Archive for the 'people watching' Category

Commuter love – #6

Are the folk on the train listening to music with their DJ cans on carrying Bose CD players tucked inside their denims? If they’re listening to 128 Kbps mp3s on their iPod then it’s a bit like drinking 2.99 Tesco Chardonnay from a crystal goblet.

Or maybe they just think they look cool. Blimey I should probably let them know they don’t.

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Commuter love – #3

I always feel like I’m approaching some kind of epiphany when I’m on the train.

As if the sleepy, hungover crowds of humanity surrounding me are leading me into some kind of deeper understanding of the unbearable lightness of being a pretentious twat… Or something like that.

I heard Keller preach about how people talk about the sacrifice it takes to pursue a ministry in the city where you’re surrounded by concrete and lots of horrible ignorant people and ways of life. He declares that all that is nonsense because in the cities we find ourselves surrounded by the most beautiful part of all god’s creation – human beings.

Since hearing that I find myself watching people on the train with slightly less of the pictured attitude and more thinking about the jokes they tell and the parent that loved them and the child that adores them and all the happiness and joy that surrounds their lives. No doubt there’s plenty of pain and misery and regrets in there but even that makes them more human than anonymous commuting will.

[Picture Via XKCD (of course)]

Commuter love – #2

If you stand in the same place at the same time often enough on regular occaisons you start noticing other people doing the same thing.

Other people for whom the regular occupancy of this piece of platform at this time is a long repeated pattern.

You get to know their faces and dress codes. You get to thinking about what they do that has them there everyday.

I notice their books. I notice the progress they make and I try to judge whether they only read the book while commuting or if it makes it to bed with them each night before they fall asleep.

If this was a party of a friend you’d go up to them and say frendly ice breaking things like “how do you know so” and “what do you do with yourself most of the time.”

But you don’t do that in railway stations. The only reason people do that is to distract them while someone steals something out of their bag. Either that or you must be attracted to them and you’re making some kind of move.

We’re deeply uncomfortable with ‘idle’ chat. I know I am. As much as I’d like not to be.

I think it must be some hangover from stranger danger mantra that was drummed into me at a young age.

If I get over myself I’ll just go up to them and say “well what did you think of the book?”

Commuter Love – # 1

People who do this do it not quite for a living but it is part of what they do. They know the train timetables inside out.

They know that to get a seat on 1638 you need to be standing along the yellow line when the 1635 arrives.

That way when the 1638 arrives you’re in a prime spot. You can look at people’s faces and watch as they calculate the rate of deceleration as the train pulls into the station. Each person making tiny adjustments to their position to give them the best chance of being in front of the sliding doors when the train stops.

There’s a surge forward as the doors open, terrifying the daunted commuters trying to dismount the carriage. A few kind souls make way for the dismounting passengers but positionally this is a fatal move. The scrum invades the carriage and these poor kindly folk will be standing the whole journey.

Inside the carriage swords are drawn, ears are cut off and tiny gasps of victory and dissappointment are heard as the cushioned bounty is snapped up.

Papers are opened iPods are turned up in volume and some seem to be asleep even before the doors have closed

The rest of us poor sods content ourselves with findingthe best pole to lean against while some venture to stand along side the priviledge seaters in case one gets off at an early stop and they can claim their seat.

Just before the doors close there’s the frantic arrival of those guys who always leave it to the last minute. Like indiana jones they turn back at the last minute to tuck the end of their scarf between the closing doors.

They look around for admiration and only find subdued boredom and they realise that arriving sweaty to a tin can of soon to be sweaty humans is bad form.

I shift from foot to foot and open my book.

London Calling [Part 1]

When I came back from NZ, I put a self-imposed moratorium on travelling. That I wouldn’t leave the country for a year or two. This on the background of 7 or 8 years of globetrotting, and more CO2 emissions than you could shake a stick at. To be honest, I don’t really mind, I love Ireland, I don’t see the point in going on holiday anywhere else (now living somewhere else – that’s a different story…) – all I wanna do is drive round Ireland in the Volvo and sleep on the beach. Ireland rules. Anyhow

So I’m in London.

Which doesn’t really count as leaving the country. Even though I’m travelling on an Irish passport to the UK and leaving the fair isle of Eire. I never really strictly defined the old moratorium on travelling anyhow.

2 months into the new job – me and young Dr Carson have abandoned the A&E department for 6 years to swan round London, sit in coffee shops and… oh yes go to a couple of medical emergencies courses….

So with terrible preparation of a night on call with 4 hours sleep, followed by a day’s work, an evening out with the ever wonderful JHOs (the guys I did my first year as a doc with) and another 4 hours sleep on Knoker’s floor in Belfast.

I sort of remember the flight over here, though I was a tad on the sleepy side. I woke up in Liverpool St Station. I remember that. I still love travelling alone, I still love airports and coffee shops and newspapers and sitting in the corner watching everyone.

Medical courses are odd. Full of coffee, croissants, data projectors, consultants in “casuals”, all of us there listening to lectures on lists of data of primary PCI vs thrombolysis and when to use a glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitor – and all of us really quite enjoying it. People like us should be kept in small groups in seminar rooms and not let into the real world I know.

img_2715Slightly overloaded on cardiology, we roamed the streets of London, soaking up the atmosphere (as I soaked up the damp through the shoes I tried to super glue back together) of London in the run up to Christmas.

We stumbled upon Trafalagar square just in time for the switching on of the Christmas lights on the Norwegian Christmas tree. Apparently it’s been a tradition that the Norwegians have given us a big tree every year since our timely assistance in the second world war. Though I’ve read some Churchill and I’m pretty sure we invaded Norway at one point – the Norwegians were glad yes, but we definitely invaded them… Anyhow.

Boris was there. Boris rules. I’d vote for Boris. Boris was funny.

There was a terrible rendition of some classic carols – the choir and Sally Annes were good, it was just the crowd that was feeble. Times have changed I suppose.

By 7pm i was fading fast, and Gilly’s dodgy “one leg longer than the other” wasn’t doing him any favours either. img_2719

I booked into my hotel (50 a night with “shared bathroom outside room” – i didn’t expect much and i’m not disappointed. Oh well, the door locks at least…) and took a brief dander round to Russell Square and found a pub to write this and use the internet (finally pretty much everywhere in London has free internet).

So i’m back where I’m happy, in the corner with the tunes going, people-watching. Of the three tables near me, only one group are speaking English. There’s a group of young eastern europeans sitting next to me having a drink. This is fascinating. Why? Because most everywhere you go it’s usually the Eastern Europeans serving in the bar, not drinking in it. It’s good to see that maybe times are changing.

Right it’s 9pm, time to sleep me thinks.


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