…And The Topic Swiftly Turned to Food…

This morning I booked a return flight back to Indonesia, for September.  My ’30th birthday present to myself’, I really wanted to go somewhere special to mark a milestone birthday this year, and it was only ever going to be Indonesia.

The country is my spiritual home, where the journey started five years ago, and every now and then when I feel that the spiritual vaccine I received back then may be beginning to wear off – filed away by the emery board of the largely superficial and impatient mainstream Western culture – I know that to go back for a booster jab would probably be wise.

Indonesia, you and I have a lot to catch up on. I’m excited to spend some quality time in your Equatorial heat with some of my favourite natives of yours again, and almost just as importantly, to indulge in some of your finest snacks that we simply don’t have over here….

…like cimol-cimol, those squishy, doughy, balls that are coated in a spicy cheesy powder and come served in polythene bags which you purchase from a street vendor… cimol cimol

…and Fanta-SuSu – the drink that happily attacks the arteries but is too tasty for us to care – strawberry-flavoured Fanta (WHY aren’t you in the UK yet!) poured over a thick bed of sweet condensed milk…

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…speaking of Fanta-SuSu…. it’s probably best consumed when juxtaposed with a beach-barbequed corn on the cob that has first been rolled around in some chilli-powder before being placed on the grill…

Donation Day 007

…and speaking of beaches, what about ‘Es Buah Rumput Laut’…a name which translates exactly as ‘Ice Fruit Seaweed’… so called because this sweet, milky, icy dessert is full of pieces of fruity gelatin pieces – some of which resemble bits of seaweed in appearance….an acquired taste, but an interesting one…

rumput laut

There’s also the pandan cake, a favourite at Indonesian birthday and wedding parties.  It looks just like a regular sponge, and for the most part, it is.  Except for the crucial difference that it’s BRIGHT GREEN.  Made using the leaves of the pandan – a tropical plant popular in South Asia – pandan cake is similar in flavour to coconut, with a few hints of citrus as well.  And because the cake is naturally green, it’s healthy right?!

pandancake

…and last but not least, my absolute favourite, the ultimate, martabak manis … a description of which could never do it justice, but I’ll try… greasy, sponge-y, cheesy, chocolate-y, nutty, sweetcorn-y BEAUTY… even though it may sound anything but… trust me on this…

martabakmanis And these are just a few. I’m pretty sure that what with globalisation and all that jazz, any – if not all – of the items listed above will one day be available here in the UK, similar to how the likes of sushi, beef jerky and sweet-chilli dipping sauce have migrated in recent years to populate the aisles of M&S.

Well, I certainly hope so.

It’s a long way to go for a bit of cimol-cimol otherwise….

Song of the Day:  The Electro Swingers – Victorian Dream

Reasons to love electro swing #4291.  Happy and amusing music.

A 13 Hour Flight from Singapore…

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I have recently returned from a holiday in South-East Asia visiting Cambodia and a wee bit of Vietnam.  For two wonderful weeks, I was back doing the thing I love doing the most in life – travelling – an activity in which you feel constantly sensualised from the relentless exposure to ‘the new’ – new sights, new faces, new knowledge, new sounds, new tastes – all of which open your mind to new ideas and food for thought (often literally) that you can carry back home in your luggage to try and apply in places more familiar.

I remember hearing a wonderful analogy about this once.  A native of a land coloured yellow went to a land coloured blue, and when they eventually returned home, what had previously been unquestionably yellow was now appearing green… different, yet the land itself had not physically changed at all…

I have found the past few days particularly challenging in trying to convince myself that my holiday was not just the dream that reality’s return tries to make me believe it was, but this post isn’t really about that…  instead I wanted to share the story of an aspect of my journey home…

I had to catch two flights in order to arrive back in the UK (oh how I wished that either had have to have been cancelled indefinitely, allowing me to extend my break!).  The second of these flights was a rather ominous sounding 13 hour jaunt from Singapore to London.  Indubitably it was my least favourite part of the entire two weeks, even worse than the diarrhoea, but in it’s own little way it served as a memorable vignette of modern day living…

