The price of travel

@hennell @davidschneider

@hennell @davidschneider

Another year, another hike in commuter costs.

I’m starting to look at places to buy a property. Our budget is relatively modest, but since we’d like a second bedroom, there’s a whole 3 zones in London already out of our sights.

When I tell people we’re looking to buy, the question of proximity to work is high on the list of discussion topics. While it’s probably risky to make an investment on the basis of where you currently work, it’s a fair question. If not for the destination itself, then the quality of the journey: how long to walk to the nearest station/stop; underground (with all the compacted humanity and lack of natural light that entails) or overground (which has the benefit of a view but the drawback of fewer trains per hour); is there a possibility of cycling or even walking to work?

The sheer cost of travel can make an affordable suburban investment into a monthly drain on income. But sometimes the journey is less time to somewhere outside London than somewhere that lets you tap in and tap out.

I’ve doodled with the sums and worked out we could get a three-bed house with seafront views in Hastings for the same price as a studio flat in Kings Cross. However, the annual railcard cost would be nearly 3 times more than an annual Oyster card for multiple zones. Or if Essex is more your style, an annual fare from Colchester (less than an hour direct into Liverpool St) is a thousand pounds more than the journey from Hastings. I don’t think we’ll be moving out of the big smoke just yet.

Friends and colleagues that live outside London often take at least one day working from home. Not because it saves them money, it saves them time: time better spent with their kids or partner, spent not sitting on a train for an annual outlay equivalent to the cost of studying for a Masters.

What pisses me off is that the transport companies hold us to ransom every year. They know we have to get to work somehow and with only one set of train tracks for each journey, it’s a captive market. It’s not fair.

But life, and society, isn’t fair. The fact our current government seems happy to casually deny legal rights to people that can’t afford it not only reflects this fact, it exacerbates it. It really surprised me to learn that Network Rail doesn’t have share-holders, it is technically not-for-profit, and yet here we are with another hefty January rise in the cost of rail travel. Perhaps if we could see the costs of improvement, have a public forum that shows where our money is invested, it might be less painful. But I pay up anyway, because that’s the price of travel.


No Trousers Tube Ride 2014


Warning: contains scenes of an explicit nature

Man in tighty whiteys This was my view on the Northern Line this afternoon.

At first I thought it was for a stag do, but the man sitting next to me in a snowboarding jacket and a pair of cotton boxers didn’t seem to be part of the same crew as the one standing near the doors. This ostentatious nakedness from unconnected individuals seemed like too much of a coincidence.

Getting off the carriage at Tottenham Court Road, I was joined by 3 new cliques of unconcernedly half-naked Londoners disembarking the train and making their way down the platform towards the exit. This IS too much of a coincidence I thought, and decided to investigate.

‘Why are you in just your pants?’ I asked.

But no one wanted to answer: it was all cryptic references to the restrictive nature of trousers and the freedom of living without them.

No worries, I thought. The internet will have an answer.

Today was the day for the 5th annual No Trousers Tube Ride. The concept originated in America as the ‘No Pants Subway Ride’ when, back in 2002, 7 men travelled the underground on a cold winter’s day for 7 stops claiming they had “forgotten their trousers”. Eight years later, this “international celebration of silliness” organised by Improv Everywhere had to be renamed for its British inception, for obvious reasons. Otherwise these photos would be too explicit even for my eyes.

Several pants on the tubeOnce I realised this was part of an organised movement, I was tempted to join in, in much the same way I am compelled to join queues without knowing the destination. Unfortunately I had the wrong kind of underwear on for something that has, by its nature, a Universal-certificate audience.

I wonder how many parents had ‘the talk’ fast-tracked by these sights on display. I wonder if anyone did join in without first signing up to the concept.

Either way, I like its silliness. And I like the idea of it being revisited on a weekday, if only for the joy it would bring to the rest of the working day.

In control of happiness


‘No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.’
Barbara de Angelis

I had an interesting day at work on Friday, with a conversation taking place that has been going through my mind ever since. Now that it’s Sunday evening, I need to try and manage my thoughts and feelings going into the new working week.

This quote is one I find empowering, but challenging to live out sometimes, mostly because I often forget in the heat of my enthusiasm that other people’s reactions can ultimately affect my happiness.

In hindsight it was in my control not to have said or done that thing, but at the time I didn’t follow through in my mind on the potential consequences. One consequence being that tomorrow morning, on my way into work, I will run the decision that led to this discombobulation through in my head along the journey.

Except that I won’t. Because, as Barbara has reminded me, my happiness is in my control. A wise man told me this evening: “shit happens”. Sure, it was my shit that happened, but until I accept that, and accept any consequences that aren’t under my control, I won’t be able to get happy again.

I can’t control parts of how Monday are going to go, but I can control how I choose to approach them. And I choose the path of least misery. Starting with a nice glass of something served with ice.

First-day-back blues


cloudy skiesIt’s been a wonderful week: with work saving on the cost of fuelling the office over Christmas, I enjoyed 6 full days extra of holiday cheer.

However it’s now time to go back. And my commitment to retro fashion is worn heavy around my stomach, as the nausea of first-day-back blues rears its ugly head. From what my Mum tells me, this has been a habit of mine since pre-school; it’s probably the reason I was 2 weeks late coming into the world. It is a regular reminder, along with compulsions to giggle at fart jokes and tease my little brother, that adulthood is merely a figment of the imagination against the vivid green-screen of childhood tradition and habit.

Every holiday ends with an abrupt feeling of impending doom that has no real logic to it, except that not working/going to school is preferable to working/being at school. I know pragmatically that work will be fine, perhaps even good, but emotionally my soul is crying out to escape this fate with a tummy ache and pouty face.

I chose the picture above because I have made New Year’s resolutions, one of which is to try and run home from work more often, and I am resolved to get up tomorrow and face the day with a smile on my face. But I’m pretty sure I’ll instead be fighting the desire to put my head back under the warm duvet because I think it might rain, especially after all that lovely metaphorical sun.