I met a friend in a kind of shabby cool cafe in Shoreditch the other day.  It’s a lovely cafe and I’ve been there a few times over the years but it somehow made me feel a bit fake, like I was pretending to be cool by being there.  I’m not sure how or why I felt like that as there weren’t that many people in the cafe and it’s not a pretentious or remotely smart environment (mismatched tables, plates, chairs, etc).  I had intended to go into a cafe about 100m away but on going in I realised there was a queue of people waiting for seats and a lot of people sitting down were expensively dressed iPad types (yes, yes, sweeping generalisation, I know) and I felt out of place.  Actually, I suspect it was more the area (though how come so many people were lazing about drinking coffee, chatting and iPadding on a Friday morning at about 10.30 am in the Brick Lane side of Shoreditch, ie not so close to Liverpool Street and the offices around there?) than the cafes but it got me thinking about cafes and what makes the environment feel right and conducive to sitting around drinking coffee.  Yes, I was a 10.30 am not-working coffee drinker, lounging about and meeting a friend but I wasn’t one of them, as it were, or so I thought.

I love cafes, indeed I want one of my own, but why do so few make me feel relaxed and comfortable?  The more I think about it, the more I realise it probably was more to do with the people in the area, it’s a bit hip and trendy and I am neither and nor have I ever wanted to be.  But I do like a good coffee and both those places serve good coffees.

For me, an ideal cafe would look similar to the one I met my friend in, Leila’s Cafe on Calvert Avenue.  I love that the food is prepared in an open kitchen, like a big kitchen in a house.  The menu is simple and they have an adjoining shop which sells what they use as ingredients.  They do lovely ham and eggs, cold meats and cheeses; simple, good quality food.  The coffee and cakes are also good.  I like that there are slabs of butter in old enamel dishes on the table, food is served on old wooden boards or in terracotta oven dishes or in enamel plates or bowls.  They use old, mismatched sugar bowls; it’s kind of rustic and refreshingly informal.  So why do so many painfully cool people end up there?  It annoys me.  Admittedly it was a sunny morning but far too many people were wearing sunglasses.  And they didn’t take them off inside either – too cool, huh?  I saw lots of skinny jeans and trousers – the men.  There was an iPadder with a very smart coat, a beautiful couple who rocked up in a taxi, knocked back their freshly squeezed blood orange juice and left and a rather magazine pretty man wearing magazine type clothes.  And there I was, embracing the shabbyness of it all, resplendent in a white top (so not my colour) with a large coffee stain along the neck line.  I think I take the chabby chic look too literally perhaps?  Actually, it’s that I have no magazine style, something which I’m actually proud of, though I don’t usually go out with milky coffee stains down my top.

I did part of my degree in Oxford, Mississippi.  We used to sit in late night cafes studying for exams and doing our homework, fuelled by caffeine and feeling part of a film set for being in a cafe.  At night time.  Drinking coffee.  That’s not how it was in the UK in 1996 and I missed those places when I got back.  It was some years after that that there suddenly seemed to be cafes everywhere here, though sadly most were and are chains.  I still think of them as places to go to do something, ie studying, reading, writing or merely waiting for someone or something.  I do often just get a takeaway coffee but most of all I love being in cafes.  My main issues are that I will do everything possible not to go in a chain, but sometimes it’s hard to find an independent cafe, and that most places serve hideous coffee.  I know I’m a coffee snob but I genuinely only enjoy coffee when it’s good.  I would rather have no coffee than a powdered cappuccino (I’ve had that in a cafe before, more than once, and it was nauseating) or a massive bowl of weak, milky coffee from Costa or a coffee from Starbucks that gives me excessive shakes.  So why on earth does good coffee have to be associated with trendy cafes?  Why can’t a normal cafe serve a really good coffee?  And don’t say I haven’t tried, I really have, and I have wasted a lot of money on revolting coffees.  Maybe, probably, it’s a matter of taste, kind of how some people enjoy ready meals while others would baulk at the idea … and therein lies a minefield of controversy, socio-economics and politics!


All anyone has heard from me since London won the Olympics bid is ranting and moaning.  Though that all stands, I feel a need to express my positive thoughts for the Olympics and I am going to express them without a single “but”!

