Train Dead

Brighton Station

Stories from the half-life…
London Ad Agency account director and long-time
West Hill resident Andrew Osborne-Smythe shares his
philosophy of commuting and how he deals with the
trials and tribulations of the 7.15am daily commute to London.

I’ve been commuting to London for sixteen and a half years and consider myself to be pretty damn good at it. Don’t listen to the idiot, pseudo shrinks who say that commuting makes you neurotic – nonsense. If you take the correct attitude, adopt the right philosophy it’s actually quite a pleasurable experience. It’s me-time; time for me to carefully compose my early morning emails on my iPad, which I send when I get to Wandsworth Common. On the way back, also time for me to answer the emails which, annoyingly, come in after I leave the office at 6pm.

Monday to Friday, my commute starts from West Hill Road at 7:00 and I generally arrive at Brighton Station by 7:03, to take my seat comfortably in the penultimate carriage, third row from the front, on the inside seat, left-hand side, on the 7:15 to Victoria. This part of the journey passes by without incident, mostly. I take the ‘fast lane’ down Guildford Road (on the actual road) as the pavement is always blocked by various stragglers, incompetents and downright bag-dragging imbeciles who have no idea how to walk properly and stick to their bit of the pavement. Sometimes I’m faced with an annoying vehicle coming up the road, mostly cabs driving responsibly, who don’t get too fazed by my presence on the driver’s side of the road, but more often than not it is the environment-wrecking, mindless, lift-giving partners of inefficient commuters who can’t get to the station by other more considerate and healthy means. YOU ARE DRIVING A CAR NOT A SHERMAN TANK! THERE IS PLENTY OF ROOM FOR A VEHICLE AND A COMMUTER ON GUILDFORD ROAD. YOU TWITS!


I’m not one to hang around the concourse and try to maintain the same walking speed to WH Smith for my Telegraph. I’m skilled at dodging the random walkers and trolly-bag wielders but still can’t understand what the hell old people are doing here at 7:00 travelling in the rush hour. It really must be outlawed or something. IF YOU ARE GOING TO STAND AROUND, PLEASE DON’T STEP SIDEWAYS FOR NO APPARENT REASON.

Message to the staff at WH Smith: I don’t want a promotional chocolate bar with my newspaper! If I wanted to add to the growing obesity problem I would chose my own chocolate bar and present it to you with my Telegraph. DON’T ASK ME AGAIN otherwise I’m switching my business back to Bright News. Plus, message to other people who go in to WH Smith. Have you noticed that, by convention, people enter the shop on the left side. Don’t blame me if your coffee gets spilled because you are, effectively, walking in the exit. Also, why not work out what you want to buy before you go in, rather than browsing the magazine rack, reading magazines you won’t be buying and randomly moving into the aisle near the tills?

Going up the platform to the penultimate carriage is normally a straightforward trot up the left-hand side, swinging in just after the vending machine, then moving in a straight line at a 20 degree angle to the rear door of the penultimate carriage. Like all good flight plans, occasionally I have to veer from the route, but mostly it works like clockwork.

It’s always the same ones who need to dawdle in the aisle of the carriage, especially my carriage. I’m not one for instantly hating strangers but it is totally understandable when you are faced with a complete amateur taking God knows how long to fit their badly designed travel bag into the rack; then get up again to get another item out. Message to commuting amateurs and inexperienced, cretin travellers on the 7:15. Sit down with your bag. Take out your pot boiler book, then look to see who is moving up the aisle, wait for a break, then quickly place your bag in the rack and return to your seat. Simple, isn’t it?

I had to move from my favoured sixth row back to the third row from the front three years ago after I had it with an air-head, dozy student-type blond with a noisy iPod who had started sitting on the right hand side three years previously and who eats a pre-packed, cold, foul-smelling, buttery, Marmite toast sandwich every morning. Can’t she get up five minutes earlier and eat that at home? I HATE YOUR RUBBISH LOOKING COFFEE FLASK THAT YOU’VE NEVER CLEANED ON THE OUTSIDE. DISGUSTING! DO YOU KNOW HOW DISTRACTING IT IS TO HAVE YOU CONSTANTLY OPENING AND CLOSING YOUR FLASK, SIPPING AND THEN GASPING. YUK! Plus, it smells like Gold Blend too, not even a decent coffee.

I like to listen to classical music on my iPad and I always set my iTunes to random play on the classical genre. It makes my blood boil; how can someone’s music be so loud that it actually cuts through what I am listening to on a headset at a very reasonable volume (normally high enough to cut out the mindless, non-stop chatter of the two twits who get on at Preston Park).

Anyway, she of the noisy iPod, Marmite toast and dirty flask can no longer irritate me as much three rows back, although I’ve had to set my volume up a little. I asked Karen to sit by me on the sofa and check whether my iPad is audible / likely to cause irritation at the new level. Excepting that one bit in ‘The Planets’, she said she couldn’t hear a thing. Please note, all inconsiderate noise-polluters of my head space: I tried out the volume on my iPad to see if it was audible to another human ear. That is called considerate behaviour. Yes, I do think of others. NO YOU DON’T, YOU SELFISH CREATURES.

My worry, of course, is that Marmite Girl is going to make herself increasingly deaf, leading to a gradual rise in the volume she needs which will, of course, be audible from my seat where, of course, I will have to turn my volume up. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DEAF? DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE AWAY MY HEARING BECAUSE YOU ARE MAKING YOURSELF DEAF LISTENING TO GOD KNOWS WHAT WEIRD REPETITIVE ELECTRONIC MUSIC? I NEED TO LISTEN IN MY JOB. ARE YOU ACTUALLY TRYING TO GET ME THE SACK? My brother-in-law Colin is a lawyer. I tried to engage him on the legal position vis-a-vis commuting noise pollution last Christmas but he had to help his daughter assemble a Fisher-Price kitchen so didn’t have the time. Note to self: drop Colin an email.

Of course, there are quite a few problems associated with the third row which I will have to return to in the next issue. I’ve promised Karen I’d help with the flat-packed office chair and she’ll have my guts for garters if I don’t do something now.
As I said, if you adopt the right philosophy, commuting can actually be a pleasure.

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