We've both been practically non-stop since we got back from Japan, but I spend my days hiding in a kimono shop/café in Westbourne Grove, hoping the reality of being back in London will be masked with the reassuring taste of lovingly-made matcha. With the weather being all over the place, this really is tea for the soul.
Work has been busy as I’ve had a few more trainees come through in the form of both existing staff and new apprentices. Each trainee brings a different sort of stress (and a lot of swearing on my part), but it’s always rewarding when you see someone finally grasp something as seemingly simple as stopping a train in the right place. An advertisement was presented to myself and other Instructor Operators (Train Driver Instructors) on my line asking us to sign up if we wanted to help with the delivery of training for our signalling upgrade, under the guise of a development opportunity. I didn’t apply. Not that it matters though, anyway, because the other day I went to speak to The Boss Man about the possibility of handing in my notice, as I now have an Escape Plan. Boss Man was understandably quite excited that I’d been offered a better job elsewhere, but perhaps that may be something to do with the fact that he is looking to retire – and because it’s quite clear to everyone that The Job is going down the pan, and that people should really have either a Backup Plan or an Escape Plan. In fact, it’s the Boss Man that has been nagging me these last 3-4 years about making sure I have an Escape Plan.
("Women and children first!" was my response.)
It's worth nothing that the Escape Plan has some less desirable parts to it:
Ten years underground is a long time when you start at eighteen, especially when you have certain rat-like creatures already underground willing to groom you through exploiting your railway enthusiasm. Perhaps that lady jumping in front of my train was the starting gun for a race to change, but I’m somewhat relieved and fortunate to have an Escape Plan in place to sail away from the sinking ship and all the mardy rats within it, when the time is right.
It’s going to sound me weird saying it, but that lady’s suicide attempt has changed everything for me. So thank you, That Lady.
Of course, I make not need to initiate the Escape Plan, as I have a Backup Plan (or three). My studies have been progressing along nicely, and now we’re into the reach of spring, it’s almost as if I can taste the end of the course even though it’s still several months away. I will be glad to never reference Statutory Instrument 2006/599 again, though I am not quite there yet; the dissertation proposal for my diploma has been accepted by one of the university academics in principal, which is a great relief because I thought that they were going to need a lot more convincing, but it turns out that highlighting the sheer incompetence of an organisation makes good report writing in their book, which I think is rather hilarious. I’m not sure if I’ll carry on with the BSc degree, as every time I am to employ the Harvard Referencing system, a little bit of me dies inside (though there are good signs that indicate that a potential future employer is prepared to pay for it, which is always nice to know), but I have at least lined up to further study a language to keep that new thirst for knowledge suitably quenched (for those of you that don’t already know, I have been on/off studying Japanese, in tandem with kitsuke [着付け], and I’m looking into doing a combined language and culture course with SOAS).
Photography has been quiet besides the travel to Japan, and I haven't picked up the camera since we got back home, but I have submitted a photo book proposal to a small press in London that deals with such things, spurred on by the book that I’m helping to launch on Wednesday (where you'll find my name somewhere on the front cover, alongside a few of my heros). I’m also (hopefully) going to be helping out with a BBC documentary on something London-related, so here’s an obscure clue:
On the search for a new home: Ruislip got given the axe in the end as we sort of accepted that we like where we are and the surrounding area (and because Ruislip is a bit of a hole these days), so the search now looks towards the Ealing streets that S grew up in. I don’t mind, as it still means we’ll only be a short bus ride away to Kew Gardens.
So that’s where I am, and I'm sort of pleased I've sorted things in such a way before I eventually find my age adding up to that of three decades. Things are on the up, and thank fuck for that.