The Diary of a Commuter

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

And The Lord Said, Let There Be Greg

I love cooking. The kitchen is my church, the chopping board my altar, Radio 4 my choir. In fact it's secretly the Great Escape. No other Dad-Task so perfectly combines point winning bravado, zero childcare, and the uncorking of something robust and red quite so efficiently as getting the apron on. I cook a mean Sunday roast. This was not always the case.

As a student, my culinary skills stretched between the fridge and the Breville Toaster – easily the most vital of all student kitchen utensils - an object unique in its ability to breathe new life into objects which had previously been declared utterly dead, such as yesterday evening’s Pot Noodle.

Fortunately my culinary skills have improved since those impoverished days, and thanks in no small part to the increasing popularity of the cookery programmes. I like cookery programmes - good cookery programmes - a lot. Unfortunately for every Floyd there is a Fearnly-Whatshisname, for every Wareing there is a Wallace. And there is a lot of Wallace. Too much Wallace. There is in fact more Greg Wallace than is surely possible for Wallace to provide within known physical laws. Perhaps he has a Thyme machine.

Is it Masterchef? Is it Masterchef Professional? Is it, in fact, Celebrity Masterchef (difficult to tell). The real question should be Is Greg Wallace a chef? No. Not even a cook. In fact his official title on Masterchef is “ingredients expert”. Let’s be clear, Greg Wallace is a fruit and veg salesman.
That said, his unique, mouth stuffing techniques, straining and spilling, plus his impressive ability to rearrange the opinions of his co-host in a much simpler, even childlike way, makes for compelling viewing. That. Is. Laarvely.

The truth is, there is so much Masterchef that alien civilisations observing us from the far recesses of space, could easily be forgiven for thinking that Greg is our leader, maybe even our God. Perhaps Graven images of Wallace, in full tasting crouch, spoon in hand and pesto dribbling down chin, are adorning the altars of extra-terrestrial churches across the galaxy.

There may even be a new version of the Lord’s Prayer, in honour of the Master of the Mouthful:

Our Greg, who art from Peckham,
Portly be thy frame
Thy mouthful come, thy spill be done
On BBC2, is it is on the iPlayer
Rate us this day our lovely pud
And forgive us our soufflé
As we forgive those who parboil against us
Lead us not into elimination
But deliver us from under-seasoning
For thine is the kitchen, the flour and John Dory
For pestle and mortar.
Amen.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bring Forth The Potato Peeler

Tunbridge Wells is a load of old pumpkins. At least it was yesterday morning, as I walked to the station, in the wake of the previous evening’s Halloween shenanigans.

Pumpkins.

Pumpkin carving has reached Olympic proportions, and must now be considered as a new and particularly aggressive strain of Competitive Dad Syndrome. I must have spent at least half an hour with Harry and Jessie during the afternoon of the 31st, proudly carving what I presumed would be the best pumpkin they had ever seen. Once complete, candles were duly inserted, lights switched off for full effect, and there it was – a premiere league carving fit for display outside our front door, ready to impress the new neighbours whilst simultaneously signalling to the evening’s barrage of sugar fuelled kids that we were “up for” some of the tricking and the treating.

Trick or treat, or “Treat” as it should now be duly re-titled, appears to have changed beyond all recognition, and bears no resemblance to it’s 1970’s relative “Give us some dosh mister, or we’ll put dogshit through your letterbox”. In fact, as a child I barely remember Halloween at all. It was always about Bonfire Night. Waiting in anticipation for my father to return home from work on Friday night with an armful of cheap fireworks, which were then ceremoniously nailed to the back garden fence. We would gather round excitedly, regardless of the fact that the display would last slightly less than 2 minutes and which was, to all intents and purposes, shit.

The only lasting memory of Halloween was a story my Grandmother used to tell me each year. Dot Maclintock would gather the grandchildren around the fireplace, bottle of warmed Guinness by her side, and tell us that if you stood in front of a mirror on the stroke of Midnight on All Saints Day, lit a candle and began to comb your hair, you would see the person you will marry staring back at you. I never tried this, and I never will –partly because it all seems like rather a lot of effort to go to, a reason perhaps why this myth will probably hold up forever, but largely because the whole business gives me the complete heebie jeebies.

And so back to the pumpkins. Let me make it clear that my pumpkin was good. Bloody good. Difficult it is though to compete with an entire scene from Harry Potter painstakingly whittled across the largest pumpkin in Kent, or the entire Simpson’s family, pet’s included, carved and hanging triumphantly from the porch of number 65. From the first house we visited to the last, and at each house in between, I had been usurped. Trounced. A can of pumpkin Whoop-Ass had been opened and handed to me, from which I had no choice but to duly sip. The new neighbours had simply neglected to inform me that this evening would turn out to be the Royal Tunbridge Wells Galactic Pumpkin Carving Finals of The Universe.
Never in the field of human pumpkins, had so many been carved by so yada yada yada.

We arrived home with bucketful’s of cheap confectionary. Pouring myself a large glass of Shiraz, I sat down at the kitchen table, face to face with our pumpkin. It was a bloody good pumpkin…

Harry bounded into the Kitchen, wired to the teeth on Haribo.

“Daddy, can we smash the pumpkin up now?”

I looked up at Harry… "Get the rolling pin.”

Thursday, 21 October 2010

You'll Never Take My Freedom

"We will shortly be arriving at Tunbridge Wells. Please mind the gap between your dwindling disposable income and your ludicrous commuting costs"

This was not the message that welcomed me for the first time from the tannoy at Tunbridge Wells station, but it wouldn't have seemed the least bit out of place. This is not the subject of this blog. The subject of this blog is this.