Having initially boarded the plane, I noticed that a middle-aged couple were sat in my allocated seat, which happened to be in the first row of Economy class – a cheeky little row where you get a bit of extra leg-room and – according to the chap who eventually took up the seat next to me – “more chance of an upgrade – if there are too many babies on board they have to take these seats and so those who were meant to be there can be moved somewhere better!”.  The middle-aged couple were disgruntled to learn that the seats which they were sat in were not actually theirs, and reluctantly shuffled out and into the row behind.  “This is ridiculous”, said Mrs Moody, “we paid extra for these seats”.  Her husband concurred, whilst I stood awkwardly feeling a niggling sense of guilt at the commotion I had inadvertently caused just by heading towards the seat number printed on my boarding pass.

Mr and Mrs Moody continued to huff and puff once they’d sat down behind me, with Mrs Moody’s disdain further being exacerbated by her discovery that her in-flight entertainment system was not working.  Mr Moody caught the attention of a passing flight-attendant – “We would just like to LOG the FACT that the in-flight entertainment system is NOT working.”

“Sir, we have not even started moving yet, the systems need to configure….” came the reply of the flight-attendant.

A few moments later I felt a tap on my shoulder.  Mr Moody had removed my rucksack from underneath my seat and was thrusting it at me:

“Is this your bag?! When you sit on THAT row, you have to put ALL your belongings in the overhead LOCKERS!” – this piece of information was accompanied by a forefinger motioning upwards, in case for some reason my bag-related error of judgment also meant that I was incapable of working out whereabouts an overhead locker may be located – outside perhaps?

I took the bag and fulfilled Mr Moody’s wishes before sitting back down and beginning to read my book.  Compressed air caught me out, and I started to cough.  Quite a lot.  Loudly.

“For goodness sake!” I overheard Mr Moody retort from directly behind me, whilst feeling a sharp nudge into my back, “This just gets better and better.  We end up in the wrong seats, the in-flight entertainment system doesn’t work, there’s a baby crying over there and now we’ve got somebody with a bloody cough!”

By this point I was beginning to seriously tire of Mr and Mrs Moody’s ongoing huffiness and was once again grateful for the invention of headphones and their ability to drown out external racket.  I spent most of the flight listening to music, sleeping, or speaking with the man next to me, who continued to impart useful bits of information.  He was a lovely man who was very well-traveled due to his work as a theatrical director, and it’s characters like this – who you meet only briefly, and certainly not long enough to exchange contacts – who add to the fun of travel:

“This is the second longest flight that British Airways will provide “, he said, “the longest is London to Buenos Aires.  That one is 16 hours.”

“This is the best sort of time (22:55) to catch this kind  of flight.  Because it requires so much fuel, they always have to replenish it in good time.  These flights are almost never delayed, and because you reach London in the early hours of the morning, you’ll barely ever be queuing for too long at Passport Control”

“When travelling in a developing country you should always have a bowl of local yogurt for breakfast.  The bacteria will immunise you from any illness you might acquire from the food, drink or climate”

“South Africa is one of the most dangerous places to travel.  A lot of people end up being mugged there…I experienced it myself in Johannesburg, they aim for your feet, and once there they try and trip you up.  The worst way in which you can react is by trying to defend your face from any punches.  A lot of these attackers are high on drugs that have impaired their vision… if they see you cover your face, to them it will appear as though you’re trying to punch them back, and that’s when they might get the weapons out”

When not speaking to this chap, listening to music, reading my book, or sleeping, I would occasionally overhear further snippets from the jolly row behind.  At around 2am I heard Mr and Moody complaining about the seats still.

And then at 4am.

And 4.30am.

