The below was written as part of an internal communication piece showcasing employees who have chosen to relocate for their work. My piece focused on moving to London but with a classic Alice twist.
I wake each morning and stare at an isolated patch of peeling paint. I don’t how it came to be or why I look blankly at it every morning, but it has become a weird habit I’ve developed since relocating. Everyone has habits here, some people get through their commute with a super-skinny-muchos-frappy-bean café deluxe, others smoke like the bellowing car exhausts on Tower Bridge, for me staring at length at a flaky patch is mine. And I wonder why my Mum worries for me.
The most over repeated piece of advice on Development schemes is to make your own opportunities and I suppose for me London represented this to the extreme. If I could survive in the big smoke I could thrive anywhere. Combined with an exciting placement proposition I could hear Threadneedle calling in May 2018.
Upon arrival I told myself that I wouldn’t become another digit on London’s loneliness statistics which is why I have made every effort to try new things outside of work. “Speed-friending” events are all the rage in central London, up there with humanitarian clubs and vegan veg-outs. Regardless of my outlook I’ve attended all manner of get-togethers and learnt so much of wider society. I’ve even learnt to embrace my inner hipster, sitting crossed legged at acoustic sets and hanging out in independent coffee shops in berets and neck scarves (and getting subsequently mistaken for being French. “Je suis…Anglais”, the end result of five years of the British education system).
From the moment I leave my flat each morning I’m reminded of how far removed I am from Swindon. The smell of soot in the air, angry cyclists cursing at pedestrians, the wrapper of a tourist poncho blowing down the street, admittedly my battered copy of Lonely Planet didn’t prepare me well for daily life in the capital. But through perseverance I’ve forged my own lifestyle and friendship groups and that’s what I’m proudest of. The experiences I encounter, good and bad, are shaping me into a stronger person, the person I never thought I could be.
My advice to anyone considering placement relocation comes as no surprise. Do it! In the protective bubble of development schemes there’s a lot to gain from taking a plunge. Just don’t get in the way of my morning commute, yeah?
And goodness am I exhausted. It feels like I need a week to get used to London living, to adapt to the number of people at rush hour (although that said I’ve already got the ‘don’t talk to me, I’m walking here!’ look covered). But alas I only had half a day to properly settle before getting stuck into my job this week (14th May). After a mixture of evenings (Monday – I’m in London!, Tuesday – Why am I so tired?, Wednesday – I’m going to explore, wow I’m in London!, Thursday – I’m getting writing withdrawal, I’ll just look through the window instead…)
Wow I’m in London!
If anything I probably need about three months to get used to the varying prices around here. As in I know London was going to be more money but I don’t get how in one Tesco Metro a six pack of own brand eggs are 89p, but the one just up the road sells the same box for 99p and a Sainsbury’s in the middle of the two is charging £1.05! But then at Sainsbury’s envelopes cost £1.50 but in the Tesco’s they’re £1.65. It really does take shopping around to another level. And one really did bite on one’s lip hard when forced into the corner of shopping at the local Waitrose. Very hard. However the supermarket is on the route to work so I will be making use of my free coffee rights. Big up MyWaitrose!
Speaking of routes to work, I really have a very nice walking commute into the centre of London from Wapping. This 30 minute walk (longer if you walk like a normal human) takes me via the Tobacco Docks and Shadwell Basin…
St Katherine Docks…
The Tower of London…
And then The City…
Given I don’t have to get on a hot crowded Tube I’m rather enjoying the 30 minute commute so far (although worth noting so far I’ve only done it four times in glorious sunshine).
I haven’t taken many photos of my room because my iPhone 5 (don’t laugh) doesn’t have a wide enough lens to capture the full size/scope. Trust me though, it’s pretty decent for the rent I’m paying – well it’s London, nothing is ever THAT decent for the money. In terms of space nothing compares to this London hotel room which I genuinely think is bigger than a lot of London flats.
I’ve leave it at that for now but yes I am very much in London now.
(Warning: The following content contains images of cut and wilting hedge flowers. This post is not advised if you object to such imagery.)
