Dry Run – Results

I mentioned in my last post that I’m due to start a new job in London on 27th which means commuting by train, or cattle truck, and as it happens I’ve spent the last two days on a course in London with an almost identical journey, which is a good dry run for what’s to come. So, how did it go?

Well, the first morning I was due to catch the 07:18 and decided I’d walk to the station, which I calculated meant leaving the house around 06:40. I was up at 05:15, did the usuals, had breakfast, and got myself dressed and ready, but by the time I went out of the front door it was already 06:50, so I was running about 10 minutes late. Not to worry, I thought, I’ll just walk at a brisk pace and I should be okay. So off I went. But 10 minutes later it was obvious that I would never make it, I was going to miss the train, so I had to phone my wife and ask her to collect me and get me to the station, bless her. Not a great start.

The train to London was busy but not initially full, so I had no trouble getting a seat, and it ran on time and without incident. The queue for the Cirle Line in the underground wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, certainly not anywhere near as bad as it was when I went up to London for the interview (and two young women almost came to blows in front of me). The underground was pretty packed, but no problems, and I arrived at the venue for the course in plenty of time. Good result.

We got out of the course slightly earlier than expected. The underground was busy but fine, and I found that when I got to St Pancras the 17:42 was still in the station with about five minutes to spare. Marvellous, I would be home about 30 minutes earlier than I’d expected. The downside (there’s always a downside) is that the train was packed and there was standing room only for most of the journey. Bah, humbug. But at least I was home early.

The next morning I planned to take the car to the station rather than walking. Armed with a pocketful of change, I left the house about the same time as the previous day, which gave me plenty of time. The car park adjacent to the station was full, so I headed into the overflow car park and parked up okay. Unfortunately, the machine wouldn’t take any coins, so I walked to the car park the other side of the station, bought a ticket, and walked back again to put the ticket in the car. I was almost into the station afterwards when I realised I didn’t have my mobile on me. I was pretty sure it was still plugged in and charging at home, but I had to go back to the car and check, just in case I’d left it in there, where it would be visible. Nope. No phone. Okay, a day without the phone isn’t a disaster. It was actually quite a novelty.

After that things ran pretty much like clockwork. The 07:18 was on time and I had no trouble finding a seat, and the underground was busy but got me to the training course with time to spare. On the way home I got to the station before the 17:42 was in, and a lot of people were waiting for it by the time it arrived, but I managed to get on and find a seat without any hassle. My car was waiting for me when I got to Cantervbury and I was home in good time.

So, that was a pretty good dry run. Come a week on Monday I’ll be doing the same journey except that I’ll be getting off the underground one station earlier, but it’s shown me that I should have plenty of time to get the 07:18 and get into work in time for 09:00. By the time I get out of work I’m more likely to be getting the 18:42 rather than the 17:42, but I know what to expect.

Roll on 27th!

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.