Monday, 9 January 2006

Greater London

As readers of this journal of mine may or may not have realised, I have headed south to join the rat race in the big city. Previously my commute to work took about 10 minutes on a Nottingham City Transport bus. Having handed over my £1.20 to the driver I was usually faced with the traditionally dismal choice of seat partner. On one of my final excursions to the council buildings, I had the option to either share my seat with an intimidating young whippersnapper decked out in a puffer jacket and baseball cap, presumably on his way to be sentenced in the juvenile court, or alternatively, a decrepit looking chap with a bright red nose. I chose the latter option, and upon taking my seat was met by the unmistakable stench of urine. The bright red nose was obviously not due to the festiveness of the season and was more likely the result of chronic alcohol abuse. In my opinion such people should not be allowed on public transport. On another occasion some old woman spent the whole journey lecturing me for standing at the entrance to the bus. The aforementioned bus was tightly packed with bodies and there was no earthly chance of me being able to make my way further down the vehicle without causing someone an injury, but of course it’s tricky to explain these things to the older generation. ‘It used to be, in my day’ she said, recalling some imaginary golden age, ‘people would move down the other end of the bus so people could get off’. Having marked me out as a ‘wrong un’ she fixed me with a disapproving stare. It on occasions like this that you realise why god invented death.

Now my commute takes me along the Docklands light railway and the London tube and I’m treated to the entertaining spectacle of hyper stressed commuters struggling to get on overcrowded tube trains. Veins bulge on the heads of these suited zombies as they stare ahead of them with a look of blank depression; they look as if they are crying out for a terrorist attack to put them out of their misery. The rules of the tube are simple, stare ahead of you for the entire duration of the journey, avoiding eye contact and trying to look miserable and dejected, as if you were on the way to Stalg-Luft III rather than Kings Cross. Occasionally someone breaks the monotony by turning the volume on their I-pod up full blast and inflicting their appalling musical tastes on the rest of the carriage. I enjoy these moments because they demonstrate how human beings can work together despite having no ties of kin or community. Gradually the tidal wave of disapproval builds. People begin to find common cause in hating the scurrilous I-pod owner and finally appoint a representative to tell him to turn the damn thing down. Peace restored, the newly bonded occupants of the carriage turn back to staring at the adverts.

The part of the docklands my friend lives in is a curious place; a semi apocalyptic landscape in which decaying concrete tower blocks sit uneasily alongside sterile yuppie developments. The surrounding area is interspersed with areas of barren wasteland, once imposing areas of wharves and warehouses, now dismal pastures of earth and rubble waiting for the next batch of starter homes. The whole neighbourhood around the George V railway stop stinks like Satan’s cesspit and resembles a set from Blade Runner with its dilapidated high-rise buildings, graffiti and boarded up buildings. The young professionals from the surrounding developments speed-walk uncomfortably through this area in the early hours of the morning, no doubt expecting to be on the receiving end of a vicious multi-ethnic mugging should they linger too long. This is the edge of the ‘regeneration’ zone, and by the looks of it, the wreaking ball can’t come soon enough.
The job itself is even better than I thought it was going to be. It’s hard not to get caught up in the energetic and frantic atmosphere of a dot-com that is finally beginning to close important deals and go places. From now on in I’ll be attending important meetings with potential clients, working directly with the CEOs and doing a diverse range of work within the organisation. The company operates a flat management structure and I’m encouraged to be outspoken when I think one of my bosses has come up with a shit idea. This could be problematic. I’m also treated with vastly more respect than I deserve. I half expect someone to come up to me any minute with a load of pointless photocopying to do, or for some unpleasant specimen of Nottingham’s inner city to ring my phone to ask what freebies they get for attending our pre-employment training courses. Being a public servant isn’t very fulfilling when you hate the public.

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