First day of spring commute. Not a cloud in the sky, sun shining brightly, daffodils sprouting, birds chirping. Flood tides have receded, huzzah, and pigeon sent out to look for dry land has returned with may blossom in its beak. Have shed one layer of winter woolies and exchanged dead green cat scarf for muslin-like affair covered in roses, kind of thing Jane Austen might have affected.

Of course, with sun pounding down for first time since October, and train carriages heated consequently to sauna-like level, the seasoned commuter can expect only one thing when get on train, viz, every window in train carriage will be shut as tightly as if super-glued, above commuters gently sweltering below. Scan entire length of carriage, find each seat occupied by commuter diligently oblivious to fact of Turkish bath interior of train. If commuter is aware, prefers to swelter rather than Stand Up in Front of Everyone Else and Open Window. Fight urge to shout ‘Are any of you cretins going to open a window?’ and instead reflect on peculiar British characteristic of having windows open on train in depth of winter allowing free entry of blizzards, rain storms, hurricanes etc, and rammed shut on sunny spring or summer days. Feel this is part of Puritan/diffident national characteristic. Could open window myself but am not sitting under window and could only open window over someone’s head, a socially tricky situation. Could also ask if could open window, but that would involve Standing Up in Front of Everyone Else and Speaking.

Am writing this on recently discovered charming app called Written? Kitten! which encourages struggling writer/blogger with a pic of a kitten every 100 words. So far have been rewarded with two cute tabby kittens and a snoozing black and white kitty.

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Team Meeting

Miss train at Esher so get taxi to Surbiton where congratulate self on escaping noisy family gang at station by nifty footwork when train arrive. Have just started stuffing face with pain au raisin at far end of railway carriage when horrified at sight of said gang piling in on seats opposite – two over-excited girls aged about 9, boy about 7, on half-term jaunt in London in company of Middle Class Daddy.

‘The unfortunate thing is we have lost our foothold in London,’ is Daddy’s conversational opener.

”What does that mean, Daddy?’ asks ginger-ringletted child, apparently known familiarly as ‘Ruby Redlocks’.

‘It means we no longer have property in London.’ replies Daddy.

‘If we did have another house,’ asks 7-year old, ‘Where would we keep our X-box?’

Question hangs in air as 7 year old belches loudly and Daddy pulls out smart phone and studies it.

‘What are you looking at, Daddy?’ asks Ruby Redlocks.

‘I’m looking at Tate Modern’, replies Daddy. ‘I think you might quite like it.’

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Desperado for Avocado

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Due to the continuous downpours us sterling Brits have suffered since the autumn, the flood down Station Path has been in and out of situ pretty much every week since the New Year, making each morning’s journey to Esher station one of unparalleled suspense. Generally, if the water is washing around the corner past the back gate of Sandown Park racecourse, one does not need to peer down the path to find out that passage will be impossible unless one is equipped with scuba gear. Post Traumatic Commuter has been wearing mud-streaked rubber snow boots to work now for two months, despite there not having been any snow this winter.

Today, Post Traumatic Commuter gets the best laugh so far of the year when, having spotted that the flood has receded to a small lake half way down, which merely means Post Traumatic Commuter will need to pirouette on snow booted tippy-toes through the sludgy, muddy, bubbling morass in which an abandoned broken white umbrella is beached – possibly belonging to a commuter who has drowned and whose bloated body has yet to rise to the surface – she sees ahead of her a burly figure stopped by the edge of the water. Post Traumatic Commuter’s curiosity is piqued.

Perhaps this figure is looking for his contact lenses, or has lost a small dog in the water?
Closer inspection reveals that the figure is a bloke taking out what would seem to be his wife or girlfriend’s buff coloured, flower patterned Wellington boots from a black bin bag and putting them on. The bloke strides purposefully in his pretty Wellies through the waters and up to the station, where he hides at the furthest end from the other commuters and puts on his work shoes.

It is possible that these were the only Wellingtons still available in Surrey. Whatever, this is undoubtedly the action of a desperate man, broken down by the months of relentless rainfall.

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Seasonal Hazards

November is upon us, and it has been ages since I had a whinge. All in the garden must have been rosy for the last month because I have had not inclination to sound off about annoying commuting experiences, however, November is a dark month in the commuting calendar, for it marks the start of the Flu and Cold Season. Not only must the beleaguered commuter get ready in the dark every morning (saving on electricity) but must also run the gauntlet and play the lottery of the Daily Germ Fest. One can innocently sit down to snooze or read one’s daily and then realise that one has put oneself into the firing line of someone’s cold or cough germs. The very best one can expect is that the person sitting beside you, opposite you or standing in front of you, possesses a) a handkerchief or tissue and b) has been trained up by their parents that sneezing and hacking over one’s fellow commuters is unacceptable behaviour. Noble as the inclination is to get off a sick bed and travel dripping with germs which one then expresses over one’s fellow passengers before expressing them over one’s work colleagues, it is not an inclination that I personally admire. Selfish as it sounds, I would prefer not to catch flu, or a cough and cold, just because someone is toughing out a bout of seasonal sickness.

