It’s Hot Down Here

It’s time for this blog to back to it’s roots…commuting.

We all pray for sunshine – we are almost into June, but this year’s winter has lingered on. The warm sunny month of May hasn’t materialised – instead it has been replaced this year with a freezing, torrential winter extension….

…until today.

Finally the sun is up, the coats are off, and Londoners have pranced around all day, delighting in the start of summer. I’ve loved it, the sun has a unique ability to cheer even the toughest days.

But now I have been hit with the commute home and already I miss the wind, rain and cold.

In the 19th century The London Underground was a unique feat of engineering – groundbreaking – and testament to this country’s engineering brilliance. Victorian Britain was World beating – and leading the way and proving our greatness was London’s network of tunnels and trains, setting out the blueprint for an underground metro system that inspired and influenced similar projects across the globe.

But are we now victims of our ancestors success?

In 2012 the tube is awful. So far this evening I have stood for 15minutes waiting for a the straining District Line to catch up with the mass of bodies desperately trying to flee the city centre. When the train finally arrived it was heaving.

I forced my way on, but now I am faced with the harsh reality of the tube in Summer! It’s horrible down here. Unbearably hot – and the smell has already started to fester. Too many sweaty, suited men in one place dictates the ‘sweet smell’ of summer on the World famous London Underground. So now all those commuting Londoners, so happy to see the sun at Midday, are currently extremely hot, very angry and we all stink.

And there’s nothing we can do about it. Our antiquated tube system can never be replaced – it can only ever be slowly upgraded (much to the delay and annoyance of us long suffering 21st century Londoners). While cities like Singapore have new, high-tec, modern, air-conditioned, thoroughly pleasant metros – we are stuck with the pit that swelters beneath London’s dark Victorian streets!

No, don’t be fooled Londoners – we were too premature to celebrate the arrival of our English summer today. The London heat’s harsh reality has us all begging for winter to return again before the day’s end.

Not Enough Snow

This morning there is the wrong amount of snow…

There is enough to make my morning commute long, slow, frustrating and treacherous – but there is not enough to justify that always anticipated and wildly celebrated “snow day”.

Let’s be honest, however old we are, our inner schoolboy always desperately hopes for mountains of the white stuff. Every worker, from the shop floor operative to the CEO secretly dreams of being wedged in, unable to make that long commute, so instead being forced to hold an impromptu day of festivities in a winter wonderland.

I remember those heady days, quietly listening to Radio Leicester, waiting patiently for that brilliant announcement that my school just couldn’t open. But not today kids, the dusting we got last night promised much at about 10pm…but it hasn’t delivered. Now any snowmen will be malnourished weak attempts and snowball fights will be more of a slight scuffle than an all out war.

Although a ‘snow day’ today would probably have been a disappointment. As my little boy is ill with a nasty cold and fever – he would have been confined indoors; and the days of long warm mornings under the duvet are far behind me. I would have been up and active at 6.30am regardless of what weather awaited in the outside world… but I suppose a day full of Cbeebies and hot chocolate would still have been a fun novel event in my working week.

But it wasn’t to be – I am faced instead with a slippery skate to the station, a slow, plodding commute and a miserable sniffly office.

Although I guarantee a handful of young singletons in my office will still find it ‘completely impossible’ to get in, despite living far closer to Central London than us dull, middle-aged parents! Lucky gits – maybe next week we will get a proper dumping *fingers crossed*.

Dirty Dawgs

It’s a lovely crisp clear day in London, and as the sun rose this morning on my short walk to North Sheen station the sky lit up with an array of soft colour. However I didn’t have the chance to wonder at nature’s natural beauty…no, I had to treacherously navigate my small suburban street with my eyes fixed firmly on the pavement.

For as usual throughout my morning stroll I had to weave my way through the minefield of daily dog turd.

I live within 10 minutes of the spacious Richmond Park and the wondrous Kew Gardens; my neighbourhood is a dog walkers paradise. But almost all of these mutts seem to disregard their animal’s deposits, leaving them for the dog-less masses to smear and stick to shoes, wheels and hallway rugs.

And more recently for me the issue has become all the more relevant and frustrating. Although my little boy can now toddle (just), in order to transport him any distance I must fish out my impressive off-road pushchair. It’s hydraulic suspension and chunky wheels can easily negotiate the tough Richmond Park terrain, but unfortunately it is also a magnet for the nasty brown stuff…

At least once a month I have to mix up a bucket of detergent and scrub down every floor in my house, to prevent my baby from crawling around in the gruesome poo trail that his pushchair has smeared from room to room.

I don’t blame the animals, they are unintelligent and much further down the evolutionary scale. Unfortunately it seems that in my area so are their owners…

Too Reserved?

I’m currently sitting on a poorly air-conditioned, very packed and therefore extremely hot train back from Leeds to London. And the temperature is not the only uncomfortable element, passions are running high on this train. Arguments seem to be erupting at every angle – I have witnessed four already since claiming my seat.

And there is a clear central issue driving this passanger rage…reservations.

Maybe it’s the 35degree heat, but even I am starting to get frustrated here. This train is completely full – all the seats have been pre-booked and¬†protruding from every headrest is a big white label emblazened with one bold word, RESERVED.

