6am, my alarm shrieks and brings me back into reality. Surely it’s not time to get up yet?
It’s the first day of my new job. I have returned to the UK to make some money to fund my next adventures.
I shower, change, take out the rubbish bins, make breakfast and rush to make myself semi presentable. I was starting a new job after all.
6:41am, I leave the house, it’s light already thanks to the recent daylight savings, though I know it won’t stay that way for long.
I make it to the station by 6:56am, purchase a ticket. It’s £17.90! That means my commute is costing around £100 a week, if you add on my next two journeys. I was seriously blessed to have had jobs previously, in which my commute was a 5-15 minute commute.
The train pulls up at 7:03am and it’s packed with commuters. Men and woman in suits stare blankly into the abyss. Most of them are reading or listening to music.
What surprises me is the level of glam the ladies appear to be in. Their hair neat and make up perfect. Surely this must have taken hours to look this way? Probably not I decide. They appear to have been doing this for years and it probably only takes 10 minutes in the morning.
The train speeds through to Stratford, I rush through to relinquish my ticket at the barrier, and then touch in with my Oyster card. Dashing to platform 6, I am unsure when the next central line train is. Luckily it’s in 4 minutes time.
I get on, the carriage is virtually empty. No one travels out of London in the morning! It was the opposite commute. I read and listen to music like the other commuters showed me.
Soon, I have reached Epping. Despite only being a half hour drive from the home I am house sitting in Essex. It has taken 1 hour so far.
I trudge up the hill to the bus stop. There is a bus in 5 minutes, which on an ordinary day would get me to my place of work on time.
Today however, I start at 9am. It’s a mild Autumn day, so I save money and walk. I arrive outside the hospital at 8:30am. It’s been almost 2 hours since I left home!
I get to work, and it’s a huge culture shock. The team are lovely, but I am back in the dreg of targets, systems, processes and polices. I’d much rather be sliding down the sand dunes in Mui Ne and eating wonderful Thai food that I’ve just cooked. However, money needs to be earned and my credit card bill doesn’t look healthy.
The day passes quickly. The team are lovely, despite me asking them a million and one questions.
16:45, changed out of my disgusting uniform (I knew there was a reason I preferred community OT in New Zealand more – no hideous green pants!)
I board a bus, only because I fear my legs won’t hold me up to walk the 20 minutes to the station. It’s £1.40. The cheerful bus driver didn’t seem to mind that I paid him with a £10 note.
After arriving at the station, I rush to the train. The next train has arrived, but doesn’t leave for 5 minutes. This means I’ll miss the 17.32 train.
As I sit down in the again empty central line train. I feel like I could sleep. I keep myself awake by reading the latest happenings in the UK, the London evening standard newspaper.
Soon, I am back in Stratford, and again have to scan out with my Oyster card to then check back in using my rail ticket.
I struggle to find the correct platform – who knew that 10 and 10a were different? (surely 10A should be on the same platform, but further down, like most other UK rail stations?!). The train is due to leave at 17:43. When I do find platform 10A it is too late. The train has left.
I return to the waiting area and head up to cafe Nero, were a cheerful barista serves me. I purchase a large latte and a muffin (the muffin is unnecessary, but I know the sugar content will sustain me for a short while).
18.09. I make it to my platform. Board my train, manage to get a seat, and we are off. I arrive at 18.34pm. Almost 12 hours after leaving my home. Yes my working day is 8 hours, but that’s a whole 4 hours of travelling if you average it out.
I wander through the car park of the commuters who have parked their flashy cars here earlier. BMWs, Mercedes, Range Rovers .. They drive off to their country home, possibly to be met by a loving wife and family with dinner on the table (hugely stereotypical I know!)
I walk the 15 mins back to my home, talking with my dad on the way. It somehow makes me feel safer as I walk the poorly lit village streets.
6:58pm and I am through the door. I just want to crawl into bed, but I force myself to cook fajitas and salad for dinner rather than open a can of soup.
I slob in front of the TV for an hour. Prepare for tomorrow, shower and go to bed, ready to do it all over again.
What a life
I am thankful that that the job is only 4 days per week, and intend to make the most of my extra day off per week.
Previously on visits to London, I used to watch people as they pushed passed anyone in their way, running for the next train, when all I thought was “calm down love, there will be one in 2 minutes time!” However, what I realise now is that 2 minutes can mean a lot. It can mean being late due to a missed connection.
Now I have become of one of those commuters.
God help me.
So what I’m I doing to make this easier?
I am running away from it. After just four days – I decided to hire a car for the short term!
For 10 days of car hire, it costs £105 through Hertz rent a car, that is 10 days of the use of a car, for the cost of 4 days of using trains, buses and the underground.
Will I miss going in and out of London – yes and no. I love London, but I honestly do not envy those that have been doing this day in, day out for years.
Just how anyone has a commute longer than 1.5 hours, has a social life, after a 40 hour week is beyond me.
Are you a London commuter? Have you got any tips for surviving the dreaded journey to and from work?
What is the most you are willing to travel for a job?
I’d love to hear your work and travel stories!