Commuting on HS1?


How long before the DFL guy starts banging on about commuting? Precisely four weeks, is the answer to that.

Unfortunately, my new life in Canterbury did not come packaged with gainful employment. Since we chose Canterbury and not Whitstable, I will not be opening a boutique coffee shop that does a side line in hemp smoothies and Reiki shakra realignment.

Instead I have joined the transient zombie tide that flows into London on a wave of over-priced coffee in the morning, and ebbs bleary-eyed back to Kent in the evening.

I have yet to form a bond with my fellow commuters, but they seem pleasant enough. There’s a noticeable difference between the friendly greetings, half smiles and nods at Canterbury West, and the utter post-apocalyptic chaos of St. Pancras on a week day morning.

As we pull in, everybody gets their game faces on and charges for their respective rat-holes, aiming for the tube or train that will take them to another day of mindless corporate drudgery.

Although some must enjoy their jobs, as they seem so very keen to get there. Keen enough to mow down an old lady or deliver a swift elbow to a bemused French tourist foolish enough to get the early Eurostar.

Yep, I miss London alright.

The HS1 is as pleasant an experience as you can find on a train in the UK, and so it should be for the price. Even at such great speeds it’s obvious on the return journey that people become more relaxed and friendlier the further they get from London, as if some awful gravitational force is losing its grip.

By Ebbsfleet you can see that almost nobody looks like they’re about to blind their fellow passengers with a little wooden coffee stirrer, and on arrival at Canterbury I’ve even been known to engage a complete stranger in friendly conversation. Not often though, I’m not a total lunatic.

I’ve mentioned before that there’s an almost intangible sense of ease about Canterbury that makes it such a great place to be.

I do understand that much of the antipathy to DFLs hides a very real fear that HS1 could be a gigantic hypodermic needle, injecting all the worst elements of London in to the heart of the city. I mean, have you been to Brighton? It could happen here.

Perhaps this is merely the imagination of a man who has not yet been beaten into submission by the grind of a regular commute. The contrast between each end of the journey is stark, and I’m certainly glad I live at this one.

I think Canterbury is strong enough to resist creeping Londonifcation. Hell, it’s been dealing with pilgrims long enough to retain its own character.

Obviously not everyone who leaves London comes to Canterbury, although I suspect it might feel like it. I heard recently that Hastings has a particular influx, but they don’t call them DFLs, they call them FILTH: Failed In London, Try Hastings.

I suppose at least I’m grateful for a pleasant acronym, and I’ll wear DFL with pride, as I’m in Canterbury until the next train.


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