Sunday, 23 November 2008


Part of the reason I convinced myself two months ago to buy a laptop which I clearly didn't need was in order to take advantage of long and otherwise unproductive journeys. I keep complaining that I have no time to blog, so what about harnessing the untold hours spent sitting alone, staring out of the window while being shuttled to and fro by the nation's public transport system? It's difficult to blog on a bus, it has to be said. Journeys tend not to be long enough for effective introspection, and people tend to look at you strangely, or read over your shoulder and laugh, or read over your shoulder and point out when you've spelled embarrassing words wrong. Words like gonorrhoea, or cunnilingus. So not the bus, then. And similarly not on the plane, given my tendency to holiday either in the cold, wet confines of this country, or even, perhaps preferably, simply in my own home and more specifically my own bed. Little to no airline travel involved there, then, and thus no excuse for an extravagant laptop purchase.

But, I thought to myself, what about all those long train journeys to far flung parts of this windy isle? I remembered as a child being entertained by my parents for the three-and-a-half hour slog up to Newcastle: playing chess with my dad; doing (easy) crosswords or reading comics; eating sandwiches out of a bag; cherishing the one tube of sweets that had to last the whole journey. And, speaking of sweets, anyone who has had a sibling must surely have had those unspoken competitions when treats were limited and ruthlessly equal. One tube of sweets would have to last the whole trip, and so clearly there was some self-rationing involved. But there was more to it than that, there was strategy. With a sibling eating their own tube of sweets, it became a game of cat and mouse. You simply couldn't be the first to finish. Were you to make this schoolboy error, and was your companion in consumption to notice, you would, for the remainder of the journey, be subjected to the pure enjoyment experienced by He Who Saved His Sweets. Little moans of pleasure, audible mastication, and the slowest possible consumption of each delicacy, while staring innocently across the table at you, driving home the message that He Had Something You Didn't, a true achievement in the tightly regulated world of similarly-aged siblings. The complex tactics developed for this sugary underground warfare might need a post of their own, but suffice it to say that they were not limited to pre-dividing sweets into tiny fragments, sorting and resorting them to buy time, and even pretending to eat them, whilst palming them away into a lint-filled pocket for future enjoyment.

Hm. Where was I? Ah: train journeys. Yes. So, I thought to myself, train journeys as an adult will be just as long and uninteresting. A laptop will provide the perfect solution to this, giving me a creative outlet. With no distractions in the immediate vicinity, and no internet connection, I'll only have to contend with reading, listening to music and staring into space. Surely this will lead to the occasional flow of creative juices, and the associated gob of blog-worthy phlegm. And so, armed with this suitably flimsy argument, I went out and bought a little Eee PC. Not a powerful machine by any standards, but pretty, portable, and certainly novel enough to stave off boredom for the occasional train journey. If, of course, such journeys were undertaken. For, of course, in my haste to convince myself that a shiny new piece of hardware was necessary, I had conveniently managed to forget the miniscule amount of time I actually spend on trains. And so the first three months of the laptop's existence were marked by its presence on top of my chest of drawers. Pristine, but rarely touched. Attractive, but unused. Enticing but redundant.

After that first barren period, however, fate, as she sometimes does, gave me an opportunity to take more regular train journeys, and I leapt at the opportunity by dusting off my little technological wonder and preparing for the creative explosion that would come with so much uninterrupted keyboard time. I also bought a little external hard drive to ensure that any actual keyboard time would in fact be spent watching films and downloaded TV shows, thereby at a single stroke, effectively nullifying any potential productivity (a skill I honed during my time at university).

And so we come to the present day, and the reason for such an uncharacteristically long and flowery post. I am, as you may have guessed, writing on a train, having spurned the distractions of films or television shows through somehow losing my external hard drive. And I have to say, it's everything I had hoped for. This was going to be a relatively simple post, but the lack of distraction has turned it into an overly personal, irrelevant ramble, filled with inappropriately extravagant language, pretentious airs, and wandering asides. And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Were I to be writing at home, I'd have got up to get a drink, or turned on something to watch, or listen to, or started to tidy my room, or browse facebook, or checked my email, but here there is none of that. I can finally reach the true horrifying lows of my unfettered blogging potential. And don't think you'll get off lightly, I'm only 50 minutes into a three hour journey, here, so there's plenty more to come.

A final aside: Ever since I saw the BBC series "The Last Train" as a child, (in which the various strangers in a train carriage have to work together in a harsh and unforgiving environment after a meteor wipes out civilisation while they were in a tunnel), I have found myself imaging how I would fare with my companions on any given journey, should this, or something similarly far-fetched, arise. I have to say I'm feeling reasonably confident with the current situation. Should the worst happen, I plan to stay close to the huge black guy sitting across the aisle from me. Should it come down to a difference of opinions in a post-apocalyptic landscape, always try to side with the person who could rip someone's head clean off. The teenager to my left, playing with the music on his mobile, seems fairly annoying, but is probably wily. He'd learn some harsh life lessons, but come out a better person. The old man at the table in front of me would help provide wisdom to the team, and the slightly annoying middle-aged guy, who expressed displeasure at his reserved seat and went to find another, could come along, but would probably get eaten by jackals at some point, to keep the rest of us mindful of our own mortality. Should such a situation turn out less like a seven-part BBC drama, an unlikely but possible outcome, I'm fairly sure we'd all just wander around for a few days, run out of food and starve to death. I don't think I'll share this bleak outlook with my fellow passengers, however. They might find it a little odd, and there's nothing worse than finding yourself in a carriage with some weirdo rambling on about post-apocalyptic landscapes and laptops. Assuming it's out loud at least. I'm sure I'm quite bearable when I'm simply typing it.


Hanspan said...

You could just read a book? I had six hours on trains yesterday and I read most of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and then finished it when I got home. It was the most fun I've had in ages.

Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one who imagines how they'd interact with the people around them should the world suddenly end.

TheTelf said...

Yeah, reading was my backup, but I wasn't inspired by either of the books I had with me at the time, and I'd left the book I meant to start at home.

I always saw my judo as preparation for a post-apocalyptic world...