Ten ways to make your London commute more fun …

First off, I should confess that I thought of changing the words “more fun” to “less balls-achingly monotonous”.

But, given I have no desire to alienate our female readers, let’s proceed with “more fun”.

For the purposes of this exercise I’m going to concentrate on the morning element of the commute. Many of the suggestions also apply to the return journey, but not all. When you have put another day of work behind you – especially on a Friday – the world can look a different place.

I swear I travel at least a couple of miles per hour faster walking away from work than to it. Wonder why?

So, what are our (not-too-serious) tips for a fun commute? Let’s list them …

1 Snooze, you lose

For commuting to be fun you need to remove as much stress as possible. That starts with the time you get up. Be honest with yourself, do you hit the snooze button on your alarm once (or twice, or thrice) too often, making it a mad rush to get to the bus stop or the station?

Lung-bursting runs to get to your mode of transport on time are best avoided. Consider setting your alarm 10, 20 or 30 minutes earlier. This will prompt two possible outcomes. You will either (a) come to appreciate that the world does not look any worse at 6.30am than it does at 7am; or (b) you will de-activate the snooze device and accept that an extra 30 minutes of deep sleep is better than fitfully hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes.

So, you are up at a reasonable hour. Don’t waste it.

2 Get me to the queue on time

More for train (or Underground) travellers this one.

Don’t dawdle once up. If you need to buy a ticket, give yourself enough time. The sure way of taking the fun out of your morning commute is to still be standing two back from the counter when your train pulls in.

Sure, you can abandon the queue and just jump on (though we believe it’s illegal to travel without a ticket, so don’t say you read that it was okay on London Inspire). But, do you really want to give the ticket inspector the satisfaction of spelling out the error of your ways with the whole carriage listening as you squirm?

Allow enough time for a long queue. You can always grab a second cup of coffee if you end up with time to spare.

3 Don’t be anti-social

Does someone sticking their backpack on the seat next to them, preventing you from sitting down, annoy you? Do you hate it when someone on the bus sits in the aisle seat forcing you to ask them to move over so you can sit down? Does someone sharing their mundane life by talking loudly on the phone hack you off?

Be considerate. Few things start the day on a worse footing than if you have a heated discussion as a result of being pulled up for doing one of the above.

Try to turn your own “volume” down if you must speak on the phone. A friend of mine simply couldn’t control his loud voice. He was crap at pub quizzes because he gave all the other teams the right answers. We devised a system whereby he spoke the wrong answer but wrote down the right one. It worked once or twice, but was soon rumbled.

What else can you do to be a good citizen?

That bacon roll with coffee (bought at a discount from Greggs) may look good to you. But does the person sitting next to you really appreciate the waft of bacon. Does the cup of coffee you are holding precariously while to catch up on all the news on your phone look to be in distinct danger of dropping into your fellow passenger’s lap.

Ladies, is the bus or train really the place to catch up with your make-up? The buses I travel on are all driven by people who have attended how to break harshly courses and passed spectacularly. They seem to be involved in a “can we leave a passenger in a crumpled heap at the foot of the stairs by braking too hard” contest. Some of the erratic driving I encounter on buses makes it difficult to put anything to your mouth, never mind trying to accurately apply lipstick (not that I have ever tried). Try to get on with your fellow travellers. Smile! That can really annoy the grumps travelling with you.

Block out unwanted noise. Source: Pexels.com

4 Make better use of your phone/tablet

If the weather is especially depressing, build up your music playlist. Think about the songs that give you a lift and get them downloaded. Create a “fun” playlist.

Mine has tracks such as Here Comes the Sun (Beatles), Mr Blue Sky (ELO), Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison) and Perfect Day (Lou Reed). All before your time? Well, it takes all sorts.

These are useful if you find yourself sitting next to someone who is talking on the phone and whose life is more boring than yours. Stick on the headphones and block out the tedium.

If music is not for you maybe listen to a podcast. The subject matter can be serious or funny, dependent on your mood.

5 Play games to pass the time

There are those who think the answer to a fun commute is to sit quietly until they reach their destination; others, especially if the regularly find themselves in the same carriage as the same group, prefer to play games.

Cards can be fun (no gambling please) if you are on a train that has tables. Failing that, load up Scrabble to your phone and set it to the mode where you can pass it around. Keep the scores and the person with the lowest sum buys the drinks on Friday night before you all head home.

6 Be productive

Answer e-mails or map out your thoughts for a meeting later that day. Arriving in work knowing you have an hour’s start on your e-mails may not be fun, as such, but it does set you up well for the day.

7 Catch up on sleep If you have set your alarm earlier (as in point No 1) grab the chance to get the sleep back, but be sure to set an alarm on your phone in good time. Extra important if your stop is not the end of the line.

8 Read a book/newspaper

It’s still allowed in the 21st century. Modern commuters may be getting out of the habit of reading anything that takes longer than five minutes. But, in the age of Tweets it is still cool to actually read a book or newspaper. Use them or lose them.

9 Get fitter

Tube stations – especially in central London – are not too far apart. When the weather is fine consider getting off one stop early and walking the rest of the way to work. What’s “fun” about that? Well, feeling good about yourself is fun and, the more you walk, the better you feel, both physically and mentally. What’s not to like about that? And finally …

Cyclists at Hyde Park Corner. This picture and reading on the Underground from Wikimedia.

10 On yer bike

Continuing with the feel good factor, you could consider cycling to work. Not only will you get fitter, but you will also be doing your bit to make London’s air cleaner. The mayor is very keen on cleaning up the air with good reason. Soon we will see the introduction of the city’s ULEZ (ultra-low emissions zone). This should result in less CO2 in the air for everyone (cyclists included) to contend with. By 2020, the mayor is also proposing to ban trucks constructed in such a way that their ability to see cyclists is poor.

Dave Buckley

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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