Tuesday, October 10, 2006


After a brief honeymoon period, I have begun to experience the harsher reality of my temporary neighbourhood's transport system. Buses around here are far less frequent, but initially I thought this was countered by the fact you could set your watch by them. It seemed I could arrive at the bus stop 2 minutes before the bus was due, safe in the knowledge I wouldn't be waiting more than 2 minutes. As my experience of the commute increases though, I'm beginning to suspect I was just striking it lucky for those first few days. With so few buses, it only takes one to be late, early or to just seemingly disappear off the schedule altogether to throw the whole system off kilter. In the last two of scenarios, you'll find yourself waiting for the next bus which, aside from being some half hour away, will inevitably be too full of other passengers who'd wanted the previous bus too to be able to stop for you. In which case you have to wait for the next bus, by which time it is an hour after you originally arrived at the bus stop and you've missed not just your train, but probably the three after it too.

As I stand in the drizzle by the bus stop, either praying I'll get lucky or cursing that I'm not, I often find my attention distracted by a curious noise. I'm living in one of those parts of south London populated by parakeets, their presence a legacy of careless Victorian keepers of exotic pets, their increasing numbers indicative of milder winters. There's something just a little bizarre about standing at the bus stop on a damp Autumn English morning, listening to the screeches of flocks of bright green parrots from far away lands.

Once I do get to the railway station, I am yet to quite master all the little tricks and tactics the commuter has to develop. I don't quite yet know where exactly to stand on the railway station platform so that when the train arrives you are perfectly aligned with where the doors are. Mine is possibly the last station on the morning route where some seats still remain available, so seconds count on the dash to the door and if you falter you are resigned to standing for the increasingly full 20 minute journey into central London. How people's armpits can already smell that bad so early in the morning, I don't know.

My journey home isn't so bad though, working as I do right next to the station where my train home starts its journey from. I've managed to calculate the right time to stroll out of the office, take my pick of the offerings from the numerous free sheet vendors who clog up the street, and waltz onto a near empty train already waiting for me at the platform. Sometimes I even get to see my enemies from that morning having to stand, which makes up for it all a little.

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