When it had become time to recline my seat a bit in order to try and snooze, suffice to say that the movement was met with another groan…

The complaints came to a head at 5am, shortly before the flight was due to land, when Mr Moody accosted the flight-attendant once more to express his disapproval, “we paid SPECIFICALLY for those seats, but that’s not what our boarding pass says”

Whilst I do understand Mr and Mrs Moody’s frustrations, what annoyed me was that – in a typically British way – they treated what in the grand scheme of things was a minor inconvenience as akin to a worldly crisis, ranting and raving more about their seats than anything else throughout the entire flight.  Where had Mr and Mrs Moody just been?  On holiday?  Visiting friends?  Where were they going?  Home?  Back to loved ones? Surely that they had something, anything else to spend 13 hours talking about, for the sake of their own sanity let alone anybody else’s.

As the plane eventually reached it’s resting place I turned to the man next to me and commented on how surprisingly pleasant the flight had been given it’s long duration.  “The extra-legroom was a bonus” we agreed.  Mr and Mrs Moody were swift to disembark whilst I tried to locate my shoes.  For extra comfort, I’d removed them at the start of my journey and placed them underneath my seat, next to the rucksack that Mr Moody would later remind me to put in the overheard lockers.  I could not immediately locate my shoes, but on closer inspection noticed them firmly wedged, as if by an irritated human force, between the seats where Mr Moody had been sat.

Welcome Home….

This Is Why Travelling Will Always Be One Of My Priorities

(Photos from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua)

Every time I tell myself that each big trip will be my last, on the basis that I’m “getting too old and need to save the money for things like mortgages and cars” I know that I am lying to myself, and that I am allowing societal pressure to ‘settle down’ to try and deprive me of doing what it is I enjoy doing the most.

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In reality, though, I think travel is one of the most important things for anyone in the world to do.  The daily routine – whether or not you enjoy yours – is an endless cycle of pretty much the same thing every single day, and it’s important to have a bit of different perspective every now and then – to look at your life from a different angle and ask yourself whether or not you’re really happy with the way things are going or perhaps if there is something in your life that could benefit from change.

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Central America – with its beautiful and unique flora and fauna, tropical wildlife and colourful characters has been the perfect place in which to spend a fortnight away, and in an ideal world I would never have purchased a return ticket.

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But for now I just have to treasure and appreciate the memories and look at my big ol’ World Map and work out where to go next.

Four Airports

Gatwick airport

Not many kinds of building will evoke emotions quite like an airport.

Primarily, airports, to me, equate to long-distance travel, and that is always a good thing, right?

Of course.  You cannot travel to the other side of the world without visiting an airport first, but instead of always wanting to celebrate their existence there’s something about them that seems so wrenching to me when they come to mind.

I’ve noticed that my emotions never feel truly balanced on each and any occasion I’m in an airport, and I think it’s that – moreso than the widely maligned concept of queues and customs – that makes my stomach feel so heavy when I think about them.   There’s always a hello or a goodbye involved.  There’s always distance involved.

I do think there is a massive difference in one’s perception of the airport depending on whether they are travelling alone or with others.  When you’re travelling alone, you have no other option but to spectate and truly absorb what’s going on around you, whereas amongst company the trajectory of thought is decided for you by your companions – conversations about what so and so said or whether or not we’ve packed enough soap.  The naked intensity of the airport is tranquilised by the presence of familiar faces and discussions reflecting day-to-day life…but you don’t have that if you’re alone.

The following observations stem from my experiences of travelling solo.

We start with airport number 1.  Our origin, gateway to a dream.  Upon entrance our minds are full of the half a dozen things we are sure we must have forgotten to pack.  We work out whereabouts we’re meant to stand and then we queue.  We say sayonara to our luggage and use our newly free hands to go and  grab a coffee.  We wait. We watch.  We look at all of the other people in the airport and wonder where they’re going and for what reason.  The airport is a microcosm of diversity and we are surrounded by skins of all shades, hear voices of all accents and see whole varieties of dress.  We are mesmerised by it.  We remember how big the world is and smile to ourselves.

The excitement of impending departure causes us to be restless, and we pin our eyes to the Departure boards dreading the sudden emergence of bright red text next to the name of our destination which will signify that there is a problem with our flight.