At the moment I’m in a bit of a flux state. I’m at that age where I’m still trying to find myself, but in a way which doesn’t involve taking hallucinogenic products. I tried inhaling incense once and it messed me right up.
As avid readers will have seen, I recently had a shot of coming up with new products the world needs. All of these were just concepts at this stage of course, I need the backing before I make the prototypes. I have sent letters off to Trump, Sugar and Madonna. Fingers crossed I’ll hear back soon. After this post I thought “well, if I’m such a creative spirit perhaps I should try a bit of writing?” Children’s books seemed like a good starting point (I mean, how hard can it be to write a good quality children’s story?) The world wide web also says you should write something you can relate to. So, based on the two I have come up with a highly readable AND relatable story for children. Enjoy.
Pammy the Plant and the Weekly Commute
by Alice E. Bennett
(Story based on real-life events)
It was Friday afternoon and Pammy was starting to wrap up her work for the day. It had been a long week in her department and she had spent much of it rushed off her vase.
Pammy’s job involves her answering the phones and working at a computer. There’s a stuff load more to it than that, but you darling angels really would not begin to comprehend what Pammy goes through every day so we’ll leave it at answering phones and emails
Pammy was looking forward to a weekend with Papa Plant and Mummy Plant. Mummy Plant always stuffs her full of water and Papa Plant always asks her how ‘The Facebook’ works. At 4pm Pammy was very perky indeed.
When the big hand was on six and the little hand on four, it meant it was half past four and Pammy could go home. “Yippee!” exclaimed Pammy.
Off Pammy went with her stylish spotty case. The sun was shining and she was in a good mood. She picked up her tickets from the man at the station and hopped onto the platform.
“In two hours I’ll be home, with all the water and plant food I could wish for. How exciting!” Pammy thought as she sat patiently on the platform.
The first train arrived right on time. This was a train going to London. London is the capital city of England, so sometimes the trains can be very busy. Pammy had to be very careful she didn’t bump into a grumpy man or make conversation with the merry Welsh rugby fans. Pammy remembered Mummy Plant’s advice, “talking to strangers is not sensible,” Mummy Plant would say, “they’re often weirdos.”
The journey was fairly quick and after 15 minutes Pammy got off the train at a station called Didcot Parkway. It’s an uninspiring station. An uninspiring station indeed.
The next train arrived at twenty minutes past five. It was eight minutes early! Pammy got on the empty train and decided that she’d utilise the time and lack of people there to judge her actions.
At first she wasn’t too happy with the mess the other passengers had left.
“Silly passengers!” She tutted, “leaving their shizz around when they could have just put it in the bin!” Pammy judged the passengers for their actions but admittedly didn’t pick up the rubbish herself. She was just too busy having fun. She played peek-a-boo:
She then ate some of her yoghurt:
And read her book:
Pammy didn’t get too far into her fun when the train started moving. The train left Didcot at twenty eight minutes past five and would take Pammy to Oxford. Oxford is a very old and popular English city full of culture, pigeons and a dire housing shortage. Can you say dire housing shortage children?
But before she got to the delightful Oxford, Pammy made sure she took in the pretty scenery on her shuttle train.
…And the impressive stations…
“What wonderful scenery.” Pammy said to the Train Manager who came to check her ticket. The Train Manager laughed, “good one!” he yelled as he walked past. Pammy was glad her positive spirit was making others happy.
When the big hand was on nine and the little hand was between five and six the time was 5:45. That was the time Pammy got off the shuttle train at Oxford. It was also when everything went to pot.
Pammy hopped over to the departure board to look for the train which was going to Hereford. Can you spot the Hereford train on the picture below?
That right, it’s the third one from the bottom.
Pammy looked at the board and groaned.
“Oh no! The train is delayed! What on Earth could have caused this?”
Luckily a robotic announcer was on hand to provide an explanation. Apparently a train had broken down in a place called Slough which meant the train line was blocked. “Nothing good happens in Slough” one business man moaned. “Yeah, it’s a massive poop hole. I wouldn’t want my children near there” said another. There were some very shouty people there too. Poor Pammy, all she wanted to do was get home, but the unhappy passengers only seemed to make the delay worse. At 6:55pm Pammy was meant to be almost home, but instead she was sat at Oxford trying to avoid bud contact with other passengers who kept staring at her leaves.
