17 August 2013

Window Media Player

So, with a 90-minute train journey in front of me, I was able to put some hard percentages behind me as I worked my way through Claudius The God. The carriage was packed, people weren’t quite bulging out of the windows, but it was close. I could zone out and lose myself in First Century Imperial Rome and let the South Coast come to me.

Coming back the next day, the train wasn’t so full and I became aware of something that I hadn’t noticed before. I’m used to short journeys on the London Underground or a little hop on a bus, on these people either are reading, whether a book or a newspaper, be it electronic or traditional, or staring out of the window. They might be hunched over a smartphone or, if on the bus, chattering away to thin air allowing everyone to know of the inanities of their life.

On a train journey, not a particularly long one, people’s activities are different. Within my field of vision I appeared to be the only one reading. The young lad diagonally opposite had got on at the terminus as we had; he was talking into smartphone for a few minutes. When he had finished his call, he produced another smartphone, set it up on the table and started to watch football (The Community Shield at Wembley). I know this because he had the sound up as his headphones were connected to his other ‘phone, he eventually sorted his technology out and watched one on silent while listening to the other.

A few stops up the line, a young couple got on and sat opposite him. They unfolded a laptop, connected various cables and two sets of headphones, clicked a few buttons and settled down to watch a movie or a TV show.

With Mrs RB viewing a downloaded programme on her iPad, I seemed to be the only person without a personal cinema or TV studio. I closed my electronic device (I’m nothing if not a hypocrite) and turned to the screen that had been provided on my right.

It must have been all of two metres across, full HD and I didn’t need special glasses to get the 3D effect. The picture continually changed, the narrative moved on almost faster than my brain could process. The infinite variety of greens zipped from right to left, putting the train operator’s choice of livery to shame.

The Long Man of Wilmington came and went, staying just long enough for me to ponder on the possibility that we might be keeping a piece of ancient graffiti alive. Towns and villages went past, the occasional herd of cows looked up with disdain and at one point I saw a lone walker on a track heading towards the hills, what was his/her story? Was there an unseen companion up ahead of lagging behind?

As we approached Gatwick and then into the suburbs before sliding into Victoria, the picture became more monotonous, but still interesting, all be it in a different way. The architecture switching from Gothic Victorian to Municipal Elizabethan before we were surrounded by 21st Century steel and glass.


I didn’t see the last episode of Breaking Bad or Man U beat plucky Wigan, or even catch up with the intrigues in Ancient Rome, but sometimes your brain needs a reboot and the English countryside in summer is not a bad screensaver. 

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