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Last Friday it took me an hour and a half to drive to work and it pretty much topped off an awful week of commuting where I must have spent at least twelve hours in the car. This week, I decided to do something about it and looked at alternative methods of getting to work. Cycling was out as I live nearly twenty miles away from work and I’m not that fit. There was an option of a car share, but we work different hours and I wasn’t too enthused with getting up any earlier than I already do. My other options were the train or the bus.

On paper, the train was cheaper, quicker, closer to home and required no changes with a better selection of journey times. Seemed like a no-brainer.

Monday morning rolled around and I walked to the train station to find that my new transportation choice was running late by ten minutes due to ‘slippery rails’ (wasn’t that a Bon Jovi album?). Annoyed but not surprised, I waited with everybody else for the delayed train. When the two carriages trundled in, we all scrambled aboard.

Due to the train being late, it meant that I had to stay an extra ten minutes at work to make up my time. Ten minutes may not sound a lot, but it was just long enough for me to miss my return train home by a minute, so I had to wait another half an hour for the next one.

“She looked quite comfortable in her seat; I wondered if she was a politician”

Not to be deterred by Monday’s performance, I opted for the train once more on Tuesday. Again it was late (two minutes this time) and the two carriages that did show up somehow had fewer seats than Monday’s train. As we clambered in, I soon realised that I would be standing for the entirety of my twenty-five-minute ride. That was OK for the first five minutes but when more people got on at the next stop, it became rammed and we were packed in like sardines. Great.

On Thursday the train was standing room only again. At the stop after mine people were trying to get on but it just wasn’t happening. One old bird feeling high and mighty piped up and told the crushed masses to move down the train to let more people on. She looked quite comfortable in her seat; I wondered if she was a politician, probably an advocate for communism.

By the time Friday rolled around I’d had enough; it was raining and I was back in my car. Of all the trains I caught, none of them arrived when they should have done in the morning and they weren’t much better in the evening.

There were some benefits in taking the train as I managed to catch up with some of my friend’s blogs, Mixing up the Medicine and Just Needs Varnish.

Tyne Bridges
The view of the Tyne on my walk to work from the train station

Johnny writes Mixing up the Medicine and has a real passion for music and is a big fan of the small-venue up-and-coming band scene and it comes across in his writing. He can review music much better than I can because after saying ‘it’s good and I can bang my head to it’ I run out of things to say!

The other John writes Just Needs Varnish, a blog about his war-gaming projects. As a kid, I loved Warhammer but never had the time (or the patience) to ever finish painting anything. John seems to have a large back-catalogue of miniatures to paint and this is what he shares on his blog. His painting skills are brilliant (although he plays them down) and as well as photographing sets of figures from start to finish, he also demonstrates tips and advice on how to produce various painting techniques with a bit of military history thrown in for good measure.

As good as it was to get a bit of reading time, it wasn’t enough to persuade me to make the switch full-time. Although I may be prone to getting stuck in a traffic jam in the car every morning, at least I’d have a seat.

Would I take the train again though? Yes, yes I would; but only if my other alternative was the bus.

P.S. – go and check out Mixing up the Medicine and Just Needs Varnish, tell them Liam sent you!

Steve Hackett at the Sage in Gateshead

My wife and I (and the bump) went to see Steve Hackett at the Sage on Sunday. He was doing a load of early Genesis songs (as he was the guitarist for the band in the ‘70s) with an orchestra and it was brilliant – even the bump was bouncing around to it! The only thing I didn’t get was why the keyboard player was still using a load of synth sounds when he had a full orchestra behind him. Did he not get the memo?

The Sage
The Sage, Gateshead