Thirty minutes into the rain. A combination of heavy winds, and at intervals a far less aggressive breeze which, I should add, is just as deadly cold as the rougher ones leave me in a rather battered mood. Worst still, the train station is another five minute walk and my bags feel a little waterlogged. Not good then. At this point my main concern isn’t my own health, but rather my Laptop.
I reach the train station and drop my things; under my breath I whisper “good job” though I can tell you, it didn’t feel like it. I wipe the rain off my face with soaked hands and wonder what the hell to do next. You see, I rarely use public transport and will often avoid it like the plague. If I can walk it, that’s what I’ll do. It’s not so much the people I can’t stand; they’re just trying to get from –A’ to –B’. My problem lies solely on the transport system. With trains in particular, routes are often overly complicated with so many ridiculous changeovers it should be illegal. Secondly, whenever you think you’ve arrived to catch your train cleverly early you’re either too early or not early enough. Let’s just say I’ve yet to find a person who tells me they’ve found that happy medium. It figures then, that we’re all hopeless at being –on time’. I simply shrug and say “It’s the trains that are never on time”. Though a close friend of mine adept at travelling would, I’m sure, correct me by saying “well who’s responsible for the trains?” he wouldn’t be wrong there. I shouldn’t blame the trains, instead the people behind them. As far as I’m concerned though, it’s the same difference.
I proceed to the ticket counter and ask for a train pass that will serve my needs. Hopelessly I ask for the wrong thing entirely, and am quickly corrected that I need a saver-return ticket to Shrewsbury. “Twenty pounds” the woman says. I grab my wallet and hand her the correct amount. “She might as well rob me” is what I’m thinking, were trains always this expensive? Since I’m about 50 minutes too early, yep, that happy medium seems way off, I go to the seating area and wait out my time. A pretty lady or two walk by and take a seat. Whenever I have to sit around for long periods seldom of company I sometimes start small-talk with strangers to pass the time. Though I’m rather shy, when you’re bored out of your brains you’ll be surprised at what one can do, or what one thinks he can do. Looking like a battered war-veteran for the loosing side however, I decide it wouldn’t be in my best interests to ask a pretty lady “Is this seat taken” so I simply sit around in my damp clothes shivering my ass off.
My train number is finally up and I casually walk to the platform to catch it. I suddenly realise how rude everyone is. Maybe it’s not just the system that bothers me after all; maybe it’s the people using it to. As the doors open to let the passengers out there is no hint of give and take, pass and receive. The current is all one way I’m afraid. People trying to get off don’t stand a chance. Everyone hurry’s onboard without even thinking of letting anyone off. I quietly take a few steps back and let them get on with their thing. I must say that watching their etiquette for such matters was rather amusing, but at the same time sad and disappointing. “The train won’t reach its destination any faster” is what I wanted to shout. I finally hop on to find empty seats abound. The train waits a further 5 minutes for any late arrivals and then takes off.
I have plenty of time to kill here. Something I’ll be exacting in 1.30 hours on yet another train. Its 5 o’clock in the evening, so I figure that staring out into the distance to watch the buttons of light that come off the big city around me would pass the time. No luck however, as the light inside these carriages are bright to the point of unbearable. I guess my reflection will have to do then.
I’m finally at my next stop, the midway point in my journey home. The only things concluded from staring at myself for over an hour is that a) I need a shave and b) I could do with some new clothes. 10 minutes are spent desperately trying to figure out which platform I need to be on. All I have with me are the departure times. With a little bit of searching and a lot of standing in people’s way I finally get there, just. What started as a walk turned into a casual jog, which ultimately turned into a sprint to the finish. When a train starts to move you know you’re on tenterhooks. It’s impossible to run with heavy bags in a fashion that looks cool and I’m sure I didn’t win any points for style from the onlookers. But at the time it didn’t really matter. All that did was getting home for the week.
I know what you may be thinking, why didn’t I bring my mp3 player to listen to? Or some books? When I was halfway to the first station I was hit by a vision. It was of my Mp3 player bag sitting on my bed ready to be packed, which subsequently wasn’t. As for the books, I did bring a few reads for the ride but found I was too tired and warn out to do anything about them.