I believe there is an art, or rather a knack, to commuting.

The knack of commuting is this - explore, understand and then dominate your environment. I begin first by becoming "mates" with the manager of the station café. He is important. He is an ally. Once on my side, he will work hard for me. My morning coffee is big league, and a polite and regular exchange of manly chat with this pivotal character will ensure that he will eventually spot me upon entry to the café, and therefore prioritise (to the annoyance of the other commuters) my morning preference. With coffee in hand, and some cracking male football banter roundly exchanged, it's a quick leap across the platform onto the 7.40.

Time now for the hunt for a seat, or more importantly, a bay...

With a 1 hour commute, the seating selection is crucial, and can make or break the man, and the journey. Quick and professional consideration is required. I now traverse the vehicle like a predator until a full unoccupied bay is discovered. This both offers choice of seat (window) and direction (facing – the gentleman’s choice).

I am now in a position of great power. I now “own a bay”.

The power that this gambit exudes should not be overlooked. In this simple formation I can adopt a number of dominating postures and territorial looks; enough to easily dissuade the weaker entrants to the train as we hit High Brooms, and then of course Tonbridge, where all hell will break loose in a scramble for miniscule commuting space.

From this point forward the middle game is over, and with all available square footage occupied it could be easy, by this time, to find myself entirely discombobulated. That would be the case had I not exerted my physical presence earlier in the game, which I duly did, and not without some authority.

For example, I had already commanded a larger share of the available footwell space, and my important protracted elbow room for broadsheet reading was procured prior to the arrival of the final barrage of largely unwelcome Chislehurst commuters.

And so, as the train approaches London Bridge there is some feeling of victory. I proceed to leave the train, apologising profusely as I tread on the toes of Englishmen, however I can say with proud conviction that there may come a day when all hope is lost, when humankind must turn the final page, and man is forced to go quietly into the night.

But it will not be this day.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Dictionary of a Commuter

ROTHERHITHE (n)
A journey between two tube stations exactly long enough for a busker to play "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man" at you.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dawn Chorus 4 - Life, The Universe and Everything

Act One
Scene 4

A pale and watery Autumn sun begins its daily flight across the cold silvery rooftops of Lordship Lane. It’s 6.57am, and the recently adjusted central heating system of an exceptionally well presented Victorian semi, situated conveniently close to local amenities, begins gently to warm the four sleepy occupants therein – two of which lay extremely inactive underneath a large and extremely inviting continental duvet.

An unwelcome and yet not entirely unexpected interruption to the morning solitude begins to emerge from a room at the back of the house occupied by a member of the household yet to surpass the 4 foot marker on his bedroom wall. The young man, clearly wrestling with the meaning of life once again, appears to gather his thoughts, sidle into the master bedroom and follow the familiar path round to the side of the bed occupied by his industrious and adoring father.

Harry: Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy........?
Daddy: (from underneath the continental duvet) mmmmmm...wwwwhhhhh . . ..... .........zzzzzzzzzz
Harry: Daddy!
Daddy: Whhhh........What.....Harry? What time is it......?
Harry: (sighs) Daddy, I know what happened to the spider when I killed it.
Daddy: (emerging from under the duvet) Harry, this is not the time....please..?
Harry: But DADDY!
Daddy: OK...what?
Harry: I know what happened to the spider when I killed it.
Daddy: After you tell me you’ll go back to bed, right?
Harry: Yes.
Daddy: What happened?
Harry: It went to heaven.
Daddy: Fine...
Harry: So, do you know where heaven is then?

Daddy, groggy with sleep yet clearly becoming a little intrigued, opens a single bleary eye to examine his short male offspring.

Daddy: No.....tell me where it is.
Harry: It’s up in the sky.
Daddy: OK...... and what happens when you go there?
Harry: There’s a big green sea monster made of clouds. But he’s a nice sea monster not a nasty one.
Daddy: Really, and what does he do?
Harry: He looks after you and cleans all the blood off you until you are all better. And then you come back down from the clouds and you’re not dead anymore and all the blood’s come off.
Daddy: And how long does this take?
Harry: (pauses).....About six weeks.

Daddy: ...
Harry: So the spider’s all better now, with no more blood on him.

Daddy, who is clearly and completely lost for words, simply stares through one eye at the boy.

Harry: OK Daddy?
Daddy: er...OK.
Harry: Good.
Daddy: Harry?
Harry: Yes?
Daddy: Back to bed.
Harry: OK Daddy.

Harry turns and leaves the room, with one of the universe’s greatest mysteries firmly solved at the age of 4 and three quarters.

Fade to black.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Dictionary of a Commuter

ST JOHN'S WOOD (v)
Unexpectedly aroused en route to work, a possible cause of which is the continuous and vibrating movement of the Northern Line. On a particularly packed train The St John's Wood usually preceeds a Woodside Park.

WOODSIDE PARK (v)
A gentlemen's adjustment, usually following a St Johns Wood.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Dictionary of a Commuter

UPMINSTER (v)
Parental one-up-man-ship. The Upminster can be regularly be witnessed in Dulwich Park, between two fathers discussing the latest"optional extras" that came with their buggies. Typically one father will highlight that his pram came with Blue-Tooth and iPod connection. However he should always be cautious, as his colleague is highly like to counter with a return Upminster, informing him that his buggie has
Twitter.