Navigating the Rural Jungle


So, I thought a blog would be a good idea for a couple of reasons.
One is that I have a degree in English Lit that doesn’t get used as much as I thought it would due to my ‘career’ in IT. The second is that every commute I make yields anecdotes and grumbles that franklly, my friends and loved ones are getting tired of.
This means a blog will allow me to vent my frustrations in a creative manner, and perhaps put me in the orbit of like-minded people.
At the very least, it’ll stop me whinging on a daily basis!

I commute from Norwich to Cambridge every weekday on a National Express East Anglia train, which is a journey of about an hour and twenty minutes, for those of you who don’t know and actually want to know. The journey itself is really beautiful as the surrounding Fenland makes for a majestic landscape, complete with various members of the animal kingdom from hare to deer.

The only problem is the other people. I find it vaguely fascinating but also can’t help myself getting irritated with the other passengers. They fall into categories, sometimes two at once. Here are my rough definitions of these groups, so you will be able to recognise them if you come across them. This list is by no means exhaustive – more categories and sub categories would be most welcome as suggestions.

1) The Natives: This is a certain group of people, who have obviously done the same journey for years. They have become so settled that they know all of the ticket conductors by name and all of the passengers. ‘Outsider’ passengers are ignored at best and downright unwelcome at worst. This is not exclusive to the Norwich- Cambridge service by any means. I used to commute to London on a weekly basis (i.e. I’d get the stupid o’clock train on a Monday and then get some god-awful packed tin tube back on a Friday) and the very same group of people existed there too.
They even have the same seats – make sure you don’t sit in theirs or you will be treated to A Look and possibly even stage whispers about people who don’t know what they’re doing.
They are such a big group that they can be divided into splinter groups too.

1a) Glamourpusses: not confined to the fairer sex, they get on and pull out a make up bag bigger than most people’s suitcases. With no tangible self consciousness they proceed to pluck, preen and powder their way to perfection. If you happen to catch their eye (especially while plucking) you will be met with an icy glare.

1b) Sleepyheads: There are a select group of commuters who can get on any moving vehicle and fall asleep wherever they are. I have encountered breathtakingly well equipped members – one gentleman had a blow up pillow stashed in his suit pocket. Invariably, you are not one of these people but has one sit next to you, and then find yourself trapped when you need the bathroom. Tricky indeed.

1c) Chompers: have breakfast prepared, or if it’s not breakfast, will at least be furnished with the loudest snack ever known. Breakfast is usually something obnoxious such as bananas or sandwiches meant for lunch – more often than not, egg or tuna. Or both, if you’re unlucky. These people have obviously never had a mother to tell them to eat with their mouths closed.

1d) Space Invaders: These can be spotted on trains, buses and tubes across the land. Let’s face it – on trains especially there isn’t an abundance of room. Space Invaders try to take up as much room as possible, regardless of physical mass, by spreading elbows and legs out. If you’re sitting in a pair, you can have the joy of quietly arm wrestling for the middle arm for the journey. Woe betide those hemmed in by two Space Invaders on a table – you will have an uncomfortably intimate game if footsie AND an arm fight. Let it be said – they are normally menopausal older women.

2) The Tourists: although glimpsed rarely on commuter trains (if I didn’t have to get up at 6.30am, I wouldn’t) when they do turn up they invariably have large cases and a big bag of food. Depending on the direction of travel, and their journey purposes, they may have lots of bags of shopping which they hang onto for the whole hour, regardless of who has a bag in their face. The tourists will always talk and sometimes shout to each other, especially if there’s a big enough group so they can’t sit together. They will then try to include everyone on the carriage and treat the journey as if it’s a school coach trip, complete with sing-a-long-a football songs.

3) The Schoolies: One thousand school kids pile on at one stop, who seem determined to perpetuate the stereotype of today’s youth. Chewing gum, fornicating openly, smoking and (this is the worst bit) playing music on their mobiles WITHOUT HEADPHONES. Mercifully, they pile off again at the next stop.

4) The Newbies: Anyone who hasn’t been doing the journey for more than fifteen years, but who still makes the same trains more than three times a week. They seek assurance from the Natives about the train destination and will follow their lead – getting up when they do, eating what they eat etc. They may even attempt to join in on some of the ‘jokey’ banter, but will find themselves hastily and firmly rebuffed.

I’ll bet you’re wondering which group I fall into. Or maybe you stopped reading at “So”. Either way, I’d like to think that I don’t fall into the trappings of running with the pack, but am instead a lone wolf, standing against the unjust and rude actions of the other groups in a world where no-one wants to be heard against the white noise of consumerism.

Failing that, I’m probably Newbie.