Chugga Chugga Choo Choo..

I wish all our trains were this happy.

In recent weeks I have joined our daily commuters in the not-so-adventurous journey into London. I get the high speed train which takes me into St Pancras in shockingly 25 minutes, which is a very expensive alternative to avoiding a 1.5 hour journey on the slower Charing Cross train, to only get the tube to the other side of London. I must say, commuting has become a rather pleasant and, dare I say it, relaxing experience on the high speed. You rarely find a group of loud obnoxious teenagers hogging up all the seats and drunks are pretty much unheard of. I guess they would rather spend the extra dosh on a few more tins and get the peasant wagon.

Not to be classist or defamatory to people who get the Charing Cross train, I mean, my husband gets it for gods sake. Realistically though, the drunks and yobs are not willing to pay more for the same vandalism they can cause on a ‘cheaper’ train. I use the term ‘cheap’ lightly, because we all know how ridiculously expensive both trains have become. The Charing Cross train takes an hour to reach its destination, and with an annual season ticket, it will set you back £3,380. The St Pancras International high speed train is a comfortable 25 minutes, for an even pricier £4,368 with an annual season ticket. Isn’t it ironic that the longer you are on the train for, the less you pay; for an extra £988 you can pay to not be on the train.

And yet we factor in the losses because our time is so precious to us, we would rather pay to retain few more minutes of our lives. The train has become a rich man’s toy, leaving the rest of us in deficit. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

When East meets Westfield.

After counting down the days for two years, Westfield Stratford City finally opened it’s doors to public yesterday. Needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic. I ventured down after work arriving at around 5:30pm (yes, high speed is FAST). It was chaotic, as I anticipated, with people shuffling through the crowds, some deciding to randomly stop and loiter before shuffling some more. There were an assortment of people, but mainly young locals who had decided to stop by after school for a gander, not really intending on buying anything (hence the loiters). I presume the real hardcore shoppers were there at early doors.

The shops themselves were eerily quiet; the sales assistants were folding clothes with a bored expression on their face as if it was just another day. Obviously with the exception of Primark, which was manic. Strangely the clothes were not sprawled across the floor, as you would find in pretty much every other Primark in the country; a big well done to the sales assistants, that must have been hard to maintain for the full 12 hours they were open.

A not so big well done to the sales assistants in Forever 21, particularly one (I did not catch her name, let’s call her Jane) who was very rude to me. Approaching the fitting rooms with my five items, the assistant led me and another customer to our rooms. Whilst I was following, Jane grabbed me by the arm and stopped me in my tracks. She asked me rather flatly whether I had a ticket, so I informed her the other sales assistant had told me to follow. Disbelievingly, she said ‘but the other customer is with her‘, to which I responded ‘and so am I‘. The other sales assistant turned around and pointed to my cubicle and Jane strutted off without an apology. What a way to start your first day.

Another amusing experience in Forever 21 happened whilst I was browsing. A lady asked me, ‘which top do you prefer?‘. One was bright orange and sparkly, the other was black and equally as sparkly. I responded with the black top, which obviously was an insufficient answer as she pursued in asking another three times. Her reason for this persistence being, ‘you can always trust a Chinese opinion‘. Now I do not wave the racist flag very often and this was a very light-hearted comment, however I found it odd given the circumstance. Imagine if I said the same to her, ‘you can always trust the opinion of a black lady‘. That would be outrageous!

Shaking my head and brushing the awkward conversation aside, I attempted to contact a friend I was meant to be meeting. I quickly discovered that there was not one place in the centre where I could receive a signal on my phone. After attempting to call various people, I went to seek help from the concierge desk. The manager was incredibly helpful and offered me her phone to contact my friend. I could not get through as she was also in the centre and was clearly having the same issues. After attempting to call numerous times to no avail, I shuffled along to Carphone Warehouse to see if they had knowledge of any network problems. The nice, very East London, sales assistant was aware of the issue and informed me that it had been ’13 hours man’ since she last got a text.

At that point I decided to give up on my shopping venture and head back home. Sadly I did not meet the friend in the end, but all in all, my experience was positively interesting. The centre boasts of everything a shopper might want; you have the mainstream stores for a bit of stability and a selection of independent ones to throw in the mix. It is shiny and spacious, the shops are strategically categorised together and you feel at ease. Amazingly Westfield is only a 20 minute train ride for me, so I will definitely be heading back there very soon. Bluewater was once my love, but alas, I have found better…

Your Revolution is a Joke.

I remember a few months ago watching Aljazeera news with a slice of toast, observing the riots spread across Syria, Egypt, Jordan and many other African countries, unaware and unfazed; it was not that I did not care, but as an outsider watching events unfold felt very surreal. I turned to DH and said, “I can’t imagine this would ever happen in this country, the British just moan and move on”.

Make sure you stock up on that basmati rice; not that you understand Mr Prole, but as you loot, the market is crashing. This will probably cost more in the future.

