IT IS 7am and me and my fuzzy head are driving the car to work. Over the roundabout we go. Half a mile from home, the dashboard flashes up a warning about loss of pressure in one of the back tyres.
Pulling up, I see that the tyre is pretty much flat. In the old days, I’d have jacked up that car and changed the wheel, but this car doesn’t have a spare wheel. It does have a foam repair aerosol or something, but I don’t trust that to get me to Horsforth and back. I pump up the tyre and return home.
Having dashed out of the house moments ago, I dash back in to deliver the deflating news. Back outside, I take my shoulder bag, laptop and sports bag out of the boot. The nearest bus pulls round the junction, too far away for me to run.
I set off with too many bags, then turn back, as I’d locked the front door but left the keys dangling in the lock.
Usually it takes an hour to drive to the university, a rural route that skirts Wetherby, Harewood, the long hill at Pool and then, just before the airport, a sharp left down a country road. In the distance you can see the airport camped on a hilltop.
Another sharp turn takes you down a narrow, tippling road with two pinch-point bridges at the bottom of steep hills. Two miles later, you emerge into a suburban street close to the university.
All that driving is a pain to a man who’d rather cycle to work, and I’d wondered about trying the train. This morning I have no choice.
Ten minutes or so gets me to the less convenient bus stop. Another 20 minutes or so – and £17.50 lighter on the bank card – and I am sitting at a table, surrounded by my too many bags, one containing a squash racket with an awkward handle.
I email a couple of students to say I’ll be late, then settle back for the journey.
This train line to Harrogate and beyond is a pretty little trip, with one of Yorkshire’s great views at Knaresborough as the train pulls out of the station and crosses the viaduct above the Nidd Gorge. New to me is the stretch between Harrogate and Horsforth, more rolling countryside and another viaduct or two.
It’s snowing in Horsforth as I walk up with a colleague who was on the same train. She tells me that she plays the piano in Bettys in Harrogate, and I didn’t know that. It’s good when people surprise you in interesting way, I think, while also trying not to think about the furious itch of my bursting bladder.
After dashing a little more, I arrive in the classroom two hours and 15 minutes after first leaving home in the car. Three students are waiting, the others roll in over the next half hour or so.
Today’s session is about film and TV reviewing. I’d suggested that they watch The End of The F***ing World, the cult dark comedy/Brit road movie on More4 and Netflix. Quite a few of them have – result! – and have good thoughts to share; some haven’t and don’t.
After three hours in class, a lunchtime squash session, a bite to eat and a meeting about how to do something on Moodle – ask a head-scratching academic if you don’t know – I am walking back to the station.
The return journey takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes: a commute of nearly 4-and-a-half hours, as opposed to an hour each way in the car. An hour each way in the car is an hour each way too many, but you can see why people drive rather than take the slow train.
At home the car is slumped in the drive, awaiting attention. Soon I am slumped on the sofa, awaiting a drowsy interlude that doesn’t arrive.