Five a.m. rise this morning, which I am really happy about because I have time to do my morning thing and meditate through the sunrise at seven. I turn on a small light and Willow lifts her head from the foot of the bed and gives me a ‘Seriously?’ look before slumping back down again.
I dress and do the bathroom thing and something made me think about the radio four shipping forecast which I concluded was a bit random. I’m rarely up early enough to hear it at five twenty – but I used to when I was working. At that time I’d be on my second coffee and putting my makeup on for work. After four years of listening to it I started to actually understand it. The ‘Prayer for the Day’ at five forty five was my signal to leave the house for my morning commute.
In the kitchen I turn the extractor light on, put the radio on and pick out some coffee for the pot. I open all the curtains and its very dark, and the tide is on its way in but its way way out. I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the tides before I fall asleep. If I practice enough I’ll get back into knowing it by heart but it will take a while. I see light from one or two torches out on the beach: some very early dog-walkers.
I make my coffee and slink out onto the deck with it. Its still dark, so I step back in to grab a lighter and light my storm lanterns. I love this time of the morning, between three and six; there’s an energy to it that is difficult to explain. Perhaps it’s because most others are asleep and everything feels new. I step back in to put the lighter back where it was and grab my lappy. Willow enters the front in slow motion as if she’s deciding whether she wants to function yet. I also grab my furry hoodie from the coat hook.
As I sit down I already know the chapter I want to write. I open the file, press ‘ctrl’ and ‘end’ and then ‘ctrl’ ‘b’ ‘u’ and type ‘My Morning Commute’ and hit ‘return’ and ‘ctrl’ ‘b’ ‘u’ again. The words come very easily and there’s a flow to my typing. There’s something about the sound of keys on a laptop that I love and I have to admit its the main thing I think about when buying tech. Which sounds really shallow considering I spent twenty years in the industry. Of course, the other stuff is important. But nothing beats a great keyboard. I’m a writer after all.
I tell the story of a typical morning back then. My routine, the cold days on the train platform, my friends on the train, the sea of commuters at Waterloo Station and the fact that I was such a regular at the coffee shop there that I got Christmas cards from them. I describe the energy of London during the commuter hours. I describe the security measures I had to take while waiting for my London bus.
Reading it back, I am really pleased with the chapter. I already know the next one I’m going to write. ‘My Evening Commute’ – which was totally different to my morning one. I pulled up the calculator and discovered I’d repeated my morning routine for over a thousand mornings. I saved the file, placed the lappy on the coffee table and picked up my coffee and looked out into the darkness.
‘That’s over five thousand hours spent commuting in four years.’ – I thought to myself.
‘No, it can’t be.’
But it was. I tried to imagine five thousand hours and just couldn’t fathom it. My current psyche asked me to find what good came out of it. I remembered I wrote notes for a book during the time I spent on the train and would type them up over the weekend – so there’s that.
Something made me think of the homeless people I’d slip twenty pound notes to while walking to my bus stop. One in particular, who used to sleep next to the vents on the outside of the building where warm air scented by baking croissants met the air outside. I left him a scarf on one of the days, and some thermal socks on another day, after I found him with no shoes the day before. Some days a coffee. He was never awake when I walked by and I realised I never wondered what he might have thought when he woke up to find these things.
I blinked out of my pondering and walked back into the van to top up my coffee. Six twenty. Willow wasn’t in her hammock so obviously back to bed for her. The sky outside is lightening from ink black to a dark blue-ish grey and I can just barely make out the waters edge.
After refilling my mug, I lock the door behind me and walk to the sea wall steps to see in the sunrise.