“26 minutes late”: The diary of a Thameslink passenger

This is not my train platform. But it really does look like it. Image: Getty.

Earlier this month, as people in relationships (read: millennials looking to halve their rent) are wont to do, I moved into my boyfriend’s house. This was a big step for two reasons: I have never lived with a partner before, and, bigger still, he lives in Croydon.

So I live in Croydon now, I guess. No it’s okay; don’t feel too bad for me. It’s up and coming, haven’t you heard? My rent is much cheaper and my house much bigger, I have a garden for the first time in the past three flats, and somebody cooks me tea. Plus, obviously nobody will ever want to come over because I live in Croydon! Win, win, win, WIN.

There is a downside, though. Croydon is London’s southernmost borough. It is not on a tube line. Getting to work using Transport for London services only would involve leaving 50 minutes earlier to spend 1hr40 on two buses; probably more, allowing for rush hour.

I am fortunate that I can afford not to have to do this, but alas: I now exist fully at the mercy of Thameslink. This not a position anybody should ever have to be in, with the possible exception of Chris Grayling. 

So to pass the time, and in the hope of getting some content out of my morning misery, I’ve been keeping a Thameslink diary. I travel each morning between Norwood Junction and Blackfriars. All train times reported below are accurate, and can be found here.

Monday 14 January

Arrive at Blackfriars one minute late this morning. This Croydon lark isn’t so bad.

Tuesday 15 January

One minute late again. Not a big deal, I even have time to go to Tesco on the way to the office.

Wednesday 16 January

You guessed it: one minute late. What is up with all you Thameslink haters? I mean chill out, guys, it’s fine. Somebody should consider changing the timetable though, it’s clearly a 9.08am train, not a 9.07am one.

Thursday 17 January

I have been tricked. Thameslink is not fine. My train is 11 minutes late. This means I am stood on the platform for 13 minutes. It’s -1C outside, and I can’t feel my hands. Must remember to find gloves tomorrow.

Send editor apologetic message.

Friday 18 January

My boyfriend, who leaves an hour before me, texts me to say the trains are fucked and his has been cancelled. I avoid my usual train altogether and get the later one, which is running just five minutes late. This is better than yesterday, so I can’t complain. Am I being indoctrinated by Thameslink?

Send editor apologetic message.

Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 January

Thameslink doesn’t even run on a weekend! Doesn’t even bother trying! Pathetic. I am trapped in Croydon.

(This is a lie, there are slow trains available. I remain in Croydon.)

Monday 21 January

My train is 26 minutes late! Twenty six minutes! I really, really must start checking the Trainline live departures app before I leave – it’s -2C outside, and I could have had an extra 26 minutes in bed.

There is seemingly no reason for the delay either; the man on the tannoy pipes up every few minutes with a very precise, updated count of how many minutes late the train’s running now, but never offers an explanation. I feel like he’s enjoying it.

Send editor apologetic message.

Tuesday 22 January

After yesterday’s complete disregard of the timetable, a three-minute delay doesn’t feel so bad. This really is how they trick you into thinking small delays are the norm, isn’t it?

Still bitterly cold though, and the platform wait is painful. Must remember to find either my gloves or a cure for Raynaud’s disease by tomorrow.

Wednesday 23 January

Assume the trains will be delayed because it snowed last night, and despite the fact that it didn’t really settle, this seems like the type of thing that would render Thameslink totally incapacitated.

I allow myself a few minutes lie in, then realise I am wrong: the train is only two minutes delayed. Have to run to station.

Lesson learnt: don’t try to apply logic to Thameslink.

Thursday 24 January

Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner. Train is a record-breaking 32 minutes late.

To be honest, this has all worked out very well for me though: I remember to check the app before I leave, which says the train is 20 minutes late, so I leave the house late anyway.

Of course, the actual delay is much longer, but I still reduce my wait on the platform. Plus, lots of people don’t bother waiting (understandable), instead opting for slow trains, which means I get a seat. A treat!

Send editor apologetic message.

Friday 25 January

Train is on time today, is Thameslink feeling ok?

Side note: in my two weeks of commuting I have become smart. I have realised that by walking down to first class, I increase my chances of getting a seat ten-fold. I employ this new tactic today, and am confused why everybody else in first class quickly flees the carriage as I get on.

Then a man approaches asking to see my ticket. This has never happened before; I didn’t think these trains had ticket inspectors. He must have got on when I did. I hand him my ticket. He asks why I thought it was okay to sit in first class, when I don’t have a first class ticket. I shrug helplessly and gesture towards second class, which now resembles a tin of sardines.

The man says he’ll let me off with a warning this time, and tells me to go stand with the masses in second class. First class is now empty, bar one quite embarrassed-looking man and the ticket inspector, who is sat in my old seat.

Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January

See last weekend re: Thameslink.

Go home to my parents in Norfolk, and am cheered to see the Abellio Greater Anglia service is just as terrible as Thameslink. The two-hour direct train that I booked has become a three-hour service, with a change at Cambridge.

