I spend a lot of my time on trains these days. Train travel can be very pleasant, although UK train operators seem to make it their business to take passengers through each of Dante’s nine circles of Hell until they either throw themselves on the track or flee into the safety of their SUVs, never to return to public transport again.
Despite Thameslink’s best efforts to make my commuting life miserable, I quite enjoy travelling on trains. I’ve never been hugely into driving, probably because I’ve never quite done it frequently enough to gain the relaxed confidence that comes with routine. I recently had to drive in Brighton, which I estimate took around two years off my life. Fellow Brightonians will recognise that moment when you’re at a junction and realise that when the lights change, you have the choice between two one-way streets that you can’t enter, one cul-de-sac and a road restricted to buses and taxis. What are you meant to do, teleport? Wait for the junction to swallow you up and reveal some kind of underground passageway? Not to mention the fact that Brighton has precisely eight parking spaces to service 246,853 cars. This, dear reader, is why I do not own a car. Anyway, I digress.
My journey to London Bridge should take an hour and five minutes, although Thameslink likes to routinely add about 10 minutes to that, or spice things up a bit by cancelling all services due to a mysterious affliction called Signalling Problems (what are signalling problems exactly, other than a convenient catch-all to blame for all types of train delays?). Thameslink, incidentally, is owned by Southern, although you cannot travel on Southern services with a Thameslink ticket and vice versa. To help you avoid fines, trains are often helpfully emblazoned with the Thameslink logo alongside the Southern one.
So, if I don’t stay over with Oliver’s parents – whose perpetual hospitality is, I fear, in danger of being abused by us using their lovely London house as a second home, or indeed a hotel – I have well over two hours in the day to spend on a variety of constructive activities.
The thing is that I quite like just staring out of the window and listening to music and daydreaming. An hour on the train can fly by that way, interrupted only occasionally by compulsory iPhone checking (I love and loathe my iPhone in equal measure). Is this a massive waste of time? I could be improving my Spanish, or writing a novel, or learning to knit, or working out a detailed plan for world domination, after all. Or am I actually spending this time wisely, making the most of precious downtime in otherwise hectic days?
Maybe I should be unapologetic about my unproductive commute. As long as I can avoid people ‘manspreading’ in the seat next to me (a thing that makes me nearly pass out with rage, although it is testament to my now near-Britishness that I would never express it), it makes my train time quite agreeable.