Ten Things That London Commuters Have Taught Me

My time of the commute is nearly at an end and the wide-eyed considerate human that I once was has been replaced by a woman that goes, “Tssk“.

1. No matter how relaxed you are when you get off the train, the tube will get you. I swear, you could have meditated the entire time on the lovely overland train and arrived in a state of blissful calm, and it will be ripped from you the moment you stand up. The wave of “I must get off first, I must walk faster, get out my way, oh for Pete’s sake” will hit you the second you get off the train.

2. Your elbows and bum are weapons of mass destruction. When pushed into a corner by surly men in suits a deft nudge with your elbow (note: I said nudge) can get you room to breathe. If this fails look at man in question with horror in your eyes, catch his eye and then look at his hand and then your bum. He will think he touched it. He will move rapidly away. Use in emergencies only.

3. After three days you will go “tssk“. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Those people who you labelled as rude and unfriendly when you first started commuting to London are now YOU. At first I was astonished by how many people tutted at me under their breath because I just wasn’t fast enough. Today (and yesterday) I tutted myself. I am ashamed.

4. You will sit next to the freaks. On my first day it was Mad Snot Flicking Man who sat next to me and leered at me the entire way home. On my second it was Strange Growths Man who wanted to play footsie under the table. Now, as I approach the train home I think to myself, “Do I sit in the single seats next to the loo and endure the smell, or do I risk it and sit on a normal seat and see who sits beside me?” To be honest, the answer depends on whether or not I’m eating my dinner on the way home. And even then it’s hit and miss…

5.  If you are running late everything will stop working. Train tickets demand that you get there on time. Miss your train and you pay again (and out your nose). Usually you need to catch two tubes to get to the rail station. If one tube grinds to a halt because some [insert adjective here] human has pulled the alarm or tried to eat the conductor, the rest will follow suit. Or your next tube will be so full that it should be entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

6. Pretend you can’t see anybody else. I have been stood on, crushed, bumped and elbowed, and that’s just trying to cross the main station to get to the tube. I have noticed that those who escape unscathed are those who just walk and pretend they can’t see anybody else. You either get a briefcase in your eye or you leap out of their way. That said, if you are thin or short, adopt this strategy at your own risk.

7. Rational thought is abandoned in favour of the chase. It’s insane. You can see that the queue to get through the ticket barrier is about 30 people thick in all directions, but there are still people shoving past you to get in front. Why? The queue is just as bad on the other side! It bewilders me. I end up overtaking/catching up with these Furious Flappers five minutes later and my eyes aren’t bulging in fury. They’re cardaic arrests waiting to happen.

8. People are fabulous. You can be forgiven for thinking that I hate everybody on the commute so far, but actually there are some really lovely moments. You can meet new people, have fascinating conversations, and die with delight watching children giggle with their parents on long train journeys.

9. By the time you get to work you need a lie-down. I am filled with admiration for people who do this commute every day, every week, for many years. I am. They need awards and special holiday retreats. When I get to work after my two hour commute I’m almost incapable of coherent thought. The people I’m working with think I’m an idiot. They’re not entirely wrong…

10. You can fit 100 people into a space the size of your toilet. And then you can stop at another station and squeeze in a couple more. And again. And again. Then, when you have an armpit in each eye, an ass on your hand, a handbag exploring your spine and sweat pouring down your face, the tube will stop and a voice will come over the intercom and say, “Sorry for the delay folks but there appears to be a faulty train at the next station and they’re just moving it onto the siding.”

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Mums are doing it for themselves

Today, in my ambles across the wonderful web, I encountered a site that is just fantastic. One mum has taken it upon herself to help other mums get their heads around the complexities of WordPress. She’s got help topics, advice, expert tips and more, all there for free.

I have to say that I have lost several happy hours to her blog and, as a result, have uncovered some great stuff to improve mine. She said that lately people have been demanding loads of free help and sounded pretty down so I decided to let the world know about her hard work. I hope it cheers her up.

Bravo Blog Mum!

Does parenthood bring you joy?

When I came home this evening I was rewarded with the most spectacular greeting in the world. Small, chubby little arms reached out and gave me a hug that involved using all four limbs. With her little arms around my neck, her legs around my waist and big , fat kisses on my cheek and neck, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Like this article from the New York Magazine, this joy was soon shortlived. You see, it was 8pm and my train had been delayed (again), Husband had barrelled out of the door to get to the meeting he was supposed to have been at 30 mins earlier (thanks to late train), and I had another pile of work to get through.

So, as much as I loved my darling tot for her exuberant greeting and kisses of love, I wasn’t too impressed with having to tramp up and down the stairs for the next hour and 20 minutes to the strains of, “Moooommeeee, I need a cuddle“, and “Moooommeeee, I need a wee“, and “Mooommeee, Dolly’s hairband fell off!”.

