Pondering on trains #2

Today, by the time I get home (including tube journeys and train delays due to electrical failures which meant at least one carriage of an overcrowded train was plummeted into complete darkness and subsequently led to us being stuck behind a slow train) I will have spent fifteen minutes in a car, twenty seven minutes walking, forty-six minutes on a bus and a whopping four hours and eight minutes on trains, with eight hours at work sandwiched in between. I will have spent £10 more than usual to get an open return which lets me get on a train at the time I would normally be waking up and I will definitely not understand why I was required to spend that extra £10 to get on a train at ten past six on a Monday morning. Nothing particularly special happens on trains at ten past six on a Monday morning, there is no magical on-board vanilla chai tea service or super comfy seats, nor are there warmer carriages or super speedy travel times, nor a small jaunt into Narnia. In fact, I am pretty sure it is a much more enjoyable experience catching a train at any time other than ten past six on a Monday morning.

That said, for most of that train journey I had ‘assumed the position’ (an act I save for the most dire of sleep-needing circumstances – normally in winter when I have had a bout of sleeplessness – which involves a lot of slouching, and as much snoozing as is possible on a bumpy train ride, all in the safety of the abnormally and wonderfully large fluffy hood on my coat) so it is possible I could have missed whatever magical happening I was paying £10 extra for. Either way, I am not sure that extra £10 is worth it.

(As I type, on my way home at around 6PM, a man with a beer has opened the train toilet door on an unsuspecting business man who clearly wasn’t aware of the lock button, though, now said beer-holding man has entered the aforementioned train toilet upon the business man’s exit and the lock symbol has not lit up so perhaps it’s just not working – regardless, that was not what I wanted to see on a sleep-deprived Monday evening and further firms the fact that train fare is bafflingly high considering the never-improving state of the service. We have already touched on how much I despise train toilets, be that in a very small way, combine that with drunk people and it is very much not a good time.)

I get incredibly stressed before I travel, to the point that my incredibly patient other half has to answer the same few questions about a million times, the answers to which do nothing to ease the stress but I still need to know the answers every time I ask for them (“when do we need to get up?”, “when do we need to leave?”, “how long will it take?”, “will I definitely get there on time?”, “will it definitely turn up?”, repeat ad infinitum), as well as dealing with irritability and the potential for less-than-a-minute bursts of uncalled for stress crying, the latter, thankfully, not happening very often. (You know he’s a keeper when he not only gets up with you at 4AM when he doesn’t really have to but also offers to make you pancakes before you leave, walks you down to your bus stop and deals with all of your pointless questions, stress and grumpiness when he should still be sleeping – thank you, you are super human.)

If I am travelling just after I have to get up, I will inevitably not be able to sleep; so determined will my body be to not miss my train/bus/taxi (delete as applicable) that I will be completely awake for most of the night with fleeting pink elephant dreams in between (today’s being a result of the back-to-back Attack on Titan watching I partook in on Saturday, and, naturally, not at all relaxing – it’s good, you should watch it). Naturally, my decision to travel a greater distance this morning in the same amount of time it would have taken to catch the various rail replacements home yesterday made me question my life choices, as well as whether today was, indeed, the same Monday I thought it was, but it also made me feel oddly triumphant.

But that was not the point of this pondering. I’m not entirely sure what the point was but it has led me to question why they’re spending so much time on a snazzy new line when that snazzy new line is leading to over-crowding on the pre-existing line and traffic problems in my home town. Sigh. That is, potentially, a rant for another entry.

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Pondering on trains

I am currently (at the time of writing, though, probably not at the time of posting) on a train, and, as is customary with my train journeys, I am using this time to Think-About-Things. Nothing too drastic or life altering, just little things like ‘I haven’t written properly in rather a long time, I should fix that,’ and the impossibility of phone cameras catching the incredible beauty of a fleeting sunset between two train seats, so fleeting that it only lasted all of about two minutes. I saw the glow on the wall (do trains have walls?), spun round to try to photograph it but all my camera picked up was a yellow mass, and the train jostled about so much that it would never have focused anyway.

Other thoughts include: ‘I really am uncomfortable in this outfit, I wish I had found that t-shirt,’ ‘I need to lose twenty-eight pounds, at least,’ ‘I am hungry,’ and those are then swallowed up by improbable ones about futuristic trains which don’t wobble, and contain toilets (I am sat opposite a train toilet) that don’t have that awful train toilet smell. Trains where Quiet Zones have some kind of force field in their doors which automatically mutes any electronic devices and tells your brain to use your inside voice, your quietest there-is-a-baby-asleep-in-the-next-room-and-if-it-wakes-up-its-parents-might-actually-eat-me voice. Then it digests a bit and turns into a moral dilemma – is a super high tech train which is able to alter the volume of the voices of those inside it, utilising the brain of those people, ethical? Probably not.

On that note, my train is pulling into my station (or was, at 6:30pm, when this was being written) – time to go.

Extraordinary Things in Ordinary Places

This morning, as I sat on the bus reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent (for the second time, more on that in a later entry) on the way to OICPS, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. As I glanced out the window to see whereabouts I was, I was met with the fields by Water Eaton Park and Ride, covered in mist with the sun peeking over the top. Everything was in sepia.

When I looked up again, I was met with something better, something which looked as if it had leapt right out of a painting and I wish I had a camera. Rising up next to the sun, so close it looked huge, was the silhouette of a hot air balloon.

It was possibly the best way to start the day. The artist in me craved to capture it, camera in hand (if only I had one with me which wasn’t my phone); the writer in me wanted to pluck it out of the sky and onto the page; the rest of me was just happy to have seen it. Mist and fog are, perhaps, my favourite weather conditions, sunrise/sunset are my favourite times of day (except when the sky is clear at night and I am out in the middle of nowhere, where the stars are at their brightest – an experience I have only really had once, when in Scotland last December for a friend’s birthday, in a castle away from civilisation).

I think writing is all about finding extraordinary things in ordinary places, even when writing fantasy. When that bleeds into your real life, your real experiences, you should grab it and run with it. I think I should listen to my own advice. So that is what I am going to do within the next few days, between the wedding editing (more on that in a later blog post) and the university reading.