Things become more real once we are motioned to the gate.  We familiarise with the departure lounge and finally allow the feeling of excitement to pulsate through every single cell in our body.  We think about all of the memorable things we’re going to be doing in the days ahead.  New places to discover.  New people to meet.  New feelings to feel.

The second airport.  “Finally!!” We arrive.  We are jet-lagged.  Turbulence has left us unable to hear a thing and the bright lights which we saw mapping out the city below us have left us feeling romanticised and our hearts beating faster.  This is it.  We are here.  Exiting the plane, sounds become muffled.  Everything seems so much more luminous.  We are tired, but we are excited.  Our mouths are dry and we look haggard but the thrill of being somewhere new is shuffling us towards border control.

Hello there, stern-faced man at the barriers.  The first person I will speak to in this new country.  Here is my passport, there is my nut on the page so that you can verify it’s me – adhering to regulations by looking completely blank and expressionless. No hair over the face.  No headwear.  No glasses.  You look at me intensely to check it’s really me, and then you motion me onward, over to baggage reclaim, where I wait.  For an eternity.  Dreading that mine will be the last case to come out, or that it won’t come out at all.

Just like the panic in Jakarta July 2012, when that hand-drawn sign saying ‘End’ appeared on the conveyer belt but my suitcase was nowhere to be seen.  There was panicked jumping onto the belt to expediate my journey to the other side of the room where I thought I could see my bag, security chastising me for this, but it didn’t matter because I was happy to have located my suitcase, unrecognisable from losing it’s multi-coloured strap I put there for identity purposes.  Thank Heavens, they’ll get their presents, and I have enough underwear to last the trip.

And then: We leave.  Out into the open air.  The foreign air.  The foreign smells.  The foreign noises.
That wonderful feeling of not knowing where you are… and it is a wonderful feeling despite not sounding so, because it ensures that everything that is about to happen to us will be a complete surprise.  We bathe in the blood-rush and this new wave of excitement will be both the fuel and the guide that our jet-lagged bodies need to reach the hotel,  The adventure begins.

These first two airports of the journey will represent the best memories and emotions of the lot.

But then there’s the return, a journey we will eventually have to make, when the airport takes on a completely new context, and emanates a completely different vibe.  Airport number three is the worst one. We turn up tired and the building is no longer a gateway to new dreams and memories, but an arduous formality that stinks of cleaning fluids and concentrated clusters of fast-food outlets.  But we don’t really notice any of that because our thoughts and emotions have been sidetracked by a feeling of hollowness.  A feeling as though we are missing something.  A feeling as though we have left something remarkable behind.  It could be a person.  It could be a place.  It could be an over-friendly street-cat that you passed each morning on your way to the market, or it could be the wistful way that the man selling roti by the side of the road looked at you in hope of your custom as he sat alongside a dozen others selling the same thing.  Whatever it is, you can almost find yourself searching for it in your handbag, because it feels like it should be with you.

Airport number three brings out the worst in us.  It was a hard goodbye to people who are no longer by our sides.  This is the worst thing about travelling alone.  At least when you’re with
other people, you can commiserate one another and reminisce the trip.  When you’re alone and you’ve passed through those doors, that’s it.  You have a long-haul journey ahead of you
in which you will speak to nobody… bar maybe the flight attendant when you confirm you want the chicken option, or the person next to you when you need to pass them in order to get to the toilet.  That’s it.

I have to say… sometimes the goodbyes have been so hard to do that it’s made a small part of me wonder if things would’ve been easier had I not gone at all.  Airports can make that moment so much worse.
The harsh bright lights shining over your sole suitcase.
The doors, heavy and damning.
New friends waving… and then disappearing, gone, from view.
Sitting having a coffee alone trying to use up the last of your foreign notes and the tears are welling up, but you’re more exposed when you’re crying alone.  You cannot bury your head into the shoulder of a friend.  Strangers stare at you with that expression of awkward sympathy.

