where we sang along with the pianist (sorry Ali), before then heading to watch a band perform at the Golden Fleece. Much fun (and beer) was had but I must confess to being glad to get back to my room for some much needed sleep.
The room was perfect. Quiet, comfy bed and in the morning a good shower awaited me, followed by an even better full English breakfast.
Ready to start Saturday, I walked around York and then went to the train station to meet one of the party due in at 11.30. I ensured he could check into the hotel ok and then we took a walk to a pub to catch the Liverpool match. By this time, my other two friends were attempting to navigate their way into town from their parking position. This should have been fairly simple, however D, has never been the best with maps. Or directions. Or instructions.
Then, while we were in the pub, the heavens opened. It rained so hard that when my friends made it to the pub, D’s jeans were soaked through. They both looked like they had just stepped out of a power shower.
Once the game had finished, we agreed to take a walk back to our rooms so that we could all get changed (and that D and S could dry off/warm up!).
When we met up again we walked back to the pub in order to watch the Stevenage game (as D is a life long fan). The beer and company was brilliant… The football, not so much. V met us (once her hangover from the night before had settled down) and we went off in search of food. The rest of the night was brilliant. We talked about old times, old friends and faces that we hadn’t seen in years and of course caught up on some gossip.
We called it a night fairly early on and V headed home while we went back to the Roman Bath. We were just in time for a swift pint, so sat on the corner and continued our chats. It was at this point that I realised just how much some people have to deal with on a day to day basis.
S (who is D’s wife) went through a lot last year. My blog isn’t the place for detail, but I have the upmost respect and admiration for her. She’s a beautiful woman, tall, slim, blonde and walks with a confidence that few have. But every hour of every day she battles with anxiety and worry. So many people would hide away or let it drag them down, but she copes brilliantly. I’m so pleased and proud to be able to be considered her friend. I just hope that we all get to spend more time together soon. Never easy when you don’t live near to each other, but it’s a sign of true friendship when you can meet up after a few months (or years) and pick up where you left off.
As for D and S finding their car on Sunday morning, well… What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into nearly an hour. In the pouring rain. All due to D’s map reading ‘skills’.
It must be love.

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.