It is properly dark and wet outside. Inside, harsh fluorescent light illuminates an unwelcome mirrored window showing my tired and, increasingly, craggy features. That bloke in the reflection doesnâ€™t look happy at all.
As a five year veteran of this train journey, the dreary slide into Autumn fills me with fear and loathing. Nearly six months of misery are filled with freezing mornings, rain lashed sprints between tube stations and endless tramps through the dark.
When compiling my list of â€œthings I really donâ€™t want to be doingâ€ a few months ago, I surprised myself with the lead crushing intensity of â€œTravelling to Londonâ€ closely followed by â€œWorking in Londonâ€.
And I wondered why. Well for a start the statistics are pretty damning; 250 trips representing a minimum of seven hours commuting each time. That is damn close to half a year lost on the railway.Â Every one starting at 4:50am and finishing â€“ assuming First Great Western can be arsed to run a service â€“ some seventeen hours later.
Mitigation of a sort exists.Â Much of that time has been spent working. Not enough of it sleeping, and far too much looking out of the window wondering what the fuck I am doing here.Â And, in the way of the tribal commute we all seemed locked into, travel is squeezed into the ends of the day. Thatâ€™s time I could be spending with my family, on my bike or â€“ in the case of the hated 4:50am alarm â€“ happily snoozing.
I hear the apparently down trodden middle class lamenting technology and expectation so mandating work is horribly pervasive now. Message from the trenches: always has been if youâ€™re blighted by a Protestant work ethic and an inability to say â€œnoâ€.
Back when I was running my own business, everything but working was simply labelled AOB. Sometimes for good reason, mostly because it allowed me to be successful at things I was good at and not try and get better at stuff I wasnâ€™t. Much of this involved looking after small children and supporting my long-suffering/never complaining wife.
Not my finest hour to be honest. Now I could leave the kids with an Internet connection, an industrial vat of yoghurt and endless fizzy drinks and theyâ€™d probably only notice me gone after a few days*.
But Iâ€™d rather not. I cherish the time with the little ones with our little rituals. Pre-school: â€œare you going to brush your hair, you look like a hedgehog?â€ / â€œNoâ€ and Post-School â€œGood Day? Learn anythingâ€ / â€œNoâ€.
Five years ago, when this stream of dribbly consciousness began, the strapline â€œI want my life backâ€ was directed at the endless horror of commuting to London every day. Not enough has changed -mostly because I failed to learn some pretty simple lessons.
The most important of which has only become apparent this last few weeks. When all that stands between you and the door is six weeks of handover, strange things begin to happy. Holes in the diary, less than a hundred emails a day and a guilt-free approach to delegation.
During this process it became increasingly apparent that this is how 90% of the world operates.Â Receive a problem, look at the problem, spend five minutes working out who might be the best person to do it**, send it on and consider the job done. Crikey, how could I have missed that?
I always assumed these types were just lazy fuckers with no interest in helping the customer, surviving on nasty instincts, misdirection, bullying and bluff. It would seem I have misjudged them all standing, as I was, on the moral high ground surrounded by other peoplesâ€™ problems. Again, crikey.
Something else as well. Good enough really is good enough. Perfect is the enemy of good so said Voltaire and â€“ whilst a bit worthy â€“ he knew what he was talking about. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I am not advocating laziness, the creation of shoddy or ignoring the bloody problem in the first place.
But striving for perfection is nothing more than showing off, and misunderstanding the difference between getting it right and disappearing up your own arse. A place from which Iâ€™ve recently removed my head.
As of now, Iâ€™m faced with only two more of these journeys between me and a rather scary looking freedom.Â One thing about this plunge into the unknown that makes me smile- Â it absolutely wonâ€™t include a future with the 0550 to Paddington in it.
So travel less, work smarter, spend your time with people that matter. Thatâ€™s a mantra worth perusing with some vigour. Itâ€™s almost as good as getting my life back.
* Or when the Internet breaks. They assume because I have some passing understanding of technology, Iâ€™m in prime position to go dig up and splice some broken cable.
** Other than you of course.