Learning the London Life

I’ve now been commuting to London for 2 months. It’s tiring, it’s expensive, and it’s not that much fun. But this morning whilst my elbows were pinned to my sides as I slid into the middle seat, I thought about how amusing it can be too. It’s not always miserable, and you can find yourself completely lost in either your book, your music, or the subtle absurdities around you. Below are five observations I’ve made about the experience of commuting, and that these realisations, once accepted, make it just a little bit more bearable.

  1. You’ll be exhausted & energised.
    Getting a train, queueing, inevitably running faster than you did during your year 6 sprint on sports day. You’ll get home knackered, pretty sweaty, and dreading the next morning. But that will lead you to desperately want fresh air and proper exercise – at least, that’s what I’ve found. My desire to climb and escape to the country has only been heightened by my new daily commute. You appreciate open spaces a lot more, feel more driven to spend time with loved ones, and embrace weekends of adventure – anything to counteract the looming new week.
  1. A smile really does go a long way.
    It’s 8:30am, everyone’s still half asleep, and the train is crowded. A shared laugh with a fellow passenger at having to sit on the floor definitely sets the day up better. Laughing at the mutual frustration of cancellations. Realising that you’re all in the same boat… carriage… and at the end of the day, let’s fight Britishness and engage with one another. It will make you feel a lot better for it, and hopefully you’ll make someone else’s day too.
  1. You’ll realise you need to go the gym. And fast.
    I hate the ‘commuter run’. I much prefer to plan my day and decide what train I’m getting beforehand. But every now and then I realise that if I’m a little bit quicker, I can get the one that will see me home 15minutes earlier. So before I know it I’m bobbing and weaving through Waterloo, skidding on my non-gripping shoes, and feeling a little bit like a spy chasing down a target. However when I collapse through the doors in a red-faced heap, it’s somewhat embarrassing to see that I – a relatively slim and healthy young woman – am in no better state that the slightly more paunchy, suited businessman twice my age. Hmmm…. time to hit the treadmill!
  1. Rain makes it worse.
    In general, I don’t complain about the weather. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” – and that has proved correct 99% of the time. However, rain does make commuting a much more unpleasant experience. You start the day shivering on the platform, weighing up the benefits of hiding under the awning versus waiting in the wet to get that elusive seat. Then you end up squished in a carriage that has become musty and humid from all the damp bodies, and your shivering turns to a slick sheen which won’t leave you until 3pm when you finally dry off, and have just 2 hours of relative comfort before doing it all again. Not to mention umbrellas – practical outside, unwieldy, unexpected weapons in the carriage that will inevitably end up soaking your trousers and dripping into your shoes.
  1. People watching is the best past-time.
    I have already found my regulars. The tall guy who will place himself menacingly next to the door so you know there is no way he’ll let you get to the seat first. The rather attractive red-headed lady who spends her wait on the platform dextrously doing her nails whilst juggling at least two bags. The woman who enters the train bare-faced and sleepy, and leaves with movie-star glamour that I couldn’t achieve using paint-by-numbers, let alone on a wobbly journey. People watching is one of life’s great free attractions, and when you find yourself matching other people’s daily routines, you can’t help but begin to watch and predict to see what happens next.
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