When the plane takes off you look at the labyrinth-of-a-city below and wonder if the things you will always remember from that place will remember you too, or whether or not you’ll
be forgotten just as soon as the next visitor touches down.  You wonder if you’ll ever set foot on those streets again and possibly find yourself promising to yourself that you will.  A coping mechanism that will make this departure a little easier to bear.  You get your camera out from your handbag and browse through all the photos you took just to keep the flame of this trip burning for that little bit longer.

After what seems like an eternity of floating around in the troposphere, we eventually reach airport number four.  How you feel about that one depends on how long you’ve been away.  If it’s been a considerable amount of time, airport number four is the emblem of a homecoming enriched with pride and excitement.  Visions attached to the warming thoughts of roast dinners, hot water, English pubs and timber-framed buildings with uneven floorboards.  The smell of cloves and potpourri.  Family and friends.

However, if your absence has been much shorter term, we tend to attach thoughts of all the negative parts about the homeland.  Rain.  Dark Monday evenings in Winter.  A conservative society in which saying hello to stranger as you pass them on the street is considered abnormal or overbearing.  Documentaries about our binge-drinking culture.  Formalities.
We still love home, of course, but it lacks that element of surprise.  We know it too well.  Too often it slips into the rhythm of repetitive routine, because we allow it to.

And the fourth airport is the damning rubber stamp to this realisation.

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The 5 Most Annoying Things About My Commute

The railway line between Canterbury West and Ashford International may as well be a secondary address of mine.

As a rough estimate, I have made the journey 536 times within the past year and a half since I started working in Ashford.  (That’s something like £2200 spent on the pleasure of travelling with South Eastern trains – whom incidentally I hold solely responsible for this year’s motivation to start learning to drive again).  Over time the journey has become somewhat etched into my mind, and each time the train sets off from Canterbury I prepare myself to look out for the various mapping points that will define it: the creepy water tower of the former St Augustine’s asylum which looms out of the distant trees to your left shortly before you pull into Chartham, the amusingly titled Bagham Barn antiques at Chilham, the peculiar building next to the station at Wye that looks like some kind of gigantic sweetener dispenser, and the house near Ashford that has a bunch of school-lockers in the back garden, to name but a few.

By all means, it’s not an aesthetically unpleasant journey.  The sun setting over the North Downs Way often serves as a wonderful way to welcome in the weekend after a busy week of work; and likewise in Winter – when the morning mist rises up from the Great Stour against a backdrop of stone-washed sky – I find myself being thankful to the fact that I am now living in the Garden of England and not the junkyard of London.  The train journey from Watford into the capital was never as beautiful as this, and on those trains you also had to contend with a couple of other unpleasantries, namely the overpowering stench of the Wrigleys Orbit remains that had been idly stuck to the bottom of the seats, and a view out of a window the pane of which had been obliterated by rude words innocuously engraved into the plastic.

Yet despite the pleasant surrounds of the Kentish commute, there is something resoundingly tiresome about this journey – something that has somewhat invisibly gnawed away at me over the past few months, eventuating in my desire to drive a car to work instead – but what is it?

Recently, I have begun to identify those recurring themes; not just those permanent features on the other side of the window but those within – those things that gradually build up and start to define my daily experiences with South Eastern trains – those most annoying things about my commute.

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1)  People Who Have Exceptionally Loud Conversations

Either attached to a mobile phone or sat with companions, these are some of the worst kind of people to share a commute with.

I try not to let it affect me.  Time and time again you’ll find me celebrating whichever entity first invented the noise-isolating earphone; but occasionally I must endure those tragic moments when the battery of my MP3 player goes flat leaving me with nothing to entertain my ears besides the warbling racket of other peoples’ conversations.  I often think I would prefer to listen to an orchestral medley of chainsaws, vacuum hoovers and Adele rather than other peoples’ conversations, and here are some recent examples of overheard snippets that can perhaps demonstrate why:

“So e’s sent me this teeeeeeeext, and it says, ‘You’re so fick that if you puked up Alphabettispaghetti you still wouldn’t be able to spell a word’ “

The worst thing about the above – besides the fact it was emitted into the air at such a tumultuous, honking volume – is that it doesn’t even make sense.  Errr…I don’t think that even Einstein himself had a talented knack for regurgitating pasta snacks at Spelling Bees, but whatever.  What do I know! Either way, such dialogue fails to romantically juxtapose the rolling hills surrounding us, so hush to you – girl in glasses who is speaking loudly!

