19 November 2009

Life in Suburbia

Been in the Smog for the last couple of days, meeting investment analysts - not sure how I ended up here, last time I looked I was a geologist...

Being in London reminds of a time, twenty years ago when I arrived here, fresh from Uni with a very large debt, trying to get enough cash together to go and do a PhD. It was an entertaining 9 months but it also made me realise that I never wanted to live here again. Each time I come back and visit only serves to re-enforce that view. Anyway here is a tale from back in the day...

The year is 1988 and I have just finished my degree. The job market sucks and I am very short of cash, so I have taken a job in London with a small consulting company. At £7500/year the pay is so bad that I can’t actually afford to live here. In fact I would probably be better off back in Wales landscape gardening or delivering cars (which, along with stage crew work, had helped to finance my degree), but I also need to get some relevant experience to strengthen next years PhD chances.

So I end up living on my cousin’s floor in deepest, darkest Kent. I have been here for 2 weeks, long enough to work out that if I leave the house at exactly 7.30 I can walk 10 minutes to the train station, then catch a train followed by two tubes and get to the office in Putney at five to nine. I am already part of that well oiled commuter machine!

So for two weeks everything is going just fine and I am making a good impression at work. Then one evening, the guys ask me to come and play cricket with them. I am not much of a batsman but my long lanky arms assist in fast bowling and as it turns out the opposition are fairly crap anyway. We win and there is much beer downed to celebrate until the last train home.

I get to Oprington Station and head home, its pouring with rain and rather grim I realize that I must be more pissed than I thought because I am now lost. Bugger! It takes me about 2 hours to get my bearings, make it into the house and collapse on the bed.

Next thing I know, the room is flooded with daylight and I am awake and alert. What time is it? A quick look at my watch says 27 minutes passed 7. Shit! Shit! Shit! I know that if I miss the next train it will trigger a chain reaction of delays and I won’t be in work until 9.30. That is bad! Drinking on school night is fine as long as you make class the next day. Especially when it’s your first time out with the team.

I jump up, throw on some clothes and bolt for the door, running down the street towards the station, I might just make it! Half way I start to get a stomach cramp so I slow down a bit, I am sweating and feeling very rough, I start to walk. By now my goal has been down graded to making it to the station and finding a toilet before I crap my self.

More spasms and I am in serious trouble. Then just as it’s looking very bad, a man walks out of his house and asks if I am ok. I ask if I can use his toilet, he looks at me rather horrified and says no. I should emphasis that I can’t blame him, I am 6’2”, scruffy, with very long hair and I am sweating like a horse. I probably wouldn’t invite me into my house to use the toilet either.

But it’s desperate so I plead and eventually he relents and quietly says the toilet is at the top of the stairs. I need no second bidding, I barge past, take the stairs 3 at a time, while undoing my trousers. At the top of the landing I come face to face with his wife, dressed in her nightie. I am pretty sure that every morning he leaves for work at 7.36 and she gets up as he goes and heads to the toilet. I am also pretty sure she has never been head off at the pass by a large yeti with his trousers undone…

I pull down my trousers and my arse explodes, solids, liquids and gases under pressure. It’s a real mess and it stinks but it’s also immensely relieving, I feel so much better. A quick look at my watch tells me that this diversion has actually only taken about 3 minutes and if run I might just make the train. So I pull up my trousers and bolt down the stairs and up the street to the station.

I make the train and my honour at work is intact. My honour on the way to work subsequently is more challenged as every morning my new found friend waves and says hello. I wave back and hurray along.

The thing that really worries me about the whole affair is trying to imagine what his wife thought was happening and what she said when he got home that night …
“Darling, after you left this morning some long-haired hippy ran in to the house and stank the toilet out before running off. Can you imagine?”
“Really dear? In Orpington, imagine that...

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