Commuting in winter

London underground


It is good, once in a while, to remind yourself of the joys of commuting and Tuesday was one of those days. It didn’t begin too well. The car had been left on the side of the road on a block of ice and had to be chipped out. It was only after chipping that I discovered someone had left the lid off the de-icer and it had all leaked away. The car heating system – which is a bit off and on – was decidedly off, meaning when I did get going I had to drive with the window down to keep the windscreen clear. There was nowhere to park near the station or I think there was nowhere because the double yellow lines were all under solid ice. I decided to try the station car park which was like an ice skating rink.

I did a superb, if I say so myself, back parking manoeuvre onto a block of ice. Daughter one would have been proud as she knows reverse parking is not my preferred parking option. I looked around for a parking meter. There were none nearby so I hiked over the ice with my purse to a noticeboard. The car park had undergone a parking revolution since I was last there. It is now all done via online registration. I didn’t have my phone. I hiked back to the car and got it. I have tried these online registration systems before. They appear to have been designed by people who have never actually lived. The last time I tried to do it, I was late and I had several bored children around me.

In the small print it said that I could pay at the kiosk. So I slid over to where the kiosk used to be. It had been replaced by two shiny white machines. I tried to pay at the machine. It didn’t accept any card. So I started the online registration process. My phone is not the best, but I got through to the end bit and it said I had been emailed my password and registration number. The only problem is that you can’t open several windows on my phone and I had deleted the email system on my phone due to my phone constantly telling me I have gone past my data storage limit. I googled my email and entered the password details. “Password incorrect” said the car parking app. ARG. I rang the number on the board. “I just want to park my car,” I said. “How can it be this hard?” I was told that the only way was through the registration process. I tried the second machine. Bingo! It worked. I could have actually married that machine.

By now I was beginning to feel fairly unwell. I still had a bad cough and as soon as I got on the tube I started coughing. Luckily, I had a bottle of water on me. I opened it quickly, too quickly – my hand slipped and I drenched myself in water. Still, I was on the actual train and only slightly late. Success of sorts.

Later, I left promptly for the return journey in fear that the car would be totally iced up. Unfortunately, the central line chose that exact moment to go down. There was no central line train to anywhere near the car park where my car was so expertly parked for one and a half hours. There were lots of announcements stating the obvious – it is very cold and icy – but nothing whatsoever about the lack of trains. When a train was finally announced there was quite a crowd waiting. I had run very low on water and I could feel another coughing fit on the cards, but I didn’t care by this point. I closed my eyes and imagined being anywhere else. It’s the technique I used to get through childbirth.

At the station the car was iced up and the heating still didn’t work. I arrived home late, frozen and knackered, feeling like I had lived an entire year in a day. On the upside, I didn’t have to go into London the following day.

*Mandy Garner is editor of

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