Friday, 22 January 2010
I have a job. That’s why I spend so much time on the tube and other forms of public transport.
My contracted hours are 8am to 4pm. I get one hour for lunch. Sometimes I have soup from Eat (Italian Ragu and Chicken Noodle are my favs), sometimes I walk around Central London doing chores for various people (mostly L) and sometimes I have a huge sandwich, a packet of crisps and a Diet Coke. 2010 has seen me kick the sandwich habit though and I have been enjoying flame grilled chicken breast, bayleaf and beetroot salads (also with Diet Coke) at my desk. It saves me money and is healthy. If you ignore how boring it is, it’s a delight.
Colleagues have asked if I’m on a diet. So far I have responded with either a curt no or a mumble and a leaf choke. Beetroot, it’s well tasty but Christ it gets everywhere. I think I may smell of it too. Do I prefer being referred to as the obese guy who eats all those sandwiches or the guy who smells of beetroot? I’ll take the beetroot.
My hours are 8-4, not 9-5. I write for a living you’ll be flabbergasted to learn and I have always felt at my most lucid and creative in the morning. In the afternoon I get a little sleepy and turgid, something to do with all the sandwiches I reckon.
So I get up early. Earlier and earlier, it becomes strangely addictive. Eventually I’ll never go to sleep. Just lie down and get up again. I arrive at the office at either 7.10 or 7.30. I turn on the lights, am the first person to dip an undersized stirrer slash spoon into the generic industrial sized tin of decaf, and the first to slightly burn their fingers on the hot water machine. I then, after reading the day’s gossip column, either get right down to bashing out some serious gold standard copy, plan my day or browse the guardian and telegraph websites while muttering swearwords about Carlos Tevez, Jermaine Beckford or right wing media types like the disgusting fatty Jan Moir.
Speaking of bitch, remember Moir’s awful piece about Stephen Gately? Why the hell wasn’t that scandal referred to as GatelyGate? It could have really been the nail in the coffin to the Gate suffix. You can probably find a watered down version of the column on the Nazi rag’s site (I refuse to link to it) but if you want to know the truth and have a laugh see Charlie Brooker’s take on it here;
Back to Friday morning time. Sooner or later 8.40 arrives and my charming and erudite colleagues start arriving. I work in retail/fashion and the majority of my workmates or attractive women, the rest are men, straight mostly but with a higher than average straight/gay ratio.
Yes, here they all are, strutting into the office without a care in the world, making all sorts of noise and ruining my rhythm and reason in an instant. They’re a nice bunch in fairness though and by the time they get in I’m ready to share things. When they sit down and I feel they’re settled, I quickly blurt out what I had for dinner last night, tell them how great this book/film/album is and pontificate on Stephen Baldwin and Heidi Fleiss.
That’s how my morning goes. Though there are exceptions. There is another option. A later bus can get me to the station in time to make a train that will get me on a tube that can take me to the street where I can walk to the office and be at my desk for 8.05.
I rarely take this option. The roads are busier, the tube is fuller and the weather is worse – honestly it is. No, the early bird routine suits me. My ancestors were farmers probably. Rich, land owning ones.
This morning I took the option. For a combination of two reasons, first reason. My good friend Robert P. He’s a pest. Here I am buying a house, struggling to make ends meet, thinking of new romantic ways to impress The Teacher and up at the crack of dawn and there he is, betting and drinking, and harassing me to do one or the other, or both.
Last night I wilted and we met for pints. He brought me a copy of The Yellow House which was most appreciated. We had some beers and chewed the fat, discussing wide spread ignorance, travel plans, French films (he discussed I listened) and our mutual friend Neal C.
I didn’t drink much and certainly wasn’t drunk and even managed to catch Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 4 +1 in bed.
Digress, digress, digress. In summary; last night I had some pints. This morning L rolled over and said she was getting the later bus. In a split second my brain computed; wet outside + not loads of work to do + beer last night + Friday today = roll over too.
I rolled over and slept for four minute periods until it was time to get up. Why people have a mini lie in but choose to have that gifted time interrupted by beeping every five minutes is as foreign as eating sheep’s eyeballs to me. Turn off the damn snooze button please, thank you.
So we got the later bus and arrived at the station at a time when a lot of people are at the station. There they were, standing there without a care in the world, dressed in overcoats and high heels and all plotting how best to deprive me of a seat for my journey.
L was wittering on about some educational initiative or other when I saw it. I double taked and took two steps forward towards the track, almost going beyond the yellow line as I did.
I looked down again. “What in Christ is that?” I said. “Jesus, in Christ” I repeated. There was a sharp intake of collective breath.
A man was on the tracks.
He appeared to be young, with a slim build, dark hair and was wearing a brown shirt. His head was on one track, his feet on the other. Is he alive or dead I thought, my head was racing. L grabbed my arm. She was staring at the man. As was I, as was everybody on the platform. Only 10 seconds had passed since I had first spotted him.
He was breathing. Thank heavens he was breathing. A train was due in three minutes. My phone was now in my hand.
“Who should I ring?” I whispered.
It was a very odd atmosphere, everybody was whispering. Very undramatic. Very British.
“The police” a young girl replied.
“What’s the number?” I said thinking I could hear the train approaching.
I did not want to see a man run over by a train. I did not want this man run over by a train.
A man pressed the emergency button to speak to the station security or whoever.
Is it safe to get on the tracks I thought?
A man who was closer to the lying man shouted at him. There was no response. He just lay there, like in Radiohead’s video for Just only a track with a train due.
Two men quickly jumped onto the tracks and tried to pick him up. He struggled and shouted but they aggressively and unsympathetically got him to his feet. Their curtness can be excused due to the expected train I think.
The man was lifted to the platform. He wasn’t as young as I had thought. He was smartly dressed in a brown shirt and a dark tie.
The man said something to him. He let out a scream. A woman whispered he was drunk.
He broke down and cried. Right there on the platform He sobbed deeply. The adrenaline induced from drama subsided and his distress became clear. A very private moment was being played out in front of a platform of commuters.
He was picked up and brought downstairs. The poor fella.
Whoever is on the other end of the emergency button machine finally responded. The gent who had pressed the button didn’t know what to say. The platform was silent.
“He’s not on the tracks anymore” he said.
The train arrived and we went to work. I got a seat but it didn’t seem as important anymore.
Illustration by Gemma Luker