As a rule, I have no interest in watching sport.  Unsurprisingly, I never set out to watch the Olympics, but I always end up channel hopping and seeing Olympic events and I pretty much always stop and watch.  For it is a privilege and a joy to see the world’s greatest athletes and sports people competing.  I also love the fact that, unlike, say, football, a lot of these sporting greats are not well paid and it has been through determination, ability and, I guess, the securing of sponsors that has enabled them the training and facilities they require.  In other words, the challenges haven’t solely been to do with their sport and that is a kind of determination and commitment that I find inspiring.

It is also kind of fun to be rooting for your country and there always seems to be an element of camaraderie between people, a sense of unity that doesn’t seem present that much.  I find it fascinating that most of the world has sporting representation.  It is a chance to educate people about different nationalities and cultures and about flag identification!

As for London, over the past few weeks the number of wheelie cases, map-clutchers and people visiting London has undoubtedly increased.  I have found it surprising that, based on the amount of police officers being asked for directions and the general looks of map bewilderment, a lot of people seem to have not visited London, maybe even the UK before.  I like that the Olympics are introducing people to a new country perhaps.  I also hope this influx of tourists does boost the British economy, though most likely centralised in London.

Walking around London, the mix of summery weather and the sense of Olympic anticipation makes for a nice buzz.  Despite there being lots of issues for commuters and pretty much anyone who works in London, there does seem to be a sense of excitement.  Everyone with event tickets and/or Olympic ID badges seems suitably puffed up and smug, and so they should be.  There are a lot of people with tickets who have never been spectators at a sporting event, children who are giddy about the thought of being a part of something so huge, as huge as an event can be, with most of the world represented in one small area.  It is exciting, it’s like we’re all hosts of a great big party, and with that comes the burden of responsibility to make sure it’s great and runs smoothly.

So for all my moans, hurrah for the Olympics and their enduring appeal and the great sense of occasion they bring wherever they go.  May the London Olympics be spectacular and may Team GB thrive on the extra support from being the home team; wouldn’t it be great if we did well, the sun shone, the economy boomed and we all had things to smile about over the next month or so.

Someone, a genius in my eyes, is about to open a restaurant in London that only serves spit roast chicken (with a limited choice of accompaniments).  The more I think about this, the more I salivate and think it’s a great idea.  It helps that I love roast chicken and that I dislike massive menus as they encourage my indecision.

I have read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” with wonder, shock, disgust and intrigue, not least because he is disparaging about diners who choose chicken dishes off a menu.  As I recall, he considers such people boring for he does not rate chicken.  Yes, a chicken breast cooked without seasoning is bland and pointless, but chicken absorbs flavours and can be magiced into something wonderful: coq au vin, yakitori, chicken korma, chicken kiev, chicken soup, chicken satay, chicken pie, chicken liver pate and juicy roast chicken with a crispy skin.  I am salivating at the mere thought of all these chicken wonders!

To think, I could fancy roast chicken and go to a restaurant that serves only roast chicken.  At the risk of overkill: genius, absolutely genius.

As for the minimal menu element, that too is genius.  I hate long menus.  Of course it’s good to have choices but it makes it more difficult to decide.  Also, a restaurant cannot possibly have that many fresh ingredients in its kitchen to make all dishes, or at least for them not to be glorified ready meals.  For example, I went to a small restaurant with a big menu.  Bearing in mind this was a restaurant in a seaside town, my friend opted for the selection of fried fish.  The larger chunks of fish were frozen in the centre.  One of the many reasons this riled me was that we had gone to eat out (as opposed to having an emergency pit stop to refuel) and to justify the cost of eating out, I expect there to be dishes I wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home and, as I would never use a ready meal or even a microwave, a premises-made dish.

Two of my favourite restaurants, The Sportsman (Seasalter, Kent) and The Granville (the former’s sister restaurant, near Canterbury, Kent), have daily (probably weekly) menu boards which reflect what they’ve got fresh that day.  There are only four or five options for each course and it is apparent they are locally sourced and freshly made.  It’s so much easier choosing from a limited selection.  There was once nothing that particularly appealed as a main so I decided to try something I’d never had before, ray.  As it happened, I didn’t particularly like it but I had often wondered what it would be like and, as it was well cooked and came with interesting sides, I felt confident I would not need to try it again.  Mind you, I’m describing all this as a novelty when for a vegetarian, the one-option menu is more of a reality!

