It's still dark outside when my Nokia phone begins dutifully performing the
programmed task of dragging me out of dreamland with its intensely
At first I am not entirely sure what the hell is happening. Seven
thirty AM is not something my body is used to. The alarm gets louder
with every passing second, forcing me to eventually lean out of
bed and give the little bleeping bastard some attention.
There you go, that's fixed the problem. I can now retreat back into
the land of nod, back to the sun kissed beach of beautiful bikini
clad women all clamoring for my attention. And if that wasn't what
I was dreaming of before, that's what I shall dream about now.
Three minutes pass, the bikini wearing beach babes have hardly made
an appearance before my girlfriend's voice starts telling me it's
time to get up. Not just once though, she tells me this over and
over and over again. The same sentence repeated with digital precision.
"Good morning DTM (a nickname), time to get up. Good morning DTM,
time to get up."
The reason for her repetitive accuracy is that her voice is indeed
digital. Recorded into the bedside clock she bought me as a Christmas
gift. And because I have no idea how to silence her repeating message,
I let her carry on, safe in the knowledge that she will only persist
for exactly one minute.
Peace again. I can now return to my morning thong wearing beauties
on that sun drenched beach. The sea is the color of an angels eyes,
palm trees grow at impossible angles by the shore, the only sounds
are the hypnotic rhythm of waves and... A distant beeping that seems
to be getting louder and louder? What?
Beep beep, beep beep, beep beep. My watch reminds me that not only
am I not on a beach in paradise, but I am also going to be late
if I don't get up and enter into the real world very soon. Seconds
later the Nokia wakes from its snooze. Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep...
My stereo downstairs switches on and starts blaring the chirpy tones
of some morning DJ who has been awake way too long already. My home
phone starts ringing,
"This is your wake up call, it's seven thirty five AM."
It would seem as if all hell has broken loose. Paradise is far away
Ordinarily I wouldn't get up at such a bloody awful hour. But today
is the beginning of a two week contract working on site at a computer
games company in Liverpool. I want to get there for 9AM, to make
a good impression.
After breakfast I walk five minutes down the road to the train station.
I'm awake now. The line to buy a ticket is fairly short. It's made
up of suit wearing office types who all chant in monotone duplication
the same words to an already bored looking ticket clerk.
"Return to Liverpool please."
"Two pounds five." He replies with equal enthusiasm.
The platform is packed, no one is talking, and the train is late.
I take up my position and assume the commuter pose, no doubt blending
in with the myriad of anonymous faces on the closed circuit TV camera
spying on us from overhead.
Some people stand on the edge of the platform looking down the
track as if willing the train to arrive sooner. Others stand with
trance like stares, vacantly looking into nowhere. Their bodies
are on the way to work, but their minds haven't quite caught up
yet. The more alert among them are reading the morning paper, a
book, magazine, or toying with their mobile phones.
The train pulls in. Faces from inside the carriages peer out at
us, like visitors looking at animals caged in a zoo. People begin
to jostle their way into the train that is already filled beyond
its seating capacity. I had brought a magazine and a book along
with me for the short journey, but I can barely fit where I stand,
let alone have room enough to read a book! Everyone avoids eye contact
and barely a word is spoken.
The trains heating is on way too high. The air inside is thick and
almost hard to breath. We stop at Rock Ferry station, Green Lane,
Birkenhead Central then Hamilton Square. Three people fight their
way out of the carriage, while another half a dozen fight their
way in. We don't stop for long before the doors close and the train
makes it way into the tunnel under the River Mersey.
Eight forty eight. James Street station. This is the first Liverpool
stop, and a huge amount of people, including me, get off the train.
I'm carried along by the tide of suits and brief cases, up the stairs
to the elevators that will take us to daylight.
A ticket inspector is trying to take our tickets, we bustle in to
the elevator. "Stand clear, doors closing." Says the recorded voice
in an accent that is reminiscent of a stuffy old man who would probably
smoke a pipe, play golf and be called Colonel something-or-other.
The doors close and like robots we stand there staring at the back
of the person in front as the elevator begins to climb. Seconds
later the doors reopen, daylight floods in just as the elevator
load of dark blues and greys spew out into the city for another
day of pen pushing, paper shuffling and keyboard tapping fun.
This isn't my routine. I'm on loan to the nine-to-five life. A guest
of the commuting hour. This daily ritual for so many makes for an
interesting break in my rather out of the ordinary life cycle. I
feel like an actor researching a life he doesn't know. Trying to
observe as much as possible. To feel the heartbeat of others, to
taste their lives, if only for a short while.
As I walk out of James Street station and on to The Strand, Liverpool's
three famous waterfront buildings tower above me across the busy
road along with the George's Dock building that hides the ventilation
tower for the Birkenhead road tunnel that makes it's way under the
Mersey. They look spectacular drenched in morning sunlight and set
against the almost unreal backdrop of a February blue sky. It's
as if I am seeing them for the first time again, they have never
looked so impressive before. It seems Liverpool's gates are open
to me and I feel welcomed, like a returning son who somehow forgot
that this place is called home.
I walk across the road and make my way to the Port of Liverpool
building where I will be working. 'First day' excitement is all
over me. I can't help but smile. The magnificence of the Buildings
around me allow me to bath in their historical stature, happy to
be lost for a moment in the masses who have walked these steps years
The marbled entrance of the building echoes the footsteps of people
scurrying past me. This place is a truly awe inspiring monument
to an bygone era. The roof is dome shaped and many floors above
me, the marble floor is a compass giving true North and South and
on the walls that circle around me there is an inscription;
"They that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great
waters; these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep."
The elevator arrives like a time capsule to whisk me back to the
here and now.
Ah yes, today, the job, the reason for this journey in the first
First day goes as one might expect. People tentatively check out
the new guy by asking polite questions. My head is being filled
with instructions that I feel sure I will forget just as soon as
I am told them. There is no familiarity, everything is new... for
the new guy. And just as soon as the day started, it seems to be
over. Five Thirty is here and people are putting on their coats,
switching off their computers and leaving the open plan office.
The sun is setting as I walk out of the building to make my way
back home to my slightly sleepy Liverpool suburb. From across the
road the White Star Shipping Line building is the color of fire.
It's mostly empty nowadays, and probably will remain so for the
foreseeable future. Hard to imagine that ships like the Titanic
were once registered there.
Commuters follow their elongated shadows back to James Street station
like clockwork toys all wound up and ready to go. Some chance their
luck crossing the road before the green man says it is safe to do
so. A motorist honks his horn. Cars blast away from where they have
been held by red lights. The race to get home is well and truly
On the train people are more awake than they were this morning.
A couple of young guys are talking about 'footy' and how Everton
"looked pretty good in the first half". I have a seat on this train,
so I decide to do the commuter thing and read my book. And so now,
from the outside looking in, I am just like anyone else. Another
book reading, eye contact avoiding commuter making his way home
to a hot dinner.
It's dark outside, so it's now possible to look at someone's reflection
in the window, rather than at the people themselves. Maybe someone
from across the carriage is looking at me, trying to figure out
the nine-to-five life that I must surely live.
Who knows, maybe they'll write an article about it.