My ticket clearly states both my carriage and seat number, and I arrived early enough take rightful ownership of seat 16A. But unfortunately others on my coach haven’t been quite as lucky…

Most people seem to understand the very basic ‘code of conduct’ – you sit in the seat that you have booked… but not everyone. For there are some people who seem to use the Ryanair approach to every asset of life – if they see an empty seat they have every right to sit in it. And this set not only have a complete disregard for the basic rules, most also seem to take an arrogant, confident and confrontational approach to defending their position.

I have already witnessed two happy pre-bookers skulk away, defeated by the evil, aggressive and immovable seat squatters. Only the very brave seem to have the resolve to stand their ground and go toe-to-toe to claim what is rightfully theirs. But when the righteous are victorious every ticket holder on the carriage can silently share in their success.

However while I have been typing the atmosphere has relaxed. A new player has made his mark – the advance purchasers now have a new hero…

As soon as the ticket inspector shuffled in, the two remaining¬†spongers¬†immediately hung their heads. One then quickly bolted for the far door – the other at least kept in place, but when challenged he too silently slumped off. And now even the original ticket owners have returned…Victory!

And I think the air conditioning has just started working, everything is finally cooling down.

Umbrella Etiquette

It’s time to have my first blog rant…

London this morning is miserable – it’s January, it’s particularly cold and it’s very wet. So as I stepped out earlier I was filled with dread, not because I mind the typical English weather, but because the rain brings out the worst in a specific group of London commuters – the vicious umbrella wielders.

As I edged down the narrow passage towards North Sheen station, I was faced with a mass of bodies walking towards me – a Westbound train must have just arrived. As predicted this hoard contained a number of aggressive, self-absorbed commuters proudly flaunting their oversized brollies. As I squeezed past one his weapon clipped a covering tree and drenched me with mega-droplets. I am now both soggy and angry.

And things will only get worse. Whenever it rains the pedestrian system outside Victoria station becomes almost impassable. They simply don’t seem to realise that their umbrellas double their width, giving them an unfriendly, imposing and dangerous wingspan. Heads, hats and specifically eyes are immediately at risk, and if you are skewered don’t expect an apology.

And the worst culprits…golfers. Their gigantic brollies may be a necessity for tramping down the fairway, or even ambling down a country lane, but they do not fit within a city centre.

No-one is safe, although at 5′ 7″ I can usually duck under the majority. For once my below average height is a distinct advantage.

But if it rains tomorrow I will fight back. I will fish out my own brolly and launch a strategic counter attack. And be warned, at my height I can strike a telling blow to the armpit, chest or neck!

Out into The Dark

I was up and out horrifically early this morning for an untimely 6.20am commute. An 8am conference call with a host of Antipodeans in both Australia and New Zealand awaits my office arrival.

But as I stumbled through my front door to start my short 10minute trudge to the station I noticed that my world felt strange. The suburban street scene that greets me every day seemed vastly different – it was so dark and empty.

Yes, the street lamps were still lit, but I have never noticed the effect that the sleeping world has on my quiet residential road. Every curtain was closed and there was no life, sound or light spreading out from inside. No hair dyers, showers, blaring televisions or beaming kitchens. North Sheen had died, it was nothing more than a ghost town – eerie and surreal.

And I enjoyed it. I almost felt guilty checking my phone with its small but powerfully bright screen. So I simply crept along, making every effort not to disturb anyone or anything, appreciating the difference and tranquility.

Sitting (comfortably) in a bright empty carriage, life has returned to normality. But I enjoyed my small peek into the quiet night.

I’m bloody tired though – time to order a big vat of coffee…

A message?

If I was looking for a message from above that I should persist with the blog, maybe the sight of the stunning purple sky at North Sheen station this morning (my first ever morning of blogging) is just what I need.

20120117-074849.jpgWell my basic attempt to keep my blog secret failed desperately last night, as I cannot sit silently tapping (editing) on my laptop without my inquisitive wife ‘needing’ to know why. The problem is my wife actually is a journalist, a very good journalist, whose very nature is to both enquire and critique. But perhaps this is not such a bad thing, as not only have I acquired my first reader, I have also employed a trained editor (or perhaps I should say critic).

But she wasn’t too harsh, she actually seemed quite impressed. However she did make some valid ‘suggestions’:

1) I need to read more blogs. I need to understand what people write and more importantly why people read.

2) I must not try too hard. People who try to hard to be witty, interesting or intelligent all completely fail.

3) An honest, irrelevant blog could be readable, but don’t expect immediate success.

All very helpful, thank you sweetheart.

So thanks to my editor I feel like I have a little more direction. Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss my new father position and my stimulating career yesterday – both will naturally form part of my day-to-day observations. In fact this blog should be something like a twice daily diary, a vehicle to document what actually is an exciting, happy and interesting time of my life.

I could try and be clever, delete this blog and start again, writing in the first person as my little boy or as an anonymous controversial sports commentator. But I won’t, I will stick with this honest (if a little pointless) commuter blog. If nothing else it has certainly achieved the desired effect, my commute this morning has flown past, despite not managing to grab that illusive seat.

And I have achieved at least one other major goal today, I now know how to both take a picture and upload it using my iPad….I am a blogger in training.