While I appreciate the fact that the aforementioned tramping is doing wonderful things to my thighs, it is also eating into the last remaining energy reserves I have left in my battered body. I was up at 6am! I signed off a magazine! I commuted! As her cries became more and more whiny thanks to her over-tired state, my levels of frustration began to seep over my neck and into my skull.

Then I recieved a text. From The Husband.

Squidge so sad you weren’t home. She drew an amazing picture of you on a train. I did the train outline and the dragon driver (on request) everything else is hers.”

Suddenly all my frustration disappeared in a flash. I raced back downstairs to find her fast asleep wearing her slippers, a doll in each hand and a little snore in her mouth. So here I am, sitting in front of my PC, awash with more emotions than one body should take at any one time. Love, guilt (oh, that horrible, horrible guilt), worry, gratitude and joy.

Did I sound grumpy when I told her, “Go to sleep, young lady, it is way past your bedtime“? Did I not thank her enough for her drawing? Did I do enough? Is she ok with this commute, temporary as it is? Is she going to grow up with issues?

Which brings me neatly to this article. The headline really does sum it up beautifully. Parenting – all joy and no fun. When put like that, suddenly I feel better. I feel as if I am not the only mum wrestling with this madness. I haven’t even begun to delve into the meat of this story. There is a lot there to muse on.

Parenthood can ruin a relationship, it can also bring you closer together. It will definitely test your bonds and, occasionally, you’re going to want to kill your partner. One of my favourite jokes when I was battling through the first six months of sleepless hell was this one:

After you have kids, the only time parents have sex is when they walk past each other at 3am and say, “Screw you.”

Does your parenthood lack fun but bring you happiness? I don’t know about you but, for me, the answer is – sometimes. Sometimes I want to walk out the door, down the road and into the bar. Mostly, though, I just look at her and think, “I made this, me. I did it. Wow.”

P.S. The painting is the very pic posted above…

The funniest thing

I’ve been commuting to London three days a week for the past few weeks. It’s awesome and exhausting. It’s nice to edit a mag again and to be part of a team, but I miss my Squidge something fierce. And the fact that “commuting” at home is walking upstairs with a cup of coffee.

So, every day at around 3:30pm, I give Husband a call to speak to him and Squidge and see how they are doing (she finishes nursery at 3pm). Some days she just won’t talk to me, others will get me a grunt, and then there are days like yesterday when she grabbed the phone from Husband and started yabbering away down the phone.

This is an excerpt from the end of the conversation.

“Mooom, are you on the train?”

“No, baby, I’m still in the office. I’m not getting on the train for two more hours.”

“You’re not on the train, then?”

“No, I’m working.”

“Are you having a wee at S’s house?”

(I must interject here by explaining that the first of these train journeys was a social one to S’s house and Squidge is determined to believe that the whole reason I went there was to have a wee. Yes, is very odd, I know)

“”No, honey, I’m at work.”

Silence.

“You’re not on the train. You’re not coming home yet?”

“Um, no?”

“I’m done with you now.”

And she promptly handed the phone back to Husband and wandered off. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

The tired mum

Somedays, like today, I wonder if I’ll ever feel “not tired” again. It’s been a long week and the weekend is as packed with work as the usual days of Mon to Fri. Not that I’m complaining, mind, it’s just that I’m sitting here with a head full of lead and about two hours to have down time and I’m too shattered to decide what I’m going to do!

Oh, the irony! Should I curl up in front of the TV with my knitting and mindlessly absorb fabulous dross while my needles click the shawl into place? If I don’t hurry up this is only going to be ready next winter. Ha!

Do I play Bioshock on my PC because I’m desperate to finish it and really feel like some gaming to wind down tonight?

Or do I finally get some time with my shiny new Xbox 360 and carry on attempting to play Alan Wake?

The thing is. Knitting is ace but I’m not sure my brain can cope. The Xbox 360 is an entirely new FPS control system that I’m rubbish at (snort) and Bioshock makes me jump. Although perhaps I’m just the right level of sleepy to just relax and enjoy the game and ignore the terrifying noises oozing out of my speakers.

It does make me wonder why I get all these scary games when, since having Squidge, I’m now too jumpy to enjoy them. And, what’s that all about anyway? I used to be really good at FPS’ and now I’m a bit rubbish. Not sure if it’s practise or turning into a mom that’s done it.

Well, it’s getting late (time is flying today!) and I’ve decided I’m going to Bioshock myself tonight. Not the world’s most riveting post, I know. But hey, everyone has a down day.