November also marks the return of the dearly missed Water Jump down Station Path. It has been raining quite a lot recently, and this means that taking the short cut to the station is somewhat problematic. Black standing water, shin-deep, stretches right across the path and is attractively bounded on both sides of the path by deep, sloppy mud. Attractive as having soaking wet feet, tights, socks and trousers might be, the sensible commuter has only one option, to pass the Water Jump by hanging onto the ivy that hangs over the side of the corrugated iron fence on one side of the path, and travelling across it like a novice on an Army assault course. This is tricky if one is wearing court shoes, although the option of leaving a shoe deep in the mud only adds to the pleasure of the experience.

And yes, this is England in 2013, rather than England in 1013. If only I had a packhorse, I could ride in comfort to the station through the slough, and if only my fellow commuters had to carry bells like lazars, warning all within sneezing distance that they are contagious.

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The Cultural Divide

Purchase Big Mac at MacDonald’s at Victoria. Wait for optimum train, i.e. one that not too full so can stuff face in peace and quiet. Select seat on Epsom train most likely to get me valuable face stuffing time before fellow passengers board and start staring at mayo-daubed face and lettuce-garnished coat. Three minutes of face-stuffing pass before Scottish duo sit down at seats diagonally opposite and engage in discussion on obscure topic, allowing self to continue stuffing face. Big Mac managing not to disintegrate in hands so far. Five minutes elapse, praying train leave before Big Mac go loco. Good looking bloke in suit sit down opposite, fortunately holding MacDonald’s burger and fries. Unwritten convention say no one with burger going to be staring at person sitting opposite also stuffing face with burger. Spirits rise.

Continue munching burger, now getting messy, mayo stuck on fingers and smeared all over mouth, i.e. not the kind of look Audrey Hepburn affecting on Orient Express. Keep one eye on bloke who now delving into Macdonald’s bag, huzzah.

Suddenly, attention drawn away from desperate race to finish burger before look like social outcast, which obv am, otherwise wouldn’t be eating Big Mac on late night train after leaving work at 10.00pm, instead of being in Chelsea with handsome hottie. Attention now fixed on Scottish couple opposite who having hard hitting discussion on literary matters. Discussion seem to revolve around merits of first folio and demerits of anything not first folio. Discussion between bloke in spectacles who look like he experiencing intellectual castration and dark haired young bluestocking who have weirdest Scottish accent ever heard, kind of squeaky fairy drawl. Riveted by pretentiousness of argument. Bluestocking rifling through thesaurus whilst speccy bloke wilting under barrage of inpenetrable aggressive tosh deliverered by squeaky Pollyanna.

Bloke opposite continue stuffing face with burger; I continue stuffing face with burger; and Scottish people continue ludicrous intellectual argument as though they in Roman forum.

‘The first edition will be very corrupt,’ say Squeaky. ‘It is a principle where transmission of text is subject to corruption’. She continue in this impenetrable vein for some while, packing in as many obscure words as humanely possible, whilst lambasting speccy bloke who attempt feeble parry. ‘You didn’t understand what I said,’ shoot Squeaky, demonstrating remarkable perspicuity as bloke try vainly to get himself off ropes. ‘It’s a theory with parallels of boundaries. It’s not finite, it’s not indeterminate…Let me finish my sentence!!!!’

Realise am witnessing Cultural Divide between Intellectuals and Burger Eaters.

Get out paper and pen and start to write tosh down as gold dust.

Bloke sitting opposite, stuffing face with burger, obv driven into aggressiveness by Squeaky but unable to tackle on intellectual grounds, transfers biliousness caused by avalanche of intellectual tripe affecting digestion by having go at bloke who try to open door to pass to next carriage, saying aggressively ‘Aren’t there enough seats?’

Other bloke say ‘yes, but I want to go further up train’, irrefutable argument even for intellectuals, adding with majestic sarkiness, ‘Enjoy the feast’ before shooting off.

‘I still think the beeeest thing wooould beeee’ continue Squeaky dragging out syllables like candyfloss being made at a fair.

Get off train at Clapham, catch bloke opposite’s eye. He grins. Have pulled, huzzah.

Get Woking train at Clapham. Sit down behind feral youths, like have read about in paper. Youths, one of who certainly about ten and definitely should be tucked up in bed with hot milk and teddy, scratching on window with knife. Youths have feet on seats and baseball caps and speaking in patois like they is from Hackney, only it seem they from Surbiton, larf.

Now like Goldilocks and Three Bears as conversation on first train too high and conversation on second train too low, if subject matter ‘Have You Ever Poo-ed Your Pants?’ anything to go by.

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The Prawn Cracker Stand-Off

Get train from Clapham Junction, after picking up some items from Sainsbury’s. Get on half empty train – 13 empty seats around me. Oriental-looking woman with rucksack sits down seat but one from me, am now crushed into train wall. Woman starts sniffing. Start crunching prawn crackers in cultural stand-off. Woman ups game by taking off one shoe revealing bare white foot. Stop eating prawn crackers.

Woman take out white sock from rucksack and stick it on bare white foot. Sniffs. Am immobilised with shock. Woman then take off other shoe, pull out another white sock and stick it on other foot. Now utterly incapable of eating prawn crackers.

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