For many years I lived within walking distance of where I worked. Obviously, I didn’t walk, because I’d much rather spend half an hour inhaling the armpit aroma of my fellow Londoners than walk through a city that boasts some of the world’s greatest architecture.
This morning, spurred by the longer days and unseasonably warm weather (totally unrelated to any fluctuations in our climate, as I’m sure other correspondents would tell you) I walked to Canterbury West.
Despite it being the time of day that, for most of my life, I haven’t experienced unless I’d been up all night, it really was a delightful experience. I saw the sun rise over a mist-shrouded Canterbury, soundtracked by a spectacular dawn chorus. You simply don’t get that in London.
Even in the leafier suburbs, many Londoners prefer to impose their emotional life on cats instead of forming relationships with their neighbours, and this significantly reduces the garden bird population.
Oddly though, there are many more foxes in London. I’ve not seen one at all since being in Canterbury, and more importantly I’ve not heard them shagging at all hours of the night. I suspect there are parts of London that would vote heavily in favour of lifting the fox hunting ban. And who wouldn’t want to see the Ashford Valley Hunt galloping up Balham High Street?
My short morning walk came to an end as the HS1 pulled into the station and I sprinted the last 200 yards to catch it. Although I’d recovered my breath well before getting into St Pancras, I was once again stuck by the contrasting experience at each end of the journey.
On a recent trip with a mate, he was completely baffled by the scrum and totally oblivious to the rules of London public transport. He even said thank you to people letting him off the train. It’s a miracle he wasn’t stabbed for that alone. I’ve suggested he submit his own column to the editor, “UFC: Up From Canterbury”.
The thing that really ruined my day was one phrase: “Please take all of your personal possessions with you when you leave the train”. All of my possessions are personal, I’m not sure why they need to be so specific. If I’d borrowed a coat, had it in my possession, but did not own it, would it be OK to leave it behind?
Also, why do they feel we need to be told this? I was intending to leave my laptop here, but I suppose I’ll have to carry it round all day now. I think what they want to say is “Check the floors and luggage racks to make sure you’ve not forgotten something”, that might actually be helpful, so why don’t they just bloody well say that?
So enraged was I, that my Canterbury dawn serenity had left me entirely, and then it hit me. These infuriating announcements had primed me for the rest of the commute. I was filled with the rage and disregard for my fellow humans that you need in order to survive the Northern Line in the rush hour. Thanks for this vital service, Southeastern rail, you psychological geniuses.
(Editor comment: Southeastern might also consider that the train doesn’t ‘terminate here’. The journey may terminate, but many of the passengers remain alive and well. The carriages themselves generally complete the journey intact.)
Alex Ricketts is a marketing professional working in London. He lives in Canterbury with his partner and his young daughter.