Of course the riots over the past few days in London are nothing by comparison, they are malicious, unmotivated and undoubtedly disgraceful. Watching the news this time was not a surreal experience, it was very real, it was 40 odd miles away. I have been obsessively checking various newspaper websites, Facebook and BBC News 24 is continuously in the background to ensure I do not miss out on anything significant. I spent the majority of yesterday in a constant state of panic as DH insisted on going to work. Luckily I was just paranoid and nothing actually happened, I would hate to be proved right.

These teens from deprived areas of London speak of ‘fighting back’ against the government and the ‘rich’, however there is no substance in their cause. They are children and do not fully understand why they are angry, blaming others for their despicable behaviour and joining in with their fellow criminal chums. Although increasing police numbers on the street last night proved a success in London, I fear as we move into next week and the streets are left unsupervised, hell will break loose again. These children have the idea planted in their heads after the Tottenham incident, but why do they think it is now acceptable to burn down buildings and terrorise local residents? Nothing has changed, this could have been done last week, last month, last year.

We all live by a mutual agreement set by society and its norms. I do not burn cars, steal or create social disorder because by being a part of this society I have agreed not to. There is nothing physically stopping me from doing these things but I understand right from wrong. The problem we have with these degenerates, is that they live in a society that does not encourage these norms. Written across the television last night the BBC advised parents to keep their children at home; what makes you think the parents are not cheering them on? These children behave in this way because of their upbringing and their surroundings. Who better to teach them the tricks of the trade than their beloved parents.

I am angered, upset and disgusted by the events in London, which have spread like a pandemic all over the country. These youths have no understanding of the consequences of their actions, nor do they care. They cannot be fully blamed because they have been conditioned to behave this way, however this is no justification. If we did not have such a corrupt government, I would probably support Marx’s idea to remove parental responsibility and allow children to be raised by the state. Maybe we should just enforce this on the proletariat, the rest of us are doing okay.

Get outta this town.

Westgate Gardens, Canterbury.

So this is it. My days of living in the beautiful town that is Canterbury has come to an end. No more living in an apartment within the city walls, strolling two minutes to, what could be, an outdoor Bluewater. No more trips to the charming Westgate Gardens with a canal running through it or the Dane John with a little maze DS loves. Pushing my devastation aside, I guess I should take consolation in being here for 37.5 hours a week. Even if I am trapped in the centre of a glass building, where ironically, there is no natural light.

Moving back to Gravesend was not the end goal, but to fill the gap in the interim period between university and finding our feet. Let’s face it, it is not the most picturesque town and the people who occupy it are not the friendliest. It is a town people live in to be closer to London and its’ surrounding towns; you choose to live there so it is easier to escape. The remaining population who are not commuters, probably live in the many lovely council estates.

High speed exit out of Gravesend - 25 minutes to St Pancras International.

Generally in Gravesend, the chavs you see roaming the streets are seeking that extra 10p for a packet of fags, to then threateningly ask you to buy it for them. There is no politeness in their requests, cutting straight to the point and inciting fear in the process. In Canterbury, there are less chavs, or at least they are hidden. We mainly house the drunks and homeless in our underpasses, where they busk for money and thank you in return for your change. A couple of years ago when I was pregnant a homeless man asked me for change, but upon noticing my protruding belly, he backtracked and apologised for asking. In Gravesend I would have most probably be singled out as an easy target and mugged.

It is when you fight your way through the cloud of smoke on the High Street in Gravesend, you get the sense that no one wants to be there. The occupants are either in a rush to be somewhere else or just loitering to pass the time. In Canterbury passerbys smile at you and you smile back, in mutual recognition of how happy we both are to be here. I am not being cheesey, just pointing out facts; Residents, tourists and students alike choose to be in this town. Gravesend does not have tourists, nor do they have willing students.

I have lived in Gravesend for the majority of my years so I feel I have a fair judgment. It is pretty dire place to grow up in as a teenager and I fear it has not changed in the slightest.

Surprise!

I had planned DH’s birthday event last night for the past three months. Obviously it did not actually take every day leading up to October to plan it, but the initial booking of the tickets required me to get in there early.

Tickets for what I hear you ask? Marlowe Comedy Club, which is a comedy night (hence the name) held in Bramleys Canterbury once every month. I gathered our friends from our hometown by the means of Facebook; the thought of using any other form of communication seems absurd to me. DH was unaware of what was happening, but I did have a scare when Facebook decided to remind me on my homepage that the event was approaching. In massive letters ‘DH’s SURPRISE Birthday Event’ was surely a giveaway, but luckily he was quite unobservant.

So the night came and my mother stayed over to look after DS; I am so glad he was a good boy as I am always anxious when someone else takes charge. I led DH into the town centre towards the Cathedral much to his confusion. Regardless of our lack of faith, he seemed to think I was taking him to mass. We bypassed the Cathedral and arrived at the Seven Stars pub for pre-drinks, where our friends were waiting for us.

It was such a good night seeing the group together, we had not seen them for months. We all lead our separate lives, be it in Canterbury, Gravesend or London, and so it is hard to organise everyone to be in the same place at once. The comedy was hilarious and the drinks were good. Overall, making it a very successful night.

All of us with a drink in hand almost made it feel like we were in the Pocock in Gravesend again, but the wooden piano in the corner and the girl sitting with a book gave it away.