“SHE WAS ALL OVER ME ON SATURDAY NIGHT!!” – Caps Lock to demonstrate the volume with which one particular man on the 06:50 to St Pancras the other week declared his weekend activity to his friend.  As far as I could see, the friend didn’t seem to be attached to anything resembling an auditory aid, so I can only assume that the desired audience for this cacophonous broadcast was not just him, but the rest of the carriage too.  Listen up, everybody on the train!  We have a studmuffin in our midst.  Kent today, Playboy Mansion tomorrow!

“Mummayyy, I need a big toilet…Mummayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, MUUUUUMAYYYYYYY!!!!”
For Christs sake, little kid.  You may be sweet and innocent and all that jazz, but this is not the kind of vocal accompaniment that my music needs.  Wait until you get to Canterbury West where, in a Russian roulette of sorts, you may pick the one toilet which locks properly, has loo-roll AND isn’t clogged up in order to relieve yourself.  For now, please pipe down, and hold it in!

I would at this moment in time again like to give thanks to my MP3 player which most of the time manages to obscure the above sounds, hence making this perhaps one of the least-most annoying things about my commute.

2) Getting Stuck Behind People in Impractical Footwear

Most people want to look smart and professional in the office, I get that, but the office and the commute are two totally different landscapes, the latter of which will almost always host a whole variety of hazardous gradients and terrains.  I am always baffled by women who may look the picture of professionalism in their suits and killer-heels, but who when alighting the train begin to morph into towering wind turbines that sway around, looking as though they could topple over at any minute from a misplaced step.

As they wait for the doors to slide open, you can see them nervously clenching firmly onto the handles, before stepping out slowly onto the platform.  Once balanced and composed, they begin to walk on – slowly – footstep by tiny footstep.  It is painful viewing; I often fear for an onslaught of wind that may blow them over completely.  That just cannot be comfortable, right? Heels so high they could be lopped off and used as skewers for pieces of seasoned lamb and shallots.  It becomes annoying when I find myself stuck behind these women as they totter slowly down the stairs at Canterbury West – arms outstretched to gain the kind of balance that would have any yoga teacher screaming “ASTANGA VINYASA!” in horror, leaving no room for anybody else to get past,just as I’m itching to get home after a long day… It all makes me wonder, why don’t they just do what most sensible people do and swap their shoes around then they get to work?

A pair of trainers and a comfortable power-walk home will, for me, always outweigh a need to look sexy, professional and….stupid, when stumbling down the stairs at the station.

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3) Bicycles

Ok.  I like bicycles.  I like the idea behind bicycles.  I like the dish who looks a bit like Scots musician Colin McIntyre who takes his on the 06:50 to St Pancras, who I shared an elevator with once after we both alighted at Ashford (It was not the romantic liaison it sounds, he scowled at me throughout our descent and I’m still not entirely sure why). Indeed, I sometimes take a bicycle on the train myself if I feel like cycling instead of walking either side of the train, so I’m not going to bash the idea completely.

But none of this atones for the fact that bicycles on trains can be a massive pain in the arse, particularly when their owners seem to be inconsiderate of other passengers who need to get off the train before they do, leaving their vehicles propped up against the carriage doors whilst they stay sat down, staring out the window whilst sweating into their Lycras and daydreaming about bicycle pumps.

And then later on, when leaving the station, they will choose to carry it up or down the flights of stairs away from the platform – its tyres like flailing ferris wheels that wave around mid-air, threatening to concuss any of those around them at any given moment.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this one of the reasons why we have elevators at train stations now?!

