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Tag Archives: Commuters

Another London Underground Tube Flash Prose Poem published online.  This one is about Piccadilly Circus and doomed love…


My flash fiction, 17:46 Patience is a Virtue (originally published on the London Literary Project site) is featured in the just-released  Smoothly from Harrow: A Compendium for the London Commuter.  This is a great project, as someone who’s put a lot of commuting hours in it speaks volumes to me!

‘The 21st century commuter is a tragic hero. Long-suffering, long-journeying and subject to lengthy delays, he survives through an iron will and by burying his head in a freesheet. Chris Moss’s Smoothly from Harrow takes its title from John Betjeman, the bard of Metro-land, but brings the world of the London commuter up to date with facts and fictions, poems and propaganda, statistics and self-help advice. Did you know that John le Carre, Mrs Beeton and Henry VIII were commuters? Did you know Waterloo station ‘processes’ more than 94 million passengers a year? Did you know that you are not just a number, but a modern-day, latte-drinking flaneur – London’s key witness, greatest survivor and chief psychogeographer? This compendium will help you get through the dawns and dusks of your eternal, everyday, Herculean trial: to get to work and back.’

This was back when Harry Potter ruled the book charts.  When it was still possible to visually do a survey of what people are reading on the train.  Now it would be something like ‘iPad, Kindle, generic Tab….;

Didcot Parkway to Bracknell Commuter Reading Survey II

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling x 6
Blood & Money by Graham Hurley
Imperium by Robert Harris
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Fat by Rob Grant
Siege of Heaven by Tom Harper
The Glamour by Christopher Priest
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
Have I Got Views For You by Boris Johnson
Wicked by Jilly Cooper
Once by James Herbert
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
The Afghan by Fredrick Forsythe
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Transformers by Alan Dean Foster
Piers Ploughman by Anthony Trollope

Au Pair

One side of an overheard mobile phone conversation.

Where have you been?
Well I suppose you feel better.
The house was beautiful
I’ve been thinking
We could get ourselves into a financial mess.
We should sit down.
And have a serious conversation.
I’ll get all the figures out.
She’s costing us a lot of money.
Not just her pay
But expenses;
Running her car.
I’m not suggesting we let her go now.
I’m not;
We promised to keep her
For a year; we’ll do that.
The children can cope
The school meals are good.
They can have ham sandwiches for tea
We could make a big daal at the weekend.
I’m not saying
We tell her to go now.
But when she does go again
It’s what she wants to do, she said,
Then tell her she doesn’t need to come back.
She’s only here for the work permit.
Of course we’ll need to take on a cleaner.
But just once every couple of weeks.
We’ll talk tonight
I know it’s a bad time.

Another found object.  Aren’t ties crazy things to wear when you think about it?  I myself have a collection of ties I would never wear now: Spock, Q from Star Trek The Next Generation, Dastardly and Muttley.  Not ties to engender confidence in one’s professionalism I fear.

White Mice

Staring ahead
closing eyes sleepily,
leaning back against the filthy seat:
Hands crossed;
blue suit
white shirt.
Tie decorated with white mice,
on cartoon cheese
(full of holes)

A manikin the colour and texture of rust sits on the porch roof, head bowed. The concrete block house stands alone, in an island between three roads, overlooked by offices. The windows are covered by metal panels, as if the house is repossessed, rather than a memorial, a gravestone to the poet Thomas Chatterton.

Next time I see the house, the manikin has moved, now his eyeless and featureless face turned towards the main road. The traffic stands still, fuming,

The next day, he sits on a flaking green metal chair in the paved front garden, head in his hands. “Paint me an angel with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world,” he says. The stone house behind him is silent. The road is solid with city commuter cars and buses ticking over. The offices are lost in their dreams of profit, vacated by all but the most committed (this is Friday). And me? I’m no angel and I have my own story.

Photo: Interesting... The home of Thomas Chatterton, Bristol

So, we’re not quite out of the woods with snow yet, with forecasts of snow not fulfilled (in this part of the country anyway.)

In memory of the snow, and the festival atmosphere that comes with the snow, here is the other snow-based Passengers entry:

Snow Day 2

Settled, patchy snow
on the platform;
sparsely populated train,
floor covered in melted splats.

A girl gets on, aqua-anorak,
Braided hairband holding back
a rain of blonde hair,
she carries a wooden toboggan.

Out of the window,
huddled close to the tracks,
schools, warehouses, streets
and allotments sleep
under the snow’s blanket.

In Wokingham car park,
one car
and one tyre
protrude from the snow.

A topical one for the snowy weather we’re experiencing.

Snow Day

A thin covering of snow at Didcot:
sparkling carpet;
footprints of men and cats
lead to the train station.

Trains cancelled or delayed.
The 7:28 sits idle.
“Hello Joe”,
Passenger with grey suit, no tie,
“What do you mean
you’re not going in?
you’re crazy
it’s the credit crunch.
Things to do
We’ve got a meeting
Hold on-“
(He gets off the stationary train)
Whistle blows
Doors beep their warning
Train goes.
Through the window,
deserted white roads,
a smattering of stoic drivers.

Change at Reading,
a deeper pile carpet
snow spiralling down.
“All trains to Waterloo delayed
We apologise for the delay
this may cause.
to your journey.”

The warmth of the coffee shop;
melting commuters
decide one by one:
Go home.

London Literary Project

My 60 word piece has been featured in the London Literary Project’s 24 Hour London project. Go have a look, it’s an intriguing project about the city and it’s great to be a small part of it.

Another poem from the Passengers project.  This is in honour of this very special day, the first working day of the year after the clocks change, so commuters are hit by night falling early – probably when we’re still in the office.

Animal Calls

Pencil-thin moustache,
grey jockey hat
mustard-leather bag
eating a home-made
ham sandwich
mucus –filled nose,
black-leather jacket,
corduroy trousers,
brown leather shoes,
reading Metro newspaper,
a rumbling cough;

as if in answer
a cough stutters
from the next carriage.

Outside the window,
the sun still not risen.