This is a good question and one I have been asked often. I now live on the Isle of Wight and regularly commute into London for work, but before I moved I used to commute into London from Heathrow which ironically could take as long as it does from the island. Go figure, that one always makes my head spin.
Colleagues I work with and who commute from other areas of the country often see this time as being empty and non- productive. They say that to "work" is almost impossible because the bus or the train is too busy and they feel like they are constantly being over looked. They say that they spend the time dozing and listening to music or reading the latest best seller on their e-reader. Catching the news in the free paper or even the one they buy on their way to the station along with their coffee. Others recap the day by reading their notes or adding to their thoughts, they use the time at the start if the day much like me, preparing for the workday by reading notes, minutes or documents.
I, like most of my commuting colleagues, have all of those options but my commuters bag is not full of the stuff you might expect to find! I have my work papers, and generally work on those at silly o'clock in the morning when the train is generally empty and there is no fear of being overlooked. I figure that at the end of my working day the train is the time I can use to unwind and relax a little. It isn't an extension of the office – I started at 6am this morning and now it is after 6pm, I think I have earned some down time, not empty time, not non-productive time, but creative, relaxation.
So what do I do to fill the time?
My commuters bag has a sketch book, a selection of pencils, coloured and leaded. I will also have a small amount of hand sewing: scissors (thank goodness there aren't the same restrictions you have when flying, I would be stuffed), a needle case, some lovely threads and the piece of work I am currently working on. I have my iPhone and iTunes Playlist, my Kindle App with the latest book I am reading and that's it! An arsenal of things to relax my working mind by being creative.
The reaction by my fellow commuters is mixed, often the spare seat next to me remains spare! Do they think I might stab them with my scissors or actually try and have a conversation with them? Most want to hunker down in their seats and ignore the people who are sitting beside them. I on the other hand, welcome a chat and will stop what I am doing to engage with the person beside me if that is what they want.
Sometimes I see people peaking over the e-reader or book to spy at what I am doing and weirdly my sketch booking is less interesting to them than my embroidery is. The minute I look up they go back to their reading. I can tell they want to ask me about what I might be up to with my brightly I coloured threads and felt or hand painted background fabric. I smile as if to invite them to speak, but nothing, down goes their head until the next time they think I might not be looking.
I am pleased to say that this is not always the way of things. I am occasionally lucky enough to sit beside someone who likes the "gentle art" and we talk about the piece I am doing which often leads them onto telling me what art they like, or the hobbies they go home to. On one occasion a lady said to me – "we'll I have never ever seen anyone sewing on a train before! I am a knitter and often think about bringing it with me to the office everyday". "Why don't you then?" I asked, "I thought that I would be regarded as being a bit weird". I said that if I had felt like that the many journeys I make by train would bore me rigid and I would soon lose the will to live! Besides look around you who is really paying any attention to anyone? I said she should bring it with her and enjoy her journey home from the office instead of loathing it.
The following week we were on the same train and I am pleased to say she was armed with her knitting. I was so pleased and said so when I passed her on my way to find a seat, she beamed at me and said that it was great and her journey didnt feel half as long as it did before.
Is it so weird to use a train journey to create a sketch, lay-down some stitches, knit the sleeve of a jumper or toe of a sock or crochet a granny square? Why is it regarded as being weird. Is it not the same as enjoying a book or dozing off to a playlist on your smartphone?
Next time you are travelling think about what you might take with you and if you are a crafter, knitter or hooker maybe take some of that with you and with us all doing it, maybe those reading a book will be considered weird.
Thank you for reading – leave me a comment, what do you think about commuting.