Let The Train Take The Strain

Just over two years ago I was made redundant. It’s not an incredibly exciting experience.

I’d spent nine years commuting between Canterbury and Hastings by car, and spent a fair amount of that time driving between the south-east and south Wales. Cars are great. You have your own personal space. Your own personal music. Your own personal air con. It’s like your own private space suit, with more space.

With redundancy came change, and one of the changes was that I moved from being a permanent employee to being a contractor. I didn’t choose contracting; it chose me. I was going through the selection process for a permanent position when I got a call about a six month contract in Portsmouth. I didn’t jump at it, didn’t really think it was worth going for the interview to be honest, because I wasn’t a contractor. But, I was talked into going for an interview and then – I got offered the contract, all before the permanent position process concluded. So I took it.

I had to set up my own private limited company, get an accountant, and start paying the VAT man. That is actually quite an exciting experience.

In some ways the Portsmouth contract was similar to what came before, because I was still travelling around the south of England in my own space suit. I worked away from home during the week and came back for the weekends, often for a long weekend because I was able to juggle my hours. But because I took accommodation close to work I was able to walk to work for the first time in decades. That changed when the office moved to Southampton and once more there was a daily commute in the space suit, but it wasn’t so very far.

The Portsmouth contract went on for twenty-one months, and very enjoyable it was, too. But all good things come to an end.

What’s next?

Well, I now have another contract. For the next six months, starting on 27th October, I’ll be working in London, which means travelling to work on the train. The cattle truck. Gone is my personal space, my personal music, and my personal air con. But it is an opportunity to just sit — if there’s enough seats, that is. To sit and read, or sit and write, or sit and listen to music on the Kindle, or just to sit and think.

I don’t think I’m going to like it. I don’t think shuttling to and from London on a cattle truck is going to be much fun, that spending the winter on draughty stations is going to be very stimulating, or that fighting my way into tube trains is going to make me feel good about my fellow passengers. But it’s an adventure. I’ve never commuted by train before.

Although I don’t start that contract for more than a week yet, I have a two-day course to attend in London starting tomorrow, so it’s going to be something of a dress rehearsal for what’s coming. And who knows, I might even enjoy it.

At the very least, after the many thousands of miles of car travel over the past decade, I’m going to let the train take the strain.


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