Back to the roast chicken.  For anyone interested, it’s called Chicken Shop, it opens in August and is around Kentish Town at 53-79 Highgate Road, NW5.  Apparently the chicken will be marinated for 24 hours, steamed then finished off – my mouth really is watering – over a wood-flamed spit roast.  Can you imagine how amazing that restaurant will smell?!  Your menu choices are the size of the chicken and which of, I believe, four sides you want with it (salad and chip based).  Genius.

                I hoped London wouldn’t win the 2012 Olympic bid and my conviction that London shouldn’t be hosting them has increased ever since London did win.  I am not against the Olympics; I think the games are a wonderful showcase for sporting talent and something inspirational and for young sportspeople to aspire to.  I also think it’s amazing that it’s a worldwide event.  I just don’t think London should have been the host city.

                Everything I write here is based on what I perceive to be the case, this does not mean it is accurate, it’s just what I’ve read, heard about or been led to believe.

It is inevitable that any host city will be busier during the Olympics.  But London is already overcrowded.  How will our already fragile (and extraordinarily un-air conditioned) transport system cope?  Oh, that’s right, people who work in London should work from home.  My work and that of many others is not possible to conduct from home.  Many train lines will run to an Olympics Timetable, something I have already ranted about.  In other words, the normal, wage-earning lives of possibly even most people who work in London is going to be affected dramatically.  For those of us hoping to go on holiday for the duration of at least the first few weeks of Olympic turmoil, coupled with it being the school holidays, prices seem higher than normal, particularly for flights.  I know some people who have been told they are not to take annual holiday during the Olympic period.  Erm, school holidays?  My blood is boiling as I write!

That Olympic merchandise appears to not be being made in the UK defies all logic to me.  Yes, it’s supposed to be a world-inclusive event but surely part of the deal for winning host city status is that everything should be made and designed in that country, a veritable showcase for how great Britain can be.  Unsurprisingly, the overspend on all things Olympic is devastatingly high.  So many of us are crippled financially at the moment, this all seems excessive.  As for the huge budget on the 2012 logo, I cannot look at that awful configuration without rolling my eyes and shaking my head in disgust.  Why were “people” paid an obscene amount of money to design a logo which has caused a lot of controversy and which I still can’t read as saying “2012” when we have school children around the country who I expect would have thrived on the challenge to design the 2012 logo?  They wouldn’t have been paid, the reward being the one-off opportunity to see their 2012 logo displayed all around the world.  Surely that would have been more in the spirit of the Olympics.  It feels far too corporate and decadent.  It shouldn’t.  That’s something I like about the Olympic torch relay, it’s actually sharing the host city status with the whole country.  It’s a lovely idea and more in the spirit of the Olympics being for all.

Ticketing.  Despite being anti-London-Olympics, I did apply for tickets.  I was living in London at the time and, as I lived in an “Olympic borough”, I foolishly thought I had a right of sorts to “win” tickets.  The whole system was a disgrace.  I couldn’t apply for too many as I couldn’t afford to win them all, but I didn’t realise I wouldn’t get any.  Friends of mine who live minutes away from Greenwich Park and the horse events are having their lives hugely disrupted with regard to parking and driving restrictions, plus Greenwich Park has been cordoned off for quite some time.  They didn’t get tickets either.  Most people I know didn’t get any tickets, others got a few sets of tickets.  I am not aware of anyone who got tickets who only got one lot of tickets, all those I know with tickets got them for a few things.  How does that work?  Something wasn’t right.

As for advertising, that is something that sends me into overdrive.  I can’t quite believe that spectators (and athletes, I expect) are only allowed to consume or use products that are official Olympic sponsors, from withdrawing cash using only certain cards to what you eat or drink.  Which food and drink manufacturers have the most funds to pay for advertising?  Junk food and fizzy pop ones.  At a sporting event.  Really?  Disgraceful.

I cannot envisage how London will cope, how the VIP lanes won’t wreak havoc with commuters, particularly those on buses who, for example, work in the shops and restaurants London wants and needs the influx of tourists to boost.  Some workers, mainly transport workers, have secured bonuses for the extra work.  Meanwhile, some of us will get no work or challenging commutes.  There are people who are benefiting enormously from the Olympics being held in London, but it does not seem to be your average London worker.

