Paranoia Of Modern Life (title to be determined later)

(August 2019)

On a train to Brighton for the day, phone battery run out and a cheap charger not working. In the carriage a man working at a laptop, a smell of meat and sweat, I think coming from another man.

The last time I came to Brighton was the time I was stalked by Joe. I suppose it was a one off thing, and no harm meant by it, but it affected me at the time.

I’m trying to get away from bad things, mostly thoughts, in London, knowing I will have to return later. Filling an empty day really. I’d intended to get the Gatwick Express fast train, but I just missed it. Perhaps I’m happy for the journey to pass slowly though. Slow journeys are designed for giving free reign to thoughts that have been constrained and repressed. My phone being off means no distractions, which is a good thing.

We’re passing through a tapestry of near identical suburbs. Clapham, Balham, Selhurst, Croydon. All familiar place names, yet unknown, anonymous, mundane, and slightly threatening to the agoraphobic outsider. How many thousands of families, chimneys, families, lonely people are contained in there? So much of British popular culture tells us we should live like those suburban households; semi-detached house, car, children, garden, mortgage, job. I have a job, but none of the others. There is no denying I’m getting older and can no longer interact with people too intimately or in concentration, so I spend much of my leisure time in solitude.

The rails on the adjacent track looks rusty, with a thin strip of shiney steel on top. This suggests the track isn’t used often, yet the Brighton main line is one of the busiest railway routes in Britain. Perhaps the track has been relaid recently, there seem to always be closures at weekends. As an aside, I don’t know why I know so many trainspotter geek types. They all seem quite nice but……

Passing Gatwick airport I wonder about the far away destinations that people fly to. Also the acres of mundane ugly meccano-like buildings that spread like mould around the airports, housing support functions, and spawning entire industry sectors and self contained towns; roads which lead to nowhere except chain hotels, car hire garages, contract cleaning supply depots. Alongside, divided by a thin strip of trees, might be suburban estates of houses in garish orange brick, where managers, shop assistants and flight attendants live. Imagine if that was your life – house, car, airport, work, home again. Maybe there are shuttle buses for the staff, just to reinforce the sterility of life.

I want to travel more but not flying if I can avoid it. Air travel used to be laden with decadence, sophistication and wealth. Now it is like a protracted retail experience. I prefer to go by train if I can, spending days watching scenery pass by.

We’re halfway to Brighton now.

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