So now I’m doing the same thing I had been doing before. Sitting on a busier train this time thinking about all the J-pop/rock I could have been listening to. At this point I feel rather dejected. I’m wet, unshaven, tired with a host of other more important worries on my mind. I did find some joy though. A women sitting to the left of me had clearly done what a lot of women do when travelling. She had packed a horde of her personal belongings into not one or two good sized bags, but rather many small ones (I don’t mean to sound sexist, it’s just an observation). In front of her was a compartment to store such Items that would otherwise get in the way. As she opened it up to place in her belongings a thought popped into my head “Mari would fit into there” I quietly joked; thinking about Mari Yaguchi formerly of Hello! Project of course. I childishly looked at one of my own bags afterwards “what am I thinking, she’s not that small” I said. About half an hour to go I decided to just sit it out uniformly, which of course meant shuffling every five minutes trying to find the optimum sitting position. I never found it by the way. Maybe it’s something to do on the way back.
“I’m home” I thought when exiting the train for the last time ever, well, sadly not but at least I’d have the week to recover. I put on a brave face and walked outside into the car park looking for a green car with my mother in the driving seat. If she saw how I was really feeling, she’d think I’d just murdered someone. She wouldn’t be far off either, I felt like I had tortured myself for no apparent reason the last 4 hours. I searched around and finally found her. I waved with a smile and entered the car. We said our hellos, made some small talk and proceeded to the exit. You’ll be surprised, or maybe not? Drivers rarely care about other drivers when trying to get out of the hustle and bustle of traffic. This may just be how things are done but my mother although not a great driver is an honest one, maybe too honest. As a car quickly and dangerously tried to cut us off to get ahead I said to her “You should beep the horn at him”. My mum simply replied “I’ve been in worse situations before and not beeped” It’s just how she is.
Rooting around the car for something to put on, the radio rarely holds my interest; I remembered a cassette tape I had cleverly planted in the glove compartment some 2 months ago. A cassette I would soon cherish with all the warmth in my heart that clearly, was exhausted out of me within the day. Still, there was a little bit of happiness left in me. And it was about to be unleashed upon the world, or should I say, upon my mother in the most liberating fashion I could possibly muster up at the time. As mentioned, 2 months ago I left for university for the first term of my second year and I had made a mix tape to play on the 2.30hr drive it usually takes. Anyway back to my liberation. I picked up the tape that nestled neatly in a messy glove compartment and placed it in the radio lovingly, turning up the volume carelessly. I then sat back and waited.
Hitomi Yaida’s –Kodoku Na Cowboy’ from the brilliant album –Air/Cook/Sky’ began roaring out of the humble car speakers. I was finally free from the pitfalls of public transport and immersed in what I consider to be, the best representation of modern J-pop/rock that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Hitomi Yaida takes J-pop by the ears, turns it on its head and does whatever she wants with it. The results are almost always breathtaking. Without straying too far from the safety of popular convention, Yaiko, as she is often called will consistently create something regular enough to be accepted, but utterly layered with individual touches and nuances of bright intervention. J-pop for me has never been so interesting. After the hypnotic –Kodoku Na Cowboy’ played out it’s fair –Go My Way’ had its turn. A recent single of Hitomi Yaida’s and one of her strongest efforts to date, this is what happens when the rock mentality of her guitar successfully merges with the limitations of pop. The orchestral parts are warmly welcomed and thankfully Yaiko knows how to keep up with tradition without sounding old.
The next song however, this is probably what scared my mum. –All for one and one for all’ kicked in. If I ever needed an anthem to carry me home, this was most definitely it. I turned the volume up even louder and yep, sang my bloody heart out. It turns out that when I’ve had a really rough day, I seriously don’t care what I do. Like the Japanese, work hard but play even harder. I was beginning to get it now. A crazy day manifests itself inside of you, and well, a tendency to go crazy yourself is highly possible and very rewarding. Without the Karaoke machine and the crowd of drunken on lookers, I guess my mum and the cassette box in my hand would make do, I sang with a smile on my face and a passion that was frankly scary. My mother looked at me a few times, thought about turning the volume down, but could see I was enjoying myself and let it be. I couldn’t tell whether it was my bad Japanese, my equally bad singing or just me in general, but my mum was left speechless through it all. After the song finished I turned down the volume and apologized. She smiled and said “Its ok, do you want to get some fast food?” though fast food isn’t exactly my cup of tea it was certainly welcome. I smiled back and replied “yeah that would be good”. –Yume No Naka’ was the next track, a rather fitting slower Morning Musume song that along with –Renai Revolution’, –The Peace’, –Love Machine’, –As for one day’ and –Usotsuki Anata’ soundtracked the rest of my car ride home. I felt like I had travelled all this way, gone through all this frustration, just so I could sit in this car with my mother, get some terrible fast food and listen to some of my favourite J-pop music. In the end was it worth it? Yes it was. The journey was tiresome beyond belief but the liberation was, liberating.