General Journalism

From commuter to Londoner – how does it compare?

No one likes Monday mornings do they? But you know the people that don’t like it even more? Commuters. The ones who have to wake up at the crack of dawn, to get on a possibly delayed train to work, to be flustered and frustrated by the time they reach the office at 9am.

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I spent about 3 and a half months commuting from down near Brighton to North London every day. The thing that kept me sane was that my dad did pretty much exactly the same journey, only he left about 10 mins before me. If he had been doing it for 25 years, how could I complain? I got into a pretty quick routine, I woke about 5.55am, made my lunch the night before, perfected the art of getting reading in 15 mins, shoved some cereal down my throat and changed the 20 minute walk to the station to a 7 minute cycle. My train was rarely majorly delayed into work, but it was every single day on the way home. It was 2 hours door to door but I actually didn’t mind it too much.

I did mind the fact that I was tired, always frustrated and angry at delayed trains just at the times I really needed them to be on time. Frustrated that when things were happening after work, I would potentially be at home for a mere 6 hours to sleep before getting up to go back into London. I minded that I was paying nearly £400 a month on travel, and then when social things were happening all I really wanted to do was to be home on time (which was about 7.15, after leaving at 5) so I could enjoy an evening to relax and do nothing. I also minded that, at 24, I was still living at home and I was earning a salary now, so I couldn’t use the excuse of not having any money to not move out. I was young and working my first job in London and not really enjoying any of the perks.

I didn’t intend to move to London so soon, but on several irritated journeys to work, I started browsing the Spare Room app, just to see what was around, what it would cost me, where I could potentially live. It becomes just like a job interview, you’ve got to get in there quick if you want to see a flat, and if you get a viewing it’s like a stroke of luck. And then you’ve actually got to impress them. So I viewed several flats – and even that was a chore. Waiting around to 8.30pm for a viewing and then have to commute home afterwards. But I was lucky and I found somewhere to move in that was affordable and exactly what I needed.

I blogged before about not being obsessed with living in London. London can so often be described as lonely and isolated even though it’s a huge city. Everyone’s on fast forward, people aren’t always friendly. It’s so expensive, and to live somewhere you can actually afford at the beginning of your career is definitely not going to be in the centre where you imagine living. In the heart of it all. It’s associated with workaholics – people working late and drinking and then going home to do the same thing the next day.

So I think I had a bit of that in my head, but I moved anyway knowing that it was a) more convenient for me. LOADS more convenient. And b) it made me move out. But in the just over two months that I’ve been living here I’ve felt completely different about London – it’s not isolating and lonely, not if you make an effort to do otherwise.

But the commute. That’s what this is about, right? Yes I live in South London and I work in North London but the commute so damn easy that I feel so much more relaxed and calm when I get to work. It’s a 30 min tube, and because I start work early and live quite south I get a seat every morning. Which means when it gets packed I barely even notice it because I’m squashed in the corner like I am now with a book or doing some writing. I work north enough that I will get a seat on the way home too, and although I give myself an hour door to door, it’s always less than that. The longest I’m waiting for a tube is 3 minutes. The amount of times I’m delayed is near to zero.

I like living here a lot. A lot more than I thought I would. I love my flat, I like the area.  All those events and things that used to be a train ride away are just a short tube to the centre. You can read Time Out and find cool places to eat and actually go and visit them and not have to schedule a trip to do so. I haven’t got tired of the touristy stuff yet, and I can find somewhere new to see and go every weekend. Even if it’s just somewhere I’ve never been before. Mid-week drinking is so acceptable that if you don’t do it, people will probably question why, and so many young people are moving to London that I’m finding my friends who used to live up north are now surrounding me in South London, and it’s ideal.

I’m away from the madness and business that is the centre of London, and where I live is quite populated with young professionals, but also a bit of a dream on a Sunday morning when there’s not people rushing around like the hubbub of the city.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve moved out and have a new found independence, or maybe it’s just because London is fun – but I’d choose living here than doing that 2-hour commute any day.

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