Author: Martin

XVI. 08/05-12/05/17; untied

A man with thick-frame glasses and a white beard browses his facebook feed: regional elections, oldtimer cars, misc. scenery, cat and family photos. Our information is as fragmented as the circumstances we live in. Opposite him a passenger in blue jeans, a blue sweater over a chequered shirt, wearing brightly pink, round-frame glasses. Out of character or in character? They’re temporary. He puts them away with his book before we arrive. The days trickle in to London and back out in the evening. A scarf hangs from the luggage ledge and pools onto my neighbour’s lap. He doesn’t mind. As we arrive the man in front stands up from his aisle seat and claims it. As he does so the scarf opens up, revealing itself as a generous piece of fabric. I don’t know why — perhaps the glasses, the elegant corpulence, the steady indifference — the man with the generous scarf reminds me of Umberto Eco. On the way out: a suited young man with orange-laced training shoes and a duffel bag and his red …

XV. 01/05-05/05/17; habits of haste

Approximately one-hundred travelers coalesce into the usual small pools, regularly spaced like a smeared out sequence of 1’s and 0’s. The depth of the pools varies according to habit and ad-hoc decision-making. Our habits are base-camps for exploration: if you usually walk to the “near end” of the platform (so that you will be closer to the ticket gates on arrival) then you are unlikely to move the opposite way to the far-end the next day. And our habits do, indeed, in large measure, enable even our organisms to accommodate themselves to an existence which at first seemed impossible. We have all seen an old circus performer with a weak heart accomplish acrobatic tricks which no one would believe his heart could stand. Time Regained It seems to me that on average, the position of a group is biased towards the direction of the incoming train. So I try to stand further towards the near-end to improve my starting position for the jostle into the train. I am nearly always one of the first four on-board. …

XIV. 23/04-29/04/17; grooves

A policeman with hipster beard drinks red bull standing by the door. He gazes out of the window. The view is blocked by sound barriers. What is he looking at? A woman arrives and sits down next to me. She begins reading CVs. She has a cup of cheap coffee with her bought from Yorma, a chain of train-station convenience stores. She eventually settles into reading her company’s strategy paper. She works for easyCredit, TeamBank AG. The strategy centres around platitudes about customer focus and team-work. There is a section on leveraging new networks born out of the technological, digitised revolution. The positive economic conditions have led to an increase in consumer credit, it says. She underlines a section of text about how customers transfer expectations from other industries to the banking industry. The traditional inn has a comforting, analogue goodness. You have to let the needle of your attention move through the polished grooves of character. The shy friendliness of a waiter, the decor, the pairings of food and beer have all evolved and …

XIII. 16/04-21/04/17; hewn wood

I place myself at the front of the train. I was last on among seven people congregated in anticipation of a particular pair of doors. A bulky man wearing a blue and white horizontally striped shirt and a blue and pink diagonally striped tie moves his feet to the side towards the aisle so that I can pass and sit down. There is plenty of space. He is wearing an old Barbour jacket over his shirt and tie. He holds his phone out in front of him within his folded hands. The man opposite me has a shiny forehead and a pink tie with five diagonal white and black stripes. His getup looks expensive and new. But above his waist the shirt isn’t tucked in and the shirt folds outwards between the buttons making it all look wrinkled and diminishing the appearance. He has a cup of AMT coffee waiting for him on the table and for a while he had the receipt for it on his lap and it looked like he was entering the …

XII. 10/04-13/04/17; faces to spheres

The 6:59 is delayed by ten minutes. A train on the other side of the line will leave first. An announcement is made. A number of people cross over the bridge to the other platform to take the other train. The reaction of those who are left varies. Some have ignored the opportunity to change trains, while others are on edge: to change or not to change? Over the next few minutes two or three suddenly make a decision and rush over, running and breathing audibly as they pass. The delay was caused by problems with level crossings between Cambridge and Royston says the driver on the intercom. But now we are back to “line speed” and only a few moments behind schedule. For a few moments this holds true, then the train brakes to a crawl before accelerating again. The fields on the way to London are as green as the fields on the way to Vienna. Again the train brakes. Why can’t the load on the network be balanced more efficiently? A young …

