Commuter

My journey to work takes me past a mental hospital (“not A and E”). It looks like a Victorian construction, like an overgrown church with the tall, thin chimney of a crematorium. My drive is on the valley road, virtually the only road in and out. Local speed limits, traffic lights and a light drizzle add to the feeling of tedium. I am a little anxious as I am still getting used to a car which replaced one wrecked at one of the roundabouts on this road a few weeks ago.

 

I catch a train in a polite queue and find a seat. Most passengers are reading the free newspaper, books, their mobile phones or laptops. There is little conversation. One of the guards seems to have a voice a little like Dylan Thomas but then again maybe they all do in this centenary year. I look out at the fields, surprised at how green this formerly industrial area has become, at how tired I have become.

 

My reverie is ended by my arrival in the city to crowds of people carrying takeaway coffees as if they were lanterns, showing the way. The entrance to the station has a casual guard of three chatting policemen.

 

A short way from these officers, six street drinkers sit on steps descending to a car park. They look brown, happy and worn. A discarded rail ticket lies pasted onto the damp pavement as does a card with the flag of a country I can’t identify at the pace of the pack I am in, trying to do up a broken zip on my coat as I go.

 

At traffic lights, people take risks when the red man shows, when death could arrive in an instant from one of five directions.

 

In the shiny shopping centre, an old man with a white and yellow beard sits slumped next to a restaurant which is based on recreating USA youth music and food of the 1950s. He uses two sticks and talks to himself, the very antithesis of what this eating place trumpets.

 

I reach my office, a fairly large, squat building now being slowly dwarfed by the office block rising on legs of concrete across the road.