Commute - Sometimes it's a job just getting to work

London beckoned, two days of meetings and the rest of the week at home writing technical documents. Lovely.

Monday is to be my first day and having set three alarms in readiness for an un-characteristically early start I finally laid my head back on the pillow and drifted away into darkness just more than one hour into Monday.

Mornings don't come easy to me but having somehow managed to turn off the first alarm in my sleep, which I can now recall, I was gently nudged into consciousness by Alan Brazil and the overly loud Mike Parry doing their early morning turn for Talk Sport. It was only when the final of the alarms on my mobile went off I knew I really had to make a move. Mobile alarm was the final, last ditch warning that meant if my movements from this point in were coordinated and efficient I should just about make the train as it pulled into the station.

I dragged my physical form out of bed leaving my karma, soul or life force, whatever you call it, clinging to the sheets.

The shower is a wonderful device and as such within 30 seconds my body and soul had became as one and I started to contemplate my next sequence of time efficient actions. The time is 7:03 and the train leaves the station destined for London at 7:53. The station is located some 7 miles away and depending on the time of the day an 8-18 minute journey through winding country roads, around brown fields and past stark hedges and muddy sidings. This time of day generally meant 12 minutes.

Suitably washed, shaved and cleansed I stepped from the shower positively glowing red from the attentions of hot water. A convenient t-shirt and shorts are located on a nearest to hand basis; people walk their dogs at the end of my garden and my kitchen possesses large un-shrouded windows. There are some delicate personalities in the village and last thing I need, certainly this morning is screaming women and barking dogs at the end of my garden.

Shreddies are poured into a bowl, along with Soya milk, while milk roll bread disappears into the toaster. The kettle is filled and toggled to on, I know I am unlikely to drink the coffee but make it in the vain hope that five minutes will make itself available just before I leave despite having this routine nailed down to within 15 seconds.

Dark grey suit trousers are combined with a black polar necked jumper, I am loath to start wearing suits again unless it is demanded. Computer is stashed in the ruck sack that is designed in the main for my computer, as is my current book, 'The Black House' along with some chicken I cooked yesterday and a few bananas for snacking.

Wallet and keys would be the most likely to create deviations from the exactness of my 'getting ready' process and in the past searching for said items has extended well past the allowed 15 second window. Shoes can be a problem sometimes as well but having been getting ready in a similar state of emergency for one and one half decades shoes are only ever likely to be in three locations unless I was blathered the night before in which case I could be in trouble but I wasn't and I'm not.

Wallet slides into back pocket after a quick check for cards is confirmed, shoes are levered on and with my coat now on I use the keys to unlock the front door, pause briefly to consider such items as running water, irons left in an on state, naked flames and not having locked doors. I hesitate and move quickly back through the house to check the back and patio doors, my 15 second window closing and finally step out of the door, make a conscious effort to remember locking it and walk down the drive to the car.

Having a garage is a wondrous thing and within 60 seconds I am driving through the slowly waking village and away to the station. Car's parked on the side of the roads are covered in ice as I suspect will sections of the road not yet touched by the long fingers of the morning sun. The radio is playing intrusive morning tunes so I switch to Talk. Despite being called the 'No Nonsense Breakfast Show' its mostly total nonsense but bearable, usually. The clock changes the last digit from 9 to 0 and its now 7:40

A few turns and the village is behind and the road empty opens in front of me. The flat fields of Suffolk resonate between ploughed brown and late winter evergreen with a touch of frost white thrown in for good measure. Spring is hinting that it might soon be on the way. The sun struggles to banish deep shadows on the moist dark road while attempting to lift itself above the tree's behind me. Mist spreads across the fields as far as the eye, gently rolling upwards towards their maker.

I follow the winding road, down past the stables, past the chicken farm and the sulphur stench, down to the t-junction and a quick look right. Nobody ever comes from that direction, not often at least. On we go, weaving through gently rolling fields and then cursing as I see a lorry with dirty green tarpaulin stretched across its weighty load. It heaves its way up a small incline, these roads are narrow. I click sports mode at the gear shift, there's a straight stretch of road about a half mile ahead. I check the clock; 7:43

The lorry alternates between 25 and 35, time is passing. We make our way to the straight and as we complete the last bend I keep to the left checking past the left of the lorry through the gently curving straight. Nothing is coming the other way, I signal, pressing the accelerator. The 2.3i engine responds with grace and quickly eases through to 60 leaving the lorry behind and soon a Red Nissan Micra half way down the stretch with its driver hunched over the wheel looking at the partially iced windscreen like my dad does the paper when he cant find his glasses.

Its all to no avail of course, I decelerate into the 30 mile an hour zone that until last year was a 40 and had been for 10 years. There's a deep blue Vauxhall estate, shiny under the fresh splashes of mud round the wheel arches. Two dogs are in the back behind a grate, one is sitting looking mournfully out the back window towards the fields as if for a lost lover, while the other paces behind backwards and forwards. The window by the stationary dog is steamed up. Both dogs brace themselves as the car eases from the junction, accelerating to 10 miles an hour and then through to 29 over the next 400 yards. The clock reads 07:48, five minutes should just about see me there with no more delays.

I take in the back of the car as the driver trundles through the 30 mile an hour zone magnificently obliging, knowing that he is safe and at this speed has time to take in all that is around him.

The blue Vauxhall, slowly drifts towards the middle of the road while he takes in a particularly well appointed garden. I would usually check for oncoming traffic and leave him or anyone of a number similar to it but today the road is busy and no opportunity presents itself for now. The guy in front finally checks his rear view mirror, swerves back into the left lane and then waves a fist at me, he has probably decided I am to close, probably am but if I can't react to anything this joker can do, including braking which is likely his next move then I deserve all that would subsequently befall me.

He brakes, just to teach the young upstart a lesson and shakes a fist once more all the while looking at me while weaving from side to side. He even takes time to point at the 30 mile an hour sign as it passes by. I stare at the dogs balancing themselves from each sidewards motion, the oncoming traffic eases and I leave the guy behind to his safe 29 and well appointed gardens.

Through the uplands, past the Shell garage and a right into the road through to the market town and the station. 7:50

Traffic lights, damn, forgot, their building a new slip road. The lights are red but mercifully green appears, cars pull away slowly and we wind our way down the hill into town. Typically the lights are flashing and the gates down, damn! again, missed the gates. I pull out and whip passed the queued traffic, and take the left turn just before the gates and search out a parking spot. Miraculously just into the road one presents itself. In one swift motion I park, get out of the car, eject the boot, lock the car, remove the rucksack from the boot and closing the boot run down the road to the path while the locking mechanism of my car audibly clicks behind me. The ruck sack bounces on my right shoulder. Up the path and through the metal gates and slow down to a walk as I near the platform, don't want to look any less cool than you usually do.

7:53. There's a local link train on the other platform, which throatily revs its diesel engine and slowly pulls away, heading towards Norwich. The gates open and traffic nudges forward. There's an included resonance to the air as the public announcement system is switched on and an unemotional pre-recorded voice announces that the 7:53 has been cancelled, the next train will be the 8:29.

I hoist my ruck sack further onto my shoulder, breath out slowly regaining my breath and then head towards the stairs that join the platforms and more importantly leads to the coffee shop.

Submission: April 2003
Revision: May 2006