London Commuting

This is a post I’ve been meaning to post since February, but kept adding to it.

Deb on train into LondonAs I’ve been settling in to a regular schedule at work, I’ve had some time to reflect on the train and on commuting. I promise, I really don’t mean to sound trite when I say this, but, honestly, I feel like I’m getting the full Londoner experience. Before, when I wasn’t working, I spent a lot of time on my own, often not wandering far from my village. Only occasional jaunts into London where I felt like a tourist, like an outsider.

Now I feel like I am a part of that living, breathing, city machine, with its cogs that are in constant motion. It’s not a special trip, it’s just my way to get to work. Along the way there are the little details that make this ordinary activity special to me.

First I hop on to my local little train. It’s two train carriages long and takes ten minutes to travel to the station on the main line in Maidenhead. From there I catch any train heading inbound to Paddington, some being faster than others. Usually, I saunter off my local train right across the platform and have just a couple minute wait for the next train. Occasionally, I need to sprint across to a train waiting because my first train hesitated a second too long in getting rolling or failing catching that train, the next one arrives about twenty minutes later. This is part of what makes my commuting time into work fluctuate wildly.

Bourne End trainOne of my favorite parts of my morning commute involves looking down into the almost comically long and narrow back yards and seeing which ones seemed to be inspired by Ground Force. The ones with a rose arbor dividing the yard in two, the little painted garden sheds, the tastefully outfitted stone patios. They stand out between the ones that are simply long stretches of grass.

I am puzzled though, at the sheer numbers of trampolines in the yards. If my commute is at all a representative sample, England must be blanketed in trampolines. Mark and I joke about this all the time. There was an old SNL skit, Rob Lowe impersonating Stone Phillips on Nightline or some other hour long evening news shows with three twenty-minute vignette stories. Imagine in a serious voice, “Trampolines. Children’s play toy… or vicious back yard killer?” Although, most I see do have a “cage” around them to keep the kidlets from falling to their doom.

I imagine most other people get annoyed by fellow passengers having loud animated conversations on their cell phones or even with the person in the next seat. When we’re crammed in like sardines, you know everyone is listening in to that one fantastically loud person speaking. I actually enjoy listening to the spectrum of English accents out there. I can sit there staring at my book, all the while linguistically teasing apart the language in my mind. It took me a moment to realize that the two teenagers were not simply mimicking Katherine Tate’s character Lauren in an ironic manner, but rather, that was really the way they spoke. I smile to myself, adding further to my ruminations on language.

Then there’s the “Metro,” the daily paper that is made for the cars of public transport. I see them on trains and in the underground. It’s distributed in piles in the morning. It’s full of gossip pages and extremely brief news stories and reviews of movies and shows. Not a very meaty product but it serves its purpose well, to fill the short spans of time between stops with something to read or to read over someone’s shoulder in the cramped close quarters during the morning rush hour. A copy always seems to make it into work on the lunch table.