London has gone back to work.
After New Year’s Eve, at the very start of Stupid January, people start getting a bit twitchy. A bit ants-in-their-pants-y.
It’s like no one knows what to do with themselves; they’re a little too used to staying in bed until the sun goes down – much more of a challenge in the summer, but still a notable achievement in winter – and suffering from a daily routine that involves shuffling from fridge, to sofa, to phone screen, to inevitable pub, occasionally rinse, repeat.
“Could it be”, you wonder, shaking and scratching around a depleted box of Quality Street, “that I am looking forward to getting back to work?”
Some people went back to work on Friday 2nd January this year.
Those of us who did were treated to a rare and wonderful thing: a vision of what London could be if it was empty.
If it was somewhere with well-oiled, spacious, fast moving transportation devices which got you from A-B in the time it’s meant to take you to get there.
If it was somewhere without queues in Pret.
If it was somewhere like the Moon, or Switzerland.
Oh, to live in a city where 60% of the population doesn’t go to work. On the 2nd of January this year, a small group of us lived the dream.
For everyone else, January started the usual way.
That is, by launching a torrent of expletives at an inanimate Oyster card machine which insisted on charging £3-£5 more for a monthly travel pass than it did a few days ago.
“But WHY?” we yelled at the machines in turn, withholding our debit cards in disgust. “What has CHANGED to make this new fare JUSTIFIED? NOTHING. Nothing. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. It is STUPID.”
Then we cried.
And then we paid.
There will, I believe, come a day when TFL softens the blow of Stupid January by offering free on-board croissants. We live in hope.
Until then, it’s up to us.
So to combat the drag of Stupid January, I am reading.
Like, concerted effort reading.
The sort of reading where you buy good books and finish them in a couple of days, then pick up another one and read that.
Reading a good book makes the commute go faster, and has the added benefit of distracting you from your phone. Or Facebook. Or the news. Or the condensation sliding down sweaty bus windows onto your scarf. Or whatever’s making you feel a bit ants-in-your-pants-y that day.
If anything, a good book has the magical effect of making you wish your commute was longer.
And in the case of Station Eleven, it also makes you think that everyone who sneezes on your bus has a killer virus which will lead to the end of the world.