I do hope these Olympics go smoothly.  I know that wherever they are held a lot of compromises to everyday life have to be made, I just don’t think we have the infrastructure to cope with it.  I’m not even going to go into the security issues.  It’s great the venues seem to function and a previously largely ignored part of London is now pretty much centre stage, ie around Stratford, but there has been a price for that.  People have been turfed out of their homes, the “Olympic legacy” does not appear to be for the benefit of those in the vicinity of Stratford to the extent it should be and there is a chance that a once run down area, now full of modern buildings and sport facilities, could end up like the depressingly derelict looking Barcelona Olympics sites.  I hope I’m wrong to be so down about the Olympics in London, I really do.

                I often catch trains from St Pancras and sometimes meet friends in that area.  There are loads of places to eat, but I hadn’t found anywhere you could get good food and somewhere to sit as long as you wanted.  Last night, three of us met up at a perfect place, somewhere one of my friends had been to drink before.  It is a pub that does “British Tapas”, Somers Town Coffee House on Chalton Street, north off Euston Road, nearer Euston station than King’s Cross St Pancras.

                When arranging to meet people in areas you’re not that familiar with for eating out, it’s hard to find somewhere that allows you to have good food and the kind of environment where you can sit and chat for as long as you want.  A pub is your best option but around stations and in central London, it’s hard to know where to go that will ensure you a seat.  The Somers Town Coffee House pub was perfect.  It’s a large pub, recently refurbished, with good pub features, no is-it-a-night-club-or-pub-pumping-music and plenty of tables.  It is also on a quiet road and even has an outdoors area.

The menu is genius.  There’s quite a long tapas style menu, with emphasis on the food being cooked in the oven (ie not microwave) and sourced from Kent, Sussex and (if I remember correctly) Surrey.  Small plate food in a pub really is genius, and really nice that it was British-inspired.  It is recommended you order three to four plates per person with a view to sharing.  We ordered three each, shared and were all full by the end, not quite finishing everything (well, chunks of scrapings rather than whole portions!).  For example, we ordered a chicken, leek and ham pie, which was delicious.  Actually, it all was good: fishfingers (along the goujon lines), potted crab and shrimp (exceptional), Pork lollies (off-putting name but the other two said they were lovely, especially as they come with crackling!), potatoes with black pudding and a tomato sauce, corn on the cob, sweet potato, spinach and another vegetable filo parcel … and I forget the others (this obviously isn’t a restaurant review!).  Ooo, and lovely mussel popcorn.  Oh, yes, and garlic butter button mushrooms.  It was lovely.  I really enjoyed the nibbling aspect and it is more sociable than your head facing your plate as you shovel in your dinner.

I do always find it difficult to meet people in such areas, places I wouldn’t usually go to eat and where the likelihood is you’ll end up in a conveyor belt chain or somewhere fit for tourists, ie over-priced, microwaved and dreadful.  It was a joy to find somewhere with such a nice atmosphere where we could all relax and just enjoy eating, drinking and chatting to each other.  A very, very enjoyable, relaxed evening.

So if you ever want to meet friends around that area, give it a go:

{15/06/2012}   Pub or bar?

                I am a pub person rather than a bar person.  But I fear that a lot of pubs are crossing into bar territory, not that I’m sure what “officially” defines the two.  But if someone says, “Shall we go to the pub”, I immediately conjure up an image of what I expect from a pub, and a pub should merely have a bar, not be a bar.

                I think a pub should have a drink-stained wooden bar, ideally with a brass rail (to support yourself while lurching for your drink, balancing precariously from a wooden bar stool),  a large array of beers on tap, large glass sized bottles of dreadful wine, memorabilia of some sort around the pub, old, stained wooden tables and chairs, carpet, cold loos, a short but obvious menu (scampi and chips, burger and chips, perhaps a shepherd’s pie, and puddings with custard), there shouldn’t be music or an abundance of natural light, carpets should be patterned and sticky, there should be a lingering smell of tobacco smoke, no televisions and a few elderly male regulars propping up the bar.  That to me is pub.

