the herd.

APPROXIMATELY ninety people funnel up the narrow wrought iron steps above the train tracks at around 8pm each evening. I don’t know why I say ninety, as I only really see the backs of four or five heads as I shuffle irritatingly on their heels, treading step by step.

Fidgety yet vacant, we all jostle like sheep, shepherding each other, up onto the bridge and in the direction of home. It’s slow – sometimes agonisingly, othertimes not. Today, the air was warm and my piped-in music was up loud. I was excited to come home and write.

There’s a mechanistic quality to the daily commute: every step of the journey honed with each repetition. This morning, I shot a glance down the platform at a series of suited city soldiers. Standing, regimented, at each carriage door, their fingers hovered over buttons, poised to press at the earliest possible second.

Sat down, I mimicked the long-distance stare again today, honoured the tacit vow of silence, the careful compartmentalisation of limbs – contained, as if boxed in glass.

There are the regulars. Holey jumper man was the first I noticed, about a week in, as he fumbled his head and arms simultaneously through a well-worn burgundy pullover: all wiry limbs and tufted bald head racing each other, flailing, towards a gulp of fresh air. Then there’s the corpse: dead to the world as the train leaves the station. Jaw dropped, head back, cheeks hollowed out like my grandma that last time I saw her.

Details from home reveal themselves, jutting out from the corporate grey. Trainers, scuffed from kick-abouts, rebel against trouser legs. Zippy jumpers, scarves and gadgets spill over from Christmas stockings.

Plugged in and tuned out, we all bob in unison to the rhythm and sway of the tracks. There are newspapers, crosswords, headphones, laptops. A hundred little ways to fill the space inside. Maybe the furrowed lady with the list on the back of an envelope is scribbling them all down.

I didn’t know this space existed, crammed in to a steel carriage with rucksacks and overcoats.

I quite like it.


day forty seven.

IT’S not actually day forty seven, or seventy two, or eight thousand and ninety five.

I think if I tried to calculate what day it is today, I might well start hyperventilating – like the way I do when I watch space programmes on TV and wonder if I’m actually a microbe on the leg of a flea, and if my flea’s about to be swatted by a rolled up Martian Times.

It is, however, a Saturday. A day of a hundred implicit should do’s and could do’s. A day where fat blobs of rain hang stagnantly on the windows and shivering blades of grass warn you off venturing outside.

It’d be a great day for sorting things. Starting with the house. You see, it’s not quite got that Nigella-style cosiness about it yet: that enveloping smug order, where the cushions smell of cinnamon and the lights bleed out a warm, ambient fuzz. Truth is, the TV’s still propped up on a grey filing cabinet that got dented during the move, and there’s seemed little point in vacuuming around the half-emptied suitcases and their exploded innards.

But there we are. Here we are. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while about all of this: about how things are since I sold off bits of my life and moved away. About how it’s really, pretty much, the same over here, just with slightly different weather and a new computer login.

I know you had your serious face on when you told me over our lattes that there’s no such thing as a new start. We were doing our weekly Starbucks role-play – the one where I get whipped up into a frappa frenzy and you give me the eye roll. I think I actually knew, even then, that you were right.

I’m not going to speak about this much anymore. Let’s just note, for the record, that day one was a while ago.