XI. 03/04-07/04/17; reintermediation

En-route to Vienna and the Austrian stewardesses are dressed in red. Austrian airlines is behind the times: the service is professional and friendly, the uniforms are worn well, drinks are offered twice. The choice of snack is well-stated: “Sweet or salty?” It would be interesting to expand the palette: “sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami?” We pass a large OMV refinery (Raffinerie Schwechat).  For a moment it looks like a futuristic city; tall structures dotted with lights. I put my glasses back on. Trees and open space and another impressive factory structure with red, white, red coloured chimneys. The relationship between cloud and sky is inverted. The clouds dominate and present a negative, grey-bluish space. Within this space there are small white-blue shapes. At first glance it appears as if these shapes are clouds set in a grey-blue sky, but in fact they are glimpses of the sky through the clouds. The taxi will be more expensive than expected. It’s a huge van, much to big for my suitcase. The taxi-rank manager shouted at passengers …

X. 27/03-01/04/17; spring thumps

A misty morning in early spring smells of freshly cut grass. The train horn honks around where I heard it yesterday when I stood at the top of the heath. Paying attention for the first time, the reason is apparent: there’s a level crossing here. (Under rules set by the Rail Safety and Standards Board, train drivers have to sound their horns when they approach level crossings, tunnels, or trackside workers.) The landscape is concealed by grey fog. The grass looks wet and dull. The boundary between the ground and the sky, with its ground-hugging clouds, is soft and imprecise. The lady next to me is listening to music on a small, thin music player. Its brand name is Lenco. A blue scarf with white dots is tied around her neck. The cord to the earphones is red. She has a small, brown leather satchel bag. A larger satchel hangs by its strap from the fold-out table. Gloves are placed neatly on top of a grey hat, which is perched on a tartan patterned scarf. …

IX. 19/03-26/03/17; groupuscules on a heath

How to steal a country: while the groupuscules struggle, entrenched power thrives. A man in a high-vis jacket, functional track-suit pants and general purpose shoes is reading the Economist while his laptop boots up. No time shall be wasted. The portrait caption would be:  Blue-collar & Economist, or perhaps more accurately, High-vis collar & Economist. Either way, I had never noticed the column by Bello before. A man wearing a Dastar is standing behind the last seat in the row across the aisle. He is thumbing his phone. He wears a silver watch. Strange shapes of modern architectural imagination from Blackfriars: slanted and rectangular stands behind inward-curved and squat, a rounded cylinder somewhere in between and the sharp and splintered tower overlooking the crowd of shapes from the other side, taller than them. Standing only on the 7:30. A woman with a polka-dot top tucked into trousers is reading a textbook on business and management: 5.1 Management Buyouts… The head of an older man with round glasses leans against the wall of the carriage between …

VIII. 13/03-18/03/17; phenomenology

The morning sky could be from a Poussin landscape. Blue, pink, orange: gradations of energy. In the line of sight to the window is a man who is a regular on the 5:59. He is sketching an architectural plan on lined paper in pencil. Four passengers are familiar this morning. By the end of the train journey the man seems to have finished imagining the house. He has written a lot of text around the drawing. He was wholly absorbed by his work. The train is pulling into the station. The architect is in conversation with another regular, who is immaculately dressed, wears very narrow rimless glasses and carries a wood-handled umbrella. They’re talking about a heritage site in the Lake District. The man with the wood-handled umbrella is giving the architect a history lesson. The architect is silent, looks up at the other man, doesn’t have a rejoinder or a contribution to make. He seems uncomfortable next to his fully dressed neighbour who speaks with Received Pronunciation.”Worth another visit then” says the architect. The architect’s …

VII. 6/03-11/03/17; airborne

A big ear with a pinkish tint around the edge; short hair indistinctly parted; grey suit, stiff white shirt with cufflinks. An umbrella is lapel-pinned to his jacket; its canopy is coloured red, green, yellow, green. The wide-cut black tie features an arrangement of dark blue umbrellas. He wears rounded rimless glasses. A sip of coffee. Shiny black shoes; he is absorbed by his tablet. Yellow and orange sunlight is creeping up into the dark blue morning sky. Grades of blue: from the yellow-blue green to shades of fish-belly white-blueness. A long cloud hangs in the sky like a blue whale. A colourful umbrella at the end of the tie matches the umbrella on the pin. The tie and the lapel-pin are a pair. One day follows the next, the wheel keeps turning. Does it leave any tracks? Does it matter? Across the aisle: a man in new-looking, light brown suede shoes, a silver ring on his ring finger, a razor cut around the middle of the jaw bone. Head forward, 90 degree angle between …