I can appreciate that pubs are struggling in our challenging economic times so need to reinvent themselves, etc, but I do find it sad that pubs are resorting to becoming bars.  There seems to be an abundance of poshed up pubs, ie bars.  To me, bars have wine lists, a large selection of bottled beers, there is a distinctly Ikea “blonde” look to the woodwork/décor, from floor to ceiling, no carpet in sight, music playing, over-priced snacks, a fancy menu, matching tables and chairs, bar staff will serve you at your table and the loos will be pleasant.

I went to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street last night, a pub I hadn’t been to for a few years.  Despite the smoking ban having been in place some years now, I could still detect that distinctly stale, smoky smell.  The place screams character, history, atmosphere … and changing times, for it used to be cheap, Samuel Smith’s.  Two pints cost about £2 more than I expected at around the £8.50 mark.  That to me is bar prices.

As for food in pubs, there is definitely a need for food.  But I’m not comfortable with pubs that are more restaurant than pub.  Tables should be available for anyone.  To me, pubs and restaurants are separate establishments, one for drinking with a bit of tucker to absorb at least some of the alcohol, the other for food, accompanied by a drink.  But don’t get me wrong, crap food isn’t acceptable.  Pub menus should be simple and dependable, emphasis on stodge and comfort, but the food should be good.

There are fewer traditional pubs around these days, I’ve even sought out rural pubs for that Sunday afternoon beer garden idyll, and been disappointed, usually owing to overemphasis on gastro rather than pub, an increasing bug bear of mine, and distressing prices.  But of course there are a fair few still left, probably struggling, one of which I’m going to tonight: The Boot & Flogger, around London Bridge, which to me epitomises pub eccentricity.  It even shuts at “around 8.30 to 9” and isn’t open on weekends.  Oh, but it doesn’t really serve beer, it’s more sherry and Madeira!

I have never supported the idea of London getting the Olympics, but I am not going to rant and rave about that.  My issue at present is more to do with transport into, out of and in London, particularly in light of my challenging afternoon on tubes yesterday.
Yesterday I got on the much delayed Central line, it having been very badly flooded the day before around Stratford, with no service between Bethnal Green and Leytonstone.  I was on the platform for over ten minutes (about 2pm) and couldn’t get on the sardine-packed first tube that came along.  Below ground, on a reasonably mild but wet day, it was stifling, even worse on the tubes.  My three or four tube journeys took longer than they should have, it was hot and busy and an entire line (Central) was either partly closed or running an erratic service.  This was not rush hour, though it was half-term.  I kept thinking how much worse it would be during the Olympics.
How long is London going to be even busier than normal?  Will it be sporadic or just a full-on onslaught of chaos from the end of July until the latter half of September?  It’s all very well encouraging people to work from home but there are a lot of us who can’t.  As it happens  I don’t get much work over summer, but even if I did I would struggle to get to work as the high speed trains that I use are largely suspended so the service can shuttle people between St Pancras – Stratford – Ebbsfleet.  The other trains take almost an hour longer and I expect they will also be extremely busy.
As for the bus lanes being made into VIP lanes, what about the buses?  Is normal traffic going to be held up at each bus stop as the buses try to cut into the VIP lanes to let people on and off buses?  What about people who go to work by bus, say in the shops that are expected to flourish financially during the games?  Indeed, are tourists who are in London for the games going to want to go shopping on Oxford Street, assuming the tubes aren’t down, the taxis aren’t full and the buses aren’t gridlocked by Olympic traffic?
While battling through crowds in the stuffy Underground system yesterday, I felt the horror of weeks of challenging conditions.  The tube can’t cope during every day rush hours, there is no air conditioning (it works in the drivers’ cabins on at least some tubes), there are now fewer staff at the gateline and, as happened yesterday, the staff are often asked time consuming questions, in yesterday’s example being asked how to walk from Covent Garden to Wembley as the man had no money for a ticket.  In the end the Customer Service Assistant pointed, “That way”.  I fear that will have taken a good few hours for him to walk, especially in the rain.  But during the Olympics, that might have been his quickest and easiest option.
Somehow the UK usually manages to pull things off, seemingly against the odds.  I hope that this is how things go for the Olympics.  But with travel, I am not confident.  I am already incensed by certain unions securing extra money for certain transport workers during the games owing to the added stresses and pressures.  But, hey, there are a lot – a lot – of other workers who will also face increased pressure and security threats but they either don’t have the backing of influential unions or just see it as something they have to deal with.  In all likelihood I will lose work opportunities, as I suspect will a fair few other self-employed workers.  What about the NHS (many of whom aren’t allowed to take time off during the summer holidays, particularly an issue for those who have children on school holidays), shop owners around the Olympic Village, cleaners, emergency services; there are a lot of people whose working life will be made a lot more difficult, even more dangerous, yet they will not receive compensation for working during the Olympics (as far as I’m aware).
I hope I am just being melodramatic and am just an Olympics-in-London ranter.  Unusually, I want to be proved wrong about something; I want the Olympics to run smoothly, there to be no terrorist or other attacks and for our transport network to be efficient, both for people travelling to Olympic events and those trying to go about their daily business.  Not long to find out, though I am hoping to be out of the country for the end of July and most of August.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by Battersea Power Station.  While not London’s most beautiful landmark, it is the one I always make a point of admiring if I am passing it.  For years now I have known that the odds of it being made into apartments was high.  As a student, in days when a flat around there wouldn’t have been priced so far out of my reach as to be cruel, I vowed that if it were ever made into apartments I would have to buy a flat there.  I read with heavy heart the other day that it is in the planning stages of being transformed into luxury flats, having been bought by developers for a staggering amount, almost £375 million.  My buying a flat there is never going to happen, but it’s got me thinking about the concept of industrial buildings being converted into flats.

