The reluctant commuter

Thatcham Railway Station reluctant commuter

Thursday 1st November, 6:50am, and a reminder of why I choose not to commute any more.

I don’t travel to London much for work these days – maybe seven or eight times a year. I really don’t miss it at all. Sitting in stationary traffic. Standing shoulder to shoulder on the Underground. Coping with the all too frequent cancellations and delays on the trains.

My commute to work in Bracknell isn’t the easiest: it’s the best part of 25 miles, much of it on the M4 which is perennially covered in roadworks and subject to rush-hour accidents and traffic snarl-ups. But it’s okay. I’m close enough and my work is flexible enough that I can slip away to attend parents’ evenings, for instance. And when the inevitable delays occur, I’m cocooned snugly in my car, in my own space and with the stereo on.

It’s easy to take all this for granted, which is why my occasional trips into London are good for the soul. They remind me of the alternative.

To get to anywhere in central London typically takes me up to two hours, versus my usual 40-45 minute drive. So I generally catch a train from Thatcham station just before 7am. Standing on the platform in zero-degree weather in fog with only the first hint of daylight is not my idea of fun. Nor is the scramble to get on to the train to snag one of the few remaining seats.

It’s a trip I do just often enough to remind me why I’ve never been tempted to pursue a job in London since starting a family. Even when the kids were younger, I rarely missed their bedtime. If I had been commuting home from the capital, I would have missed the majority of them. All those bedtime stories; all those evenings snuggling on the sofa and hearing about their days. I wouldn’t have been there for them.

That’s reason enough to have ruled out working in London. Ten years’ worth of small, day-to-day experiences add up to an awful lot. Does it mean I missed out on a better or more highly paid job somewhere along the line? Maybe, maybe not. But some things are worth more than money. I’d make that trade-off again in an instant.


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