There’s something to be said about running your life, or at least the portion of it between waking and stepping on a train, to the timetable of track and engine.

Normally I start the day with a little not unpleasant muzziness. With the welcome feeling that, if I really wanted it, I could ignore the alarm. Not completely, at least not today, but for a quarter hour, maybe even a half hour. That I could lie in bed and from that warm vantage put the world to rights.

But waking up, knowing I have a train to catch (or, on the very odd morning, a plane) means that I wake up on a schedule. Each minute suddenly has a value and, what’s worse, a negative value. All ticking down to 7.24, when the train leaves.

Ten minutes in the shower. Could I make it 9? Dare I make it 11? And if I do, how do I pay that minute back? Brush my teeth more quickly? I need to dress, I need to pack. I sacrifice breakfast to the clock. I can buy breakfast at the station, or, if need be, at my destination. So I get a whole, luxurious, 15 minutes back for myself. Dressing is fast and more or less precise. Maybe not the exact shirt I want, and maybe a button cuff to save the time that finding and fitting cuff links take. And then packing, and on the whole that’s quick. Laptop in bag, power supply, cables, other laptop, other cables...something to read, something else to read.

And then a dash round every surface, looking for keys, and wallet, and phone and…wasn’t there something else? Maybe, but what else does a man around town need, but keys, and a wallet, and a phone? What I need is a valet stand. What I need is a valet.

Out the door, remember I’ve forgotten my briefcase, back in the door again. Doors lock behind me, and the chimes from the University clock tell me that it’s seven o’clock, and that I’ve gained a couple of minutes back. Down hill to the Underground, which, the station clock tells me, is due in 4 minutes. Bah, those are 4 minutes I could have spent in bed. And then the underground train is delayed at each stop, because the doors won’t quite shut, and the driver has to walk down the platform, each time, and give them an ill-tempered shove. Up from the underground and it’s 7.15. I have nine minutes to get the train. I do the sums, as I buy my ticket. Enough time for a coffee, if there is no one in the queue, but not enough for breakfast (coffee is from a stall, breakfast would be from Boots). And there isn’t anyone else waiting at the stall, and I’m now juggling a carton of latte, my tickets and my wallet.

And now I’m taking the stairs to the platform two at a time (but holding the handrail, just as the sign tells me to) and the train shushes in as I hit the bottom step, and I walk on board and the doors shut behind me. As it heads off I find my seat, smile, and remember that I’ve forgotten my badge to get into the office…

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