Poor, poor, Pammy.
Pammy was not a happy plant at all. But then out of nowhere she heard a friendly voice.”Pammy? Is that you?” The voice said.
Pammy looked up and lit up right away. It was Paul the Palm!
Pammy had not seen Paul since they were young saplings, so she was rather pleased to see him. Luckily they had got on well when they were young and had no ‘beef’ against each other. They chatted and chatted until the train arrived and throughout the journey. During this time Pammy wanted to look cool in front of Paul so didn’t take any pictures.
Paul got off at the station before Pammy, giving Pammy ten minutes to waddle her case down several coaches before arriving at Honeybourne Station at five to eight. She had been delayed by 50 minutes and was very tired from all the travelling.
Papa Plant and Mummy Plant though were happy to see her, they stuffed Pammy full of food and gave her a glass of fizzy apple juice to make her feel better. It worked. Soon enough Pammy was back to her happy self. She’d had quite a commute! While Papa Plant went upstairs to snooze, Mummy Plant gave Pammy a cup of hot herbal plant juice and they sat down to talk about their week.
As my well known saying goes “a picture paints a thousand commutes” and nothing sums this up more than this photo taken at Oxford train station on Friday 3rd June 2016 at around 18:20.
This installation has multiple meanings depending on how one interprets it.
A representation of the modern commuter, striving for the finish line, yet being held back by means beyond their control. When they are released from their binding they hit the floor, little reward for the delay.
The ruddy economy (I blame the immigrants/Donald Trump – delete as appropriate).
The perfect man/woman. You have a hankering for salt and vinegar one week, the next you are more a cheese and onion kinda person. The moment that happens you end up with two packets of salt and vinegar, the flavour you don’t want two of. (Psst I’m talking about relationships)
The government taking control and telling you “you ain’t eating no crisps tonight fatty”. The Big Brother state is already upon us my friends.
How come the vending machine contains only McCoys crisps and how come they’re only salt and vinegar flavour? This image represents the crispism and oppression on crisp brands placed on us by society.
It’s the work of Jesus. (The religious interpretation).
I’m sorry, how much is a Twix? £1.00?! Err no thanks. (The Alice Bennett interpretation).
For Christ’s sake, it’s just a packet of crisps stuck in a vending machine.
I should be working in a high end art gallery. My top-notch ability to spin and waffle are being completely underused in my current position. If you want to own this image it can be yours for only £10,000,000 (open to negotiation, also selling dodgy print copies of said image printed on cheap paper for £100 + postage).
Most weekends I commute from place of life/work, Swindon, to place of family, Mickleton (aka the Cotswolds). On a good weekend the commute can be dull, on a bad day truly awful. No words can explain how felt when my train was delayed on New Year’s Day due to, according to the automated robot announcer, “a member of train staff failing to show for work”. For the record Network Rail no one accepts that excuse for being delayed by 45 minutes. We all know train guard Bob had a few too many gin and tonics the night before and now he’s hungover/pulling a sickie. Just tell me that rather than being so very British and making out that your way of phrasing the delay makes it a valid excuse. It’s not.
As you can see, I get very easily wound up on my weekly commute home. In order to keep myself sane I started to put my observations on digital paper and save them onto my phone. The result, random trails of thought from the mind of a irritated, baffled and bored 20-something trying to stay sane on the commute from Swindon to Honeybourne.
Sunday 7th June: Everyone in this carriage on the train from Didcot Parkway is sitting individually on the paired seats, tending to opt for the window seat. This is indeed a very British train carriage. I like it, I think Network Rail should work on the idea. it’s so quiet maybe I might even finish this chapter of Wild Swans, yay! Oh, actually, should I say yay when accomplishing anything linked to Wild Swans? I mean the main accomplishment with this book is surely “I’ve finished this book and I’m still alive. Sure, I’m a fat bourgeois capitalist, but I’m still alive.” Anyway, gotta get back to reading.
Some of these will be tiny, but I thought I start of with this one.
Ps, on a random note this song was in the pub quiz last night but I’ve had it stuck in my head all day: