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Breakfasts I saw on my way to work this morning...

A little girl, in a bright pink coat with a matching bright pink woolly animal hat decorated with improbable pom-pom ears. She stopped walking to open a paper bag, and pull out a pain au chocolat almost as big as her head.

A guy of around 20, wearing tracksuit bottoms and a bright red hoody. He hurried away from the newsagents clutching a can of Red Bull and a packet of ten cigarettes.

A lady in a camo coat and fluffy purple beret, hurrying up the steps from Ealing Broadway tube. She was taking large bites from a sausage sandwich.

Someone of my own age, in a black padded jacket, crossing Kingsway. She was holding two bulging paper bags from Pret A Manger, and eight cups of coffee in cardboard carriers.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A bearded man with a fantastically tall, turquoise turban. I wondered if he gets Marge Simpson jokes a lot.

A girl with parti-coloured blonde and shocking-orange hair, her whole upper arm covered with a colourful tattoo of a cartoon robot. Are the colours of tattoos improving, suddenly?

A man walking a Samoyed. Even on the shady side of the street it looked hot, its pink tongue lolling.

Two little girls, limboing back and forth under the barriers that kept the station ticket queue in line. They looked outrageously French and - when they spoke - turned out to be French.
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I got back into Ealing Broadway around midnight last night on the train. Ambling up the platform and vaguely patting my pockets to make sure I hadn't lost something, I became aware of some shouting ahead and looked up in time to see a bloke dropping down between the train and the platform.

It was clearly deliberate - he was lowering himself, not falling - and my first thought was that he was going to retrieve a dropped phone. This is in the gap between the platform and a train which is due to depart at any moment. Surely, whatever you've dropped isn't worth that...

This story could have had a much worse end... )
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A man crouched beside a green junction box, trying to match the diagram on his clipboard to the wires inside. He was wearing a bright yellow plastic headset, clamped over his black turban.

A man striding quickly up the road, a pink lunch bag in one hand and a huge carrier containing a Playmobil box in the other. A little girl in a pink anorak and a cream party dress ran to keep up with him.

A blonde girl on the train, asleep with her arm curled round her partner and a huge smile on her face.

An immensely cheerful man with gingery hair, fighting with the ticket barriers before declaring "Ah! It's the green arrow that it gives it away."


As I cycled up Whiteknights Road, the rain brought an unexpected waft of wild garlic with it. A police car with blacked-out windows passed me, ferocious barking coming from within.
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Anyone who travels round south-east England on the train is probably aware that Reading's undergoing major changes. Having been away over Easter, then driving to work last week, I was lightly surprised on Monday morning to pull into platform 13A.

Last time I was there, Reading didn't have a 13A. In fact, while the station was shut over Easter weekend, it changed so dramatically that I actually couldn't orientate myself and had to read the signs to work out the way to the exit.

It's huuuuge, the new station. The old, rickety footbridge and the leaky roof have gone, replaced by a strangely spacious area that looks like an airport. The station still isn't finished, and some bits are closed off and it's slightly hard to find your way around. It is well-signed, though, and much more accessible (all platforms have escalators, and there are more lifts).

I did note last night, though, that in heavy rain they still have to put buckets out to catch the water that pours through the new roof.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A guy in his late twenties, striding down the platform, wearing skinny black jeans and a black velvet military-style jacket. He had dyed-black, artfully-messy hair and a general demeanour of hoping you'd mistake him for Russell Brand.

A grey-haired man in a sober suit, dark tie, polished black shoes and sensible anorak. As he crossed one leg over the other, he revealed hot pink stripey socks.

A bulky bloke wearing two incredibly thick, fluffy-looking hoodies. I wanted to hug him to see if he was as cuddly as he looked :)

A girl in her early twenties wearing fantasically high heels, a very tight, short, purple dress and a tiny black jacket. She looked stunning, but when she sat down in Natwest's waiting area she matched the purple chairs exactly.
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I am shamelessly earwigging on a conversation between a couple on the train. They were (briefly) arguing about whether a film they saw last year was brilliant, or rubbish.

This is has now been resolved, when one half of the argument realised it had confused Prometheus with Coriolanus :)
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Today, on the train, I overheard someone else's conversation. Someone was telling their friend how, having worked for years as an illustrator, they were planning to re-train as a tattooist.

At which point I started wondering: how do you learn to be a tattoo artist? Sure, you can practice drawing on paper, but at some point you're going to have to start for the first time on a real person. And let's just say... I wouldn't really want to be that person.

Fortunately, her friend wanted to know that, too. So she explained: you start by practising on sides of bacon.

I've learned something today.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A man in a black shirt and striped tie carefully carrying a large flower arrangement along the platform at Reading station. It was made of pink carnations, and shaped like a crucifix. A small plastic holder held a message card.

A smartly-dressed lady with spirally-curled hair staring at the departure boards. What she saw made her look terribly worried.

A teenaged girl standing on the escalator with her eyes closed. Her bright purple headphones were vibrant against her dyed red-orange hair.

A middle-aged man in beige slacks dancing to The Supremes as he lovingly polished his extremely elderly and decrepit Jaguar.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A lady who had balanced a large-format book open on top of a pushchair. From it she was testing the older of the two boys she was hurrying along on spellings of words which end -ble. He wanted them to end -bel and she was clearly frustrated. "Portable?" she asked. "Oh that's definitely one that ends "i - b - e - l", he said. "Port-A-ble" she repeated, crossly.

A butch, bullish, bruiser of a man escorting a little girl to school. He carried a pink Hello Kitty lunch box and flask. She wore a scarlet anorak and purple tights, and was scooting along on a hot pink scooter.

An older gentleman in a smart black suit, riding a bicycle. He disdained the ubiquitous day-glo diddy jacket, and instead wore a neat, luminous yellow Sam Browne.

A grey-haired man in a scruffy, striped polo shirt and ripped jeans, muttering to himself as he walked unsteadily along the pavement reading the Financial Times.
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Yesterday, something I've been fearing for the past eighteen months happened. It very nearly happened last month, when it would have been Adrian Tchaikowsky's fault. There were some close brushes at the hands of Mary Stewart, and one near miss with an unpronounceable Scandinavian.

However, it was PF Chisholm (as recommended some time ago by, I think, [livejournal.com profile] shui_long) who was finally the guilty party.

On my commute home, I read on as the train pulled into my station. And continued reading as it pulled out again, necessitating a trip into Paddington and back to get home.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A tall, thin lady in a red woolly hat waving her arms about in wild gesticulations as she talked into her mobile phone.

A man with very dark hair and a thick grey coat, wedged tightly into a seat on a crowded train, looking at a page of illuminated manuscipt; it was in black and white, displayed on a Kindle.

A younger guy staring intently at his iPhone as Arabic text scrolled across the screen from right to left. Each section ended with "2009" before one number was displayed repeatedly across the screen. I first spotted 76; around 84 there were a few more sentences of text before he closed the app.

A man in a red v-necked jumper with a white Sony netbook on his lap. It was hooked up to a sleek, white dongle with red lights. In one hand he held a Blackberry, and with the other he typed data from it into his netbook.
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This morning I went through a red light on my bike.

I don't usually do that. Even though at the junction in question the traffic flow often means it would be safe to do so.

What was worse was that I pulled up to the line and stopped. On a green light. When it changed to red, I went. I was over the junction and off at the other side before I realised that that's not how these things are supposed to work.

I did subsequently successfully negotiate several more sets of traffic lights in a rather more conventional way. But still. Aaargh.

I have no idea what my brain was thinking.
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Things I saw on my way to work this morning...

A man running up a hill, pushing a pushchair. Behind him, a small child on a scooter tried to keep up. I guessed they were late for school, but maybe they were just racing for fun.

A jet black labrador guide-dog sitting patiently by the side of the road, waiting for two white vans to sort out their issues so he could take his human across their path. (Reading has a weird idea of pedestrianised streets; the street-furniture-clogged pedestrian areas are regularly filled with confused or abandoned vehicles.)

A small child in a buggy, munching on a Rice Krispie bar. He had a pointed face and enormous, sad, deep brown eyes.

An elderly lady dressed in tasteful, expensive-looking clothes, walking a small, trim, caramel-coloured dog. Everything about her conformed carefully to type, apart from her elegantly-cut, emerald-green bobbed hair.

An elderly couple buying their week's shopping in Lidl. A sensible trolleyful of fresh fruit, vegetables, a couple of tins and four kilos of sugar. I wondered if they were planning to make jam. Behind them, a middle-aged man was buying three large tubs of margarine and a dozen eggs.
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Well, I have now managed one cycling trip office-to-station, and one station-to-office. Am not dead.

Tedious detail, including Reading's cycle routes )

In conclusion: I'm very slow and a bit wobbly, and a bit out of practice at being on a bike. I am very bad at even gentle inclines. Hopefully these things will improve with time :) My saddle issue has not magically resolved itself; I shall experiment with hoping it'll get better, probably before giving in and buying a new saddle. Overall, I'm quite impressed with the quantity and quality of cycle routage Reading has.
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Since I moved to London, I've been commuting via a walk-train-bus-combo. My plan was always, once the weather picked up a bit, to move to a walk-train-bicycle-combo.

Two wheels good, four wheels bad )

I'll let you know how it goes :)
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I remember, I remember, back in the day, when laptops were things to be marvelled at. Anyone on a train with a laptop computer would find people looking, pointing, maybe trying to sneak a glimpse at the wondrous machine.

It's still occasionally noticeable today. The first people on the tube with PSPs, the first people out in public with iPhones, they each drew their share of admiring, interested, or envious glances. They were commentworthy.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I noticed it happening to me. Passengers on the train cast furtive glances when they thought I wasn't looking. Someone drew a friend's attention. Another traveller peered over my shoulder for a better look.

I was reading a hand-written letter.

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