My body performed it’s usual magic trick of waking up a few moments before the pre-programmed alarm clock this morning. I silently switched it off, and crept down-stairs. All clean underwear was on the folded washing mountain downstairs (which may fall on somebody one day, and necessitate a caving team to dig them out of the underwear, sock, and bra landslide), so I crept downstairs half-naked, hoping the children would not magically wake up and catch me running past with my hands over my bits and pieces.
I got away with it.
Half an hour later I was through the shower, and had wandered to the local petrol station (gas station, if you are in the US), which happens to also double as a grocery story. I returned home with bread, ham, cheese, olive spread, and various other items to help assemble lunchboxes for the children. Given my pressing schedule to get through the morning routine and get to the railway station, guess who naturally ended up in the queue being served by the guy that had never worked on a checkout before? He got elbowed out of the way while randomly trying to re-program the entire system by accident.
Things went downhill fast at home, with Miss 13 refusing to get out of bed. I half heard the threats and screams of “I HATE YOU” from the kitchen, and didn’t really dare show my face. Apparently she went to school at lunchtime, and has had the world taken from her – no phone, no video games, no television, and so on – for quite a few days. I left for the railway station, not really knowing how things were going to pan out.
After a number of trains that miraculously connected, I arrived at a far-flung railway station bedecked in a warm coat, and my Hufflepuff scarf. While walking across the station concourse a voice shouted out “GOOD MORNING!”. I looked around, and saw a girl working in a coffee stand waving at me with a huge smile. It turned out she had recognised the scarf, and grinned the entire time she made me a coffee.
I’m not really sure how the economics of rail travel work, but somehow I was one of about five people that boarded a ten carriage train towards my destination. If we conservatively estimate that each carriage can probably carry a hundred people, the train was something like 0.05% filled. How does that even happen?
It’s perhaps worth mentioning that part of my journey involved walking really rather quickly between two stations in Windsor – where Her Majesty the Queen lives. I skirted the edge of the castle between the stations, and marvelled at the numbers of American and Japanese tourists milling around – even at that time in the morning. I didn’t think to look at the flagpole to see if she was in or not.
After several hours on-site (which… yada yada yada… I can’t tell you about), every single train failed to connect on the way home. I ended up standing around on railway station platforms, messaging a distant friend that I’ve not spoken to in ages. She distracted me for much of the journey, until I arrived at a nearby station and realised I had not eaten anything all day (I still haven’t – I’m being good, and hanging on until dinner).
I wandered over to the coffee stand on the railway station platform, and was greeted by perhaps the most cheerful, talkative, nosy barista I have ever known. While making me a cappuccino, she asked after my day, laughed, made conversation, and seemed genuinely interested in me – right up until she handed me the finished drink, and immediately switched focus to the next customer – like flicking a switch.
I sat with my coffee in the waiting room of the station, with half an hour to kill until the next train. There were perhaps ten of us sitting around the room, sheltering from the bitterly cold wind outside. One lady that was talking quietly on the phone suddenly exclaimed something that caused the entire room to fall silent:
“MANSLAUGHTER? But I thought it was only going to be actual bodily harm!?”
She carried on talking on her phone, and the rest of us looked at each other wide eyed. Had we really just heard that?
The resulting silence was eventually broken by the arrival of local schoolchildren – catching the train home to the various stations en-route. They arrived like a noisy, disruptive wave of litter and swearing – the children of wealthy parents that live out of town in the leafy suburbs. I started counting iPhones (they were only 12 or 13 years old on average), and lost count. The conversations annoyed me so much I put my headphones on – quite how so few children could sound so entitled and precocious was staggering, to be honest.
I listened to the new P!nk album for the next half hour, and was kind of relieved when we finally pulled into my home station. The train doors opened, and another wall of school children – all wearing red ties – poured onto the train before anybody could get off. One young man – a wonderful example to the rest – shouted “GET THOSE FUCKIN’ SEATS” in the deepest, most angry rant he could muster. Lovely. I’m noting the tie colour so anybody who does know who I am, and who does know where I live will be able to connect the tie directly to the Grammar school from whence it came.
While walking home from the station, my day was neatly finished off by witnessing a colossal 4×4 blocking access to the local doctor’s surgery, flashing his “I can park anywhere” lights. Entitled assholes like that annoy me enormously. Turning the corner towards home, I was then nearly run into by a grown man riding his bike on the path, with no lights, no helmet, and no reflective clothing. I dived into the shrubs alongside the path to avoid immediate injury, and he carried on along his way – in the moments afterwards I daydreamed about putting a stick through his spokes, or leaping in front of the bike accidentally on purpose – injuring us both in the process.
“Oh, I’m sorry you appear to have broken your teeth off on my work laptop – if you hadn’t been cycling on the path with no helmet on, and no lights, that might not have happened…”
I believe the French have a phrase to describe the things you wish you had done or said in the moments after an event. I must learn it.