4)  Automated Apologies for Late-Running Services

The saddest part is that even now, within the comfort of my own home, I can hear that sentence in my head as vividly as if I was hearing it at Ashford International station, in real-time, as I so often seem to be:

“We are sorry to advise that the *manually insert train time here* from St Pancras International is delayed by approximately *15 minutes*.  South Eastern apologises for any inconvenience caused by the late-running of this train.”

I’m not sure who the lady is that records these automated messages but by Christ, what with this and doing something similar for the likes of BT and Orange, as well as announcing each individual stop on the London Underground, she must barely get anytime for herself, and any respite she does have is probably spent sat at home sucking on a throat lozenge after a busy day’s chatting shite to consumers.

I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago that announcements made at train stations were made by actual people who actually sat at the station, monitoring each of the goings on?  I recall my sister telling me about the time a human voice boomed at her over a loudspeaker, instructing her not to lean against a flower-feature whilst waiting for a train at Northwick Park Underground station sometime in the late 1990s.  Can you imagine such personal supervision taking place in this day and age?  I for sure can’t; and those automated messages, whilst indubitably relieving the vocal cords of somebody, somewhere within England’s great rail system, only compound those feelings of frustration and rage that a tardy train can cause to the commuter.

Any enlightened individual will know that South Eastern trains couldn’t really give two flying figs about the inconveniences that have been caused in instances like this, that’s why they send generic response lady to deliver those faux-emblazoned messages of remorse.  And that – more so than the additional waiting time itself – is what makes delayed train services so irritating.

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5)  Pointless coffee purchases

Any sketch of the modern day commuter will likely feature a briefcase in one of his or her hands, and a paper cup of coffee in the other.  Indeed, in the years since trains have been a popular mode of travel by which to get to work, the barista on the platform and the paper cup of coffee have managed to evolve into a staple part of the daily commute.

If you can afford it, that is.  I’m not sure of the current prices, but I do know that as of January 2012, when I became a commuter, the going-rate was something like £2 for a thimble of coffee – a shockingly deep excavation into my purse for such a small quantity of liquid.  Furthermore, I couldn’t even enjoy it in the way I was hoping to.  In the twenty minutes between Canterbury West and Ashford on the first day of my new job, my caffeinated thimble had still not cooled to a temperature low enough to drink without doing some serious damage to my tongue.  I took my drink with me when I alighted the train and thought about how at least I’d be able to enjoy it on the walk to my new office.  Unfortunately, the black ice on the pavement at the brow of the railway bridge I was crossing had other plans.  Within minutes of getting off the train, my thimble of coffee was spilled out all over the pavement close to my pink earmuffs about 5 yards from where I was sat writhing in pain from a fall that has probably left me infertile.  Indeed, this coffee was the epitome of a pointless purchase, and I vowed to never bother buying another again.

For me at least, that sketch of the modern day commuter rings untrue, and the disappointment that I cannot at least accompany such a monotonous journey with a cup of my favourite hot beverage forms the final of the most annoying things about my commute.

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So there we are, the five things that have managed to define my daily commute through their ongoing existence in or around the train.  Five of the things which I considered shortly before deciding to learn to drive again.  Five of the things which – if ever I do get my driving license – I will not miss in the slightest.

I have no doubt that the A28 and I will become the best of friends.

Famous last words!?

Song of the Day:  Mother Mother – Ghosting

Canadian indie-rockers Mother Mother have provided a musical accompaniment to my commute on many a journey, with this tune being particularly well-played lately.

World Music, Real World Music!

Question:  What kind of musical performance do you get when you mix together the Indonesian, the Pakistani, the Kuwaiti-Canadian, the Vietnamese, the Dutch, the Taiwanese and the British?
Answer:  This incredibly catchy albeit repetitive tune composed ad hoc three years ago in a friend’s uncle’s house near Bukittinggi, West Sumatra.

Simple song, simple melody, simple lyrics, unforgettable moment.