I like mills, largely because they’re by water, and I have been in a few mill conversions, some more tasteful and quirky than others.  While I would rather all these mills could be restored to their original use, I reluctantly accept our industrial golden age has long gone, although with that have gone horrendous working conditions.  However, seeing these fine buildings left to decay is an architectural tragedy and makes a town or city look redundant and left behind.  This for me is something that upsets me about Sheffield.  It’s a city that I don’t think has addressed the sad reality of its booming industries being rendered redundant.  There are so many derelict areas, despite all the town centre development, and there is a sadness to the vast areas of disused land and mills/works.  As an aside, certain areas bring The Full Monty to life and I absolutely love that film, though that is a film centred around a group of men, most of whom are redundant because of the mills around Sheffield closing down

I have twice lived on Rotherhithe Street in London on the side of the road by The Thames, though sadly in fairly bland modern blocks.  Where old mills remain, they are all flats, many of which have fantastic and quirky features, though small windows and an abundance of interior brick dust are fairly common issues.  When I have my daydreams about how I would spend my lottery jackpot, buying a former industrial building, of the red brick variety, and converting it into a residence would be a project I’d love to oversee.  I wouldn’t make Battersea Power Station into flats though, I have other plans for that!

I find modern developments displeasing on the eye (except uber modern, architect-designed ones, like a lot around the London Bridge area), but industrial conversions are interesting and I am reluctantly accepting that at least a decent conversion saves a piece of our industrial history and stops another bland Barratt block being erected in its place.

Some years ago, having being told by a former resident of New Concordia Wharf that some of the former spice warehouses, now flats and offices, off Mill Street/Shad Thames near Tower Bridge still exuded a smell of spice, I investigated but couldn’t smell spices.  One day, many years later, not there specifically to sniff out spices, I was convinced I could smell spice.  Maybe it was psychological, but I love the idea of living somewhere with built-in spice room freshener!

Perhaps it’s a bit excessive dedicating a blog post to London City Airport (LCY), but I am sitting here, mid-afternoon (writing this the day before posting), in a very civilised waiting area. There are loads of spare seats, all of which are comfy ones, and it is largely quiet. Once again, I am identifying a growing snob in me!

I like leaving from LCY (I’ve probably passed through here 20 times) because it seems to generally run smoothly and it’s never been LGW- or LHR-busy (though it is a lot busier in the evenings and mornings). It is unusual to see uncontrolled children, there are no alcohol areas designed to look like real drinkers’ pubs and there are a lot of seats. I quite like smaller planes, I enjoy the view from the planes as they land and take off and I like the fact it feels more like a train station than an airport.

Looking around now though, assessing the demographic, there is an abundance of men, suited men, most of whom are using their laptops or are on their mobiles. There area lot of erect wheelie case handles, poised to be pulled the short distance to the plane. I can hear coffee bieng ground, there are quite a few French style beer glasses left on tables and I see more Kettle Chips being eaten than Walker’s; seriously, I’ve just done a tot up!

