Travel

I have a minor confession to make. I really like train journeys. I don’t really like long tube journeys, because they’re just short enough to not let you really relax and think but they’re always too long to just stare, unblinking, at the door – because of course accidental eye contact on the tube is the absolute worst thing that could happen to you.

Whereas proper train journeys are great. You just plug yourself into an mp3 player (stops people thinking you want to touch up their necklace or even, heaven forbid, talk to them) and away you go. If it’s a journey you don’t take very often there’s some merit to just looking out of the window and drinking in the scenery. Look! In every house is a family, every car has someone inside, all those pedestrians have their own lives, and your life will probably never intersect with any of them. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it astounding that there can be so many people so close to you who you will never meet or even talk to? Even on the train itself – if you’re feeling brave – there’s the opportunity for some surreptitious people watching. Like the man sitting with a group of his friends (they all got on together) but not talking to any of them. Why? Or the man who fell over in the toilet and is now harassing the guard for a free ticket on his connection train – isn’t that weird?

Of course, if you’re on a familiar journey that’s where things start to get interesting. You could take the opportunity to read a book. I always like reading on trains because it feels like I’m being productive without having to do anything – I’m reading, but I’m actually going somewhere at top speed. Or you could have a quick meditate. Admittedly, this might work better if you’re in the quiet carriage but I’m sure you could pull it off if you were determined. Another option, and my favourite, is to put on a playlist, unbuckle my imagination and just drift off into my own head for half an hour. I may look like I’m sitting in a seat on a train, but I’m actually wrestling a dragon, or negotiating a peace treaty with aliens, or in a cafe meeting my future imaginary spouse.

Sometimes I’m even disappointed when the train pulls into York.

Travel

There’s something about travel that just sort of fascinates me. I know it probably sounds stupid, but to me the idea that you can be sitting in a car or on a train for two hours and end up somewhere really far away is sort of bewildering. I suppose it’s the fact that on a normal day I’d have spent those four or five hours sitting around on my arse at home, doing absolutely nothing of any value at all. And yet, on those travel days, you can end up at the other end of the country in the time that it would normally take me to decide whether or not I’m really enjoying a tv series. (ha, I joke. It takes me much longer than that to decide if I like a tv series)

Another part of it is the way that a very comparatively small part of travel is the part where you go the most distance, if that makes sense. So I’ll do something like four hours getting back to Egham from Yorkshire, and maybe it’ll take an hour to get to York station, and then probably at least an hour to get to Egham from London, and then another twenty minutes to wander along to where my house in Egham is, depending on how tired I’m feeling from all that travel. So that’s, what, three hours? Ish? Assuming I managed to catch the train without loitering pointlessly at the stations, and I always factor in loitering time. you know, for loo breaks, tea breaks, loo breaks again (Tea breaks occasionally wreak havoc on your journey plans), and then you miss the direct train from Waterloo so you have to wait half an hour for the next one… etc. Whereas the actual train from York to King’s Cross is generally two hours, and that’s a long old distance.

Yes, I know it’s because it’s a faster train DON’T YOU THINK I UNDERSTAND THAT? I CAN UNDERSTAND TRAIN VELOCITIES.

 

let’s just thank goodness none of us has to go all the way to Marlow by train because dear JAM that could take you all day.

A standard issue train journey, with a twist

So, as I so often do, I had the delight of a train journey to York on Monday. To make a change from my usual starting point of Egham, I ended up going from High Wycombe instead. (I briefly debated going from Marlow and then decided that the tedium would be too much for 8:00 on a Monday morning. There’s no need to make it awful AND boring, is there?) Despite our best efforts, the Handy Cross traffic ensured that we only arrived at the station 40 minutes before the train was due at the station. I was gutted, let me tell you. The stress, the trauma, will I make it? Will I be forced to get the next train, and still make it to the station on time anyway? THE DRAMA. THE TENSION.

I even went so far as to walk from Marylebone to Baker Street, something I’ve never actually done before. Handy hint: it’s about as long as the tube journey, just with a bit more walking and probably less falling over. Unless you have an inner ear problem, in which case you’ll be falling over however you go so you might as well walk and save £1.60. Yeah, I had to use my Oyster card, because my ticket was glitching in all the ticket barriers and I just wanted to make sure I actually got to King’s Cross sometime before Christmas. My suspicion is that there was some problem with the computers on the Underground, because it worked fine for the last ticket barrier at King’s Cross. Weirdly, they had them open for half an hour before they closed them again. ?? There is no sense to this madness.

The train journey started as they so often do, although I was delighted to discover that the seats that had been booked around me weren’t due to be used until York, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone. Dead chuffed, I was. Well, until I suddenly gained a headache and nausea. Then I was just sort of… moderately pleased. (Turns out I was just thirsty. Who’d have guessed on such a warm summer’s day when I’d spent the morning on stuffy trains?) And of course, that was when something unexpected happened.

An American couple, who I discovered were there after they had been to a wedding in London and were now taking a ‘vacation’ to York, sat down in the seats opposite me. I guess they couldn’t get seats further down the train or something, but they broke the first rule of trains: they talked to me. I managed to scare them off by answering with short sentences and looking generally fatigued, so they went back to looking at the countryside (which looks like America), and comparing our windmills to theirs (ours are shorter, apparently). Still, at least they were happy. Not like the four people sitting across the aisle who never spoke to each other despite being in a big group.

So now, here I am. Yorkshire. It’s actually cold, sort of, except for when it’s being kind of warm. Suffice to say I have no idea how to combat this with clothes so I’m just going to keep both sunscreen and a raincoat handy and hope for the best.

How to: All the things you need to know to get through uni life

How to get lost in 7 easy steps

  1. Choose route.
    For bonus points, make it a route you’ve walked so many times you basically know it off by heart. For more bonus points check the route on google maps before you start
  2. Get stuck behind a really slow walker
  3. Continue to be stuck behind the slow walker
    Bonus points if the slow walker notices you.
    More bonus points if other people notice.
  4. Turn right before you meant to to get out of the awkward situation with the slow walker
  5. Realise you’ve never been down this road before
  6. Realise you don’t recognise any of the other roads
  7. Pick a road at random and pray

Congratulations, you are now lost

How to be awkward on the underground

  1. Take up the bassoon or other huge instrument
  2. Become proficient at the bassoon and get lessons at the RAM
  3. Go to RHUL to study music
  4. Get on appropriate tube with bassoon on back. Make sure the tube is packed
  5. Hit someone in the face with the bassoon
  6. Accidentally stroke someone’s hair as you grab one of the poles

Congratulations, you are now awkward beyond belief.