2019 hasn’t been kind to me. In March I was taken out by appendicitis, in June I was involved in a minor traffic collision in Cornwall, and in October I developed shingles. I will write on those in due course. But these all paled in significance in mid October when my dad was struck down with sepsis, ultimately succumbing after a month in intensive care.

IMG_9818-EditYesterday was his funeral, and it fell to me to deliver his eulogy as my mum would have been unable to keep it together to do such a thing (she gave a few short closing remarks, which was about all she could do).

Below is the eulogy I gave, edited to add the couple of ad-libs that snuck in whilst I was delivering it.

Life Lists London Travel Work

The Morning Commute

Recently, a Buzzfeed list has done the rounds which has resonated well with my fellow commuters. It reminded me of this old, long-unfinished post that I actually started writing in early 2011 but never got round to finishing. Still, as it has a few points the Buzzfeed article missed, I decided it would be worth finally finishing it…

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Despite that, the worst thing about the morning commute is usually the people you’re travelling with. You share your journey with hundreds of other people on your train alone, and they all have to be somewhere quicker than you do for far more important reasons. You’d have thought that the free world wouldn’t be quite so dependent on so many people.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most annoying things people can do to make your morning commute just that little bit more unpleasant.


Life Writing


My stupid self
Yes, I do actually look like this on a Sunday morning.

One of the reasons for the existence of this blog and its siblings is to encourage me to write more. So far it has worked, I am updating things quite regularly. What I have noticed in trying to write so much, however, is how cripplingly small my vocabulary actually is.

It turns out, I don’t actually know enough words to join everything together. It’s always also this and also that, however here and additionally there.

I don’t seem to have enough nouns either. The worst bit (bit?) of this is the word thing. Thing. What a useless word when you’re trying to get things across. It seems to be the word that slips in more often than any other, such as “One other thing I did…” or “The thing that bugs me the most…” or “I played with my thing too much and now I can’t see properly.” Wait, scratch that last one.

This weekend I attempted, amongst numerous other things (gah!), to write the all-important introduction to the Whimpering Pen, in the hope of actually getting it off the ground instead of being nothing more than an idea (and these days the only blog of mine that doesn’t get a new post at least once every few days – wait, I just repeated days, didn’t I? Damn, bugger and blast). I managed to get a lot if it done, but a lack of quality words and phrases let it down. There was far too many attempts at repeating clichéd phrases like ‘pull you in’ and ‘attract your attention’, and not enough conjunctions other than ‘also’. I also (oh, for the love of…) constantly reuse the phrase ‘of course’ despite the fact that what I’m about to say might not be as obvious as the phrase ‘of course’ would suggest.

I vaguely recall I used to be better than this. It’s not just a shortage of phrases and words, it’s a lack of ability to create new ones. Everything I’m writing seems to be put together from the same short selection of words and, um, phrases (crap), like a Lego set with only four types of brick, one of which is one of those cheap Lego knockoffs your mum found at a car boot sale and thought was a good find (I can’t be the only one to have had that experience. What I don’t understand is, I never threw them away, despite the fact they never fit with anything else).

When I look back over some of the writing I did up to and including my time at university, I only occasionally seemed to have this sort of problem (have? I’m sure there’s a much better word to use there). Of course (I give up), that was creative writing, with a narrative, rather than what I find myself trying to write here, and although the two should ultimately amount to the same thing they don’t seem to in my head. There were a few occasions where entire stories would fail because I couldn’t think of the right word to describe what was going on – not that I used much description in my stories, I used to rely heavily on dialogue, which might be another part of my problem here.

I think the main cause of this problem is a lack of reading. Not in general – I follow over two dozen RSS feeds daily from a variety of sources which between them have hundreds of posts a day. Since some of these are blogs, you’d think I’d learn from them, but I don’t seem to. I don’t think that’s the problem, though. No, the problem is not reading enough books. ‘Real’ creative pieces which usually flow better and have been slaved over for longer.

I know what I need to do. Reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always helps me out in these situations. I have an iBooks version, but find trying to read it on an iPhone screen, no matter how sharp the text is, is pretty ineffective. No, what I need next is an iPad 2 to read it on…