I know it’s unfair to compare a tiny airport to some of the biggest airports in the world, but as I’m neither going to Bangkok nor Marbella, it’s refreshing to not have to endure holiday makers. Mind you, I did my usual trick of arriving early at the airport, kind of forgetting that there is next to nothing to do at LCY except wait in comfy chairs, use the free wifi, browse WH Smith, spray on some perfume and drink overpriced (£3.80 for a cappuccino? Really?) coffee or beer from fancy glasses. But it was worth it for this people watching time!

I also find it quite intriguing that there are houses, a Victorian row of terraces no less, about 20 metres from the entrance to the airport, standing at which are armed security/police. How cool would that be, you could “pop” to the airport for dinner in Paris or some such. I like to think that the people who live there have at least made use of the proximity to an airport. But I bet they were pissed off if they’d lived there before there was talk of an airport being built here!

One final thing about LCY that has always given me cause for private smiles (that sounds pervy but it’s not!) is that it always, always makes me think of the 1980s kids’ TV show, Jimbo and the Jet Set. Jimbo used to run down the runway and he’d always struggle to take off, like I imagine I would if I were a flying person. Because of the short runway here, I always seem to animate the planes into Jimbo (I’m really not kidding!!) and imagine them running full pelt towards the end of the runway then giving a final burst of energy and an almighty sigh to lift them up. Let the running commence, my plane is boarding!

This morning, to make my short working day reap at least a little financial reward, I caught the 07.14 slow train from Folkston to London, c1 hour 50 minutes.  This train takes twice as long as the high price high speed train but there are mornings (I just want to get home on the way back so that direction always seems long) when I am happy for it to be an even longer journey.  Yes, really.

I am almost an hour into the journey now, I have done some writing, I am drinking coffee, it’s a lovely sunny morning, I’ve seen lambs, horses, cattle, flowers, signs of spring emerging further, farms, oast houses, dog walkers tramping across fields, misty lakes and I was the only person in my carriage for the first 20 minutes.  As usual I also have a bag full of train activities.

Commutes are generally horrid.  The journey home is by far the worst for me because everyone is tired and smelly, public transport is usually too hot and everywhere is busy.  This morning’s commute progresses with the rising sun, the waking up of towns and cities.  People are quieter, no one is sitting next to me yet and we haven’t had as much time to have had or be having a bad day.  Yes, yes, I can see that there are days when you’re too tired to function, in winter it would still be dark, train delays, leaves on the line, people standing in the aisles.  Yes, hideous, and I would have posted a rant no doubt.  But for now, just allow me this misty eyed love-in for this commute.

I used to commute from Whitstable.  As a general rule I enjoyed my commute in to work but in the morning AND the evening, I always got a seat.  But doing c1.5 hours each way most days was tiring.  I don’t usually work five days a week and I don’t (especially then as I wasn’t working such long hours, as will be the case today) usually have to travel in return rush hour so it wasn’t too bad for me.  But there were days when I could barely stay awake, when the train was late, it once took three hours to get back, in snow it was embarrassingly bad and by the time the train got to Bromley South it was packed and I get seat guilt, which I really don’t need to endure.

Overall though, I do prefer the high speed train because 55 minutes is a good time to get home and a good time to get things done.  I always have a table and I have written many a letter and blog post, read books and magazines, caught up on emails and texts, completed editing my work on the way home; it gives me time to do things I always claim not to have time to do.

When I returned to London after my six and a half months living in Whitstable, I genuinely missed my commuting time.  I had vowed to get up at the same time and read before getting up and getting ready for work.  Did I?  Yeah, right, not even once!  In my ideal world (assuming I had to commute) I would have a one-two hour commute to work (I can do mornings.  It may not be pretty and I may struggle but I know I am at my best in the mornings) and a ten minute commute home.  Currently, I am slowly waking up and enjoying my morning.  When I get to London Bridge I will have to change for a Charing Cross train, which will be busy.  My commuting love will end round about then.  But as I’m being a cheapskate this morning, I will have a c25 minute walk to where I’m working and that will be partly through St James’ Park so I expect to have a second pre-work high.  I love London parks in the mornings prior to the tourist/lunch break groups taking over.  I will keep quiet about my post-work train dawdle back home!

et cetera