Sunday, April 3, 2011

The upside of commuting

I’m a commuter. Every day I get on the train and travel into London to work and then back again at night. I bet you’re thinking what a terrible way to live your life – travelling each day in carriages full of tired, grey people who don’t talk to you and would neatly and without conscience elbow you in the ribs to get to a seat first. You may, indeed, have a point but I’ve actually grown quite fond of the people in my carriage. We all know each other by sight, sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t, mostly we get on with reading, snoozing and listening to music. And underneath our grey and boring exteriors there lurks all kind of exciting personalities. Me for example. Okay, maybe exciting personality is overdoing it but, yes, me. Now, at first glance you’d see a middle aged mum sitting quietly, hands folded neatly on her lap, having a nap. In actual fact, far from sleeping, what I’m doing is thinking about gremlins and bears. I’m writing a book about them at the moment and in the 40 minute journey into work I sit with my eyes closed and imagine all kinds of odd scenarios. I develop the plot in my mind and occasionally have a burst of inspiration that makes me reach into my handbag and get out my pad and pen to write it down before I forget it (this can startle my fellow passengers so I try not to move too quickly). Train journeys are a writer’s paradise and they are far from being grey, empty journeys full of grey, empty people – everyone is interesting and some have become characters in my books. One fellow commuter, Chris, loves to climb mountains and on his journey in plots and plans his next adventure. He’ll disappear for several weeks before reappearing, usually with a tan and a big, happy grin on his face. Then there’s the small mouse-like lady who does accounts. She travels in with her friend who is four times her size, blond and chatty. Oh and then there’s the lady who travels in with her husband, she’s pregnant and wasn’t on the train last week and we’re all wondering whether it is a girl or a boy. And then there are the people on the station platform themselves, the guy who sells the Big Issue, the woman who folds and hands out thousands of Evening Standards each day…. Yes, believe it or not, commuting is rich pickings for a writer!


  1. I do miss commuting by train - I used to read a book a week. I've had to resort to listening to audiobooks in the car. It's OK but it's not the same. How lovely to be able to use your fellow commuters as inspiration for characters!

  2. I must admit that travelling by car doesn't provide the same stimulus as public transport. I used to get the park and ride and although it was a short journey it provided great food for thought.