Tomorrow morning is the morning of my great journey back to the south. I call it a great journey because every time I undertake it, it feels monumentally difficult. Even though I’ve changed my choice of luggage, everything still feels extremely heavy; I myself feel heavy, and too hot, or too cold. I always feel frustrated, as though the journey simply won’t ever end. And three hours in, when you’re thinking about how there’s another couple of hours to go, you start to lose the will to live. Trapped on these moving tubes of steel hell, all aspiration, ambition and want to achieve is eaten away at, especially whilst you are is being sweated on by your neighbour, unable to move, because said neighbour is dribbling their sleeping drool all down your nice clean jumper.
The next conundrum to be faced then, is the bathroom conundrum; when carrying a vast amount of luggage that contains things of some value, you have no wish to leave it on a crowded train. But inevitably, one needs to use the bathroom at some point during the lengthy journey and taking a laptop case, handbag, and backpack that is almost as big as you seems highly impractical. And so you ask a kindly looking neighbour to keep an eye, praying they turn out to be trustworthy, go as quickly as possible, and have a near heart attack when returning to your seat, convinced that someone will have satisfied their kleptomaniac impulse, and taken at least half of your belongings. Hopefully, your assumption is proven wrong, and you settle back to your laptop, or book, or iPod. The alternate approach of course is to take not a drop of liquid before boarding the train.
Prettiness is no substitute for being a punishment for the multiplying human race. (1)
There is of course a more obvious problem when using long distance public transport: that unfortunate experience of who will be your seat “buddy” for the length of your journey. If you are supremely lucky, you will have a double seat, near the bathroom, completely to yourself for the duration of your trip, allowing you to be comfortable, and to access the bathroom with ease. If you are me, you will end up sat next to a portly gentleman, with your suitcase squashed between your seat and the seat in front of you, your legs perched somewhere on top of it. The advantage, in fact the only advantage of this situation, is that there is absolutely no threat of theft; it would simply be far to difficult to steal such a bulky item. On the hand of the disadvantages however, it becomes impossible to get up out of the chair with any grace or decorum (not natural attributes of mine anyway), or to really move an inch on either side. You’re stuck. And will be stuck until such time you have to jump off your train, awkwardly, and attracting an awful lot of attention, as you clout anyone with an aisle seat, moving yourself and your bags towards the exit.
My journey of course is not special. Hundreds of thousands of British students brave that monster, public transport, every three months. You almost start to feel displaced, moving half of your belongings around the country on such a frequent basis. You become accustomed to moving clothes, pre ordering food so that it precludes your arrival, and you start bracing yourself for the inalienable truth that “holiday” simply means “an excuse to work every hour that is legally acceptable because you have little in the way of student loan”. Bizarrely for students, holiday and term time are inversely representative of relaxation. Students, or at least some students, have more free time while they’re in session. This was the case for me, however this term, I’ve promised my mother that I will improve my lifestyle, eat better, drink less, and partake in more exercise. On Sunday, I’m joining both the gym and the sailing club. All I have to do then really, is attend both. I’m not worried though; I’ve booked my time according to my outlook calendar.
Tomorrow, I’m planning to get ahead of some essay reading, according to my gargantuan collection of literary theory; four hours is an ample amount of time to tackle a plethora of such material. I may reread some Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, and so forth too. I’ve charged my iPod and BlackBerry, and prepared a light salad. Picked out warm layers, comfortable jeans, and practical underwear. I’m prepared. Prepared for a huge amount of boredom, but an inevitably warm homecoming from my fabulous flat-mates. And then of course, I shall unpack and realise that I’ve just been ejected from domesticity into the paradox of student life all over again, with no warning to my system whatsoever.
I’m sure I’ll have a few more thoughts on the journey some time soon…