The suffering is nationwide; we can take solace in knowing that it is as least fair.  

Monday 28 January

I have a dentist appointment this morning and go to work much later, so am not at liberty to comment on the state of the rush-hour trains. The ones at 11.30am are fine though. Perhaps Thameslink aren’t morning people.

Tuesday 29 January

A terrible tragedy has befallen Thameslink. The exact details are not yet clear, but all evidence suggests one of their trains has gone missing. Abducted, perhaps. This morning, it is forced, and I have no reason to believe it would do this were it not a crisis situation, to not just delay but cancel the 9.07 train to Blackfriars.

We must all embark on a nationwide search immediately, and respect their privacy at this difficult time.

I wait for 13 minutes before deciding to just get the next London Bridge train – Southern Rail not Thameslink, but also delayed (They’re the same people – Ed.) and a tube to work, because it’s fucking freezing and the next Blackfriars train isn’t for another 20 minutes.

Don’t bother sending editor apologetic message, they’re getting a bit repetitive.

Indra Warnes is, eventually, the online sub-editor at the New Statesman. 

 
 
 
 

Wild boar are moving back to Genoa, and not everyone is pleased

A wild boar, c1933. Image: Getty.

Crossing the Ponte Gerolamo Serra in the Italian city of Genoa, I spotted a small crowd clustered by the river wall. I approached, intrigued, and peered over the wall to discover the subject of their delight: a sounder of eight wild boars – the adults sheltering from the heat in the undergrowth, while the juveniles foraged among the foliage that grows in the river bed during the dry summer months.

In any other city, such a sight might have been surprising. But in Italy, and particularly in the region of Liguria, where Genoa is located, the population of wild boars has been increasing at such a rapid rate that these incidents are now common. Across the country, it’s estimated that the population has risen from 600,000 to 1m over the past decade.

But while wild boars may look comically out of place trotting about the city, it’s actually a natural result of the way people have migrated – and the wars they have fought – over the course of recent history.

Making a comeback

A species native to Europe, the wild boar (or “cinghiale”, in Italian) largely disappeared from its historical territories during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their decline was widely attributed to the combined effects of habitat change, competition for space and resources and, of course, hunting.

Wild boars were a prized quarry, revered for their ferocity – and the danger involved in pursuing them. According to local folklore from the region of Liguria, the last truly wild boar was hunted and killed in 1814, in the province of Savona.

After an absence of more than a century, wild boar began to return to Liguria, and to the neighbouring region of Piedmont. A further influx occurred during World War I, when it’s believed that military activities in the south-east of France forced parts of the population back into Italy over the Alps.

Although hunting fraternities were quick to augment this fledgling population with wild boars transported from elsewhere, the return of the species was primarily due to natural causes. From the 1950s onwards, traditional agricultural practices were abandoned as more and more people moved from rural towns into the cities. This meant that large areas of formerly cultivated terraces and pastures were rapidly overgrown, fast becoming dense secondary woodlands.

A city gone wild

This spontaneous “rewilding” has become a controversial issue in the region. Many conservationists and environmental organisations consider the region’s return to a “wild state” a success. But others believe that the encroaching wilderness signals a loss of traditional woodland knowledge and a reduction of biodiversity, associated with the pastures and meadows.


The province of Genoa is among the areas most densely populated by wild boar in Italy, with an estimated 25 boar per 10km². Rewilding processes have brought woodlands to the city limits, blurring the boundary between rural and urban areas. The species has expanded beyond the hinterlands, colonising highly urbanised, densely populated city spaces in Genoa, drawn by the abundance of food waste created by humans.

In 2009, the infamous boar Pierino made his home at Righi, on the outskirts of Genoa, where he was routinely fed with focaccia by enthusiasts. Today, a family of wild boar call the Albergo dei Poveri – a historical hostel for the Genoese poor in the city centre – their home.

But while their antics are often recorded and shared with glee on social media, the threats posed by the presence of wild animals has become a preoccupation for the city’s municipal administration.

Boorish behaviour

Wild boar have been involved in a number of traffic accidents, and have proven to be particularly dangerous when with their young, attacking dogs and even people. The city council in Genoa has put forward many proposals to reduce the number of animals in the city, ranging from forced removals, to sterilisation, increased attention to waste disposal and approved hunts. About 90 wild boar were reportedly culled in 2018.

Needless to say, each of these measures has been hotly debated. Animal advocacy groups staunchly oppose the proposals, and sometimes obstruct the authorities’ attempts to take action, often sending patrols to care for the animals, and even give them names. But other residents are displeased with the animals’ presence in the city, and have consulted with the council on how to address the problems that they cause.

And so Genoa continues to grapple with thorny issues surrounding the presence of wild boar in the city, with the city authorities seeking to resolve a polemical issue that embroils the lives of animals and humans alike. So far, a collective, coherent and communally agreeable strategy has proven evasive; one that considers the need for public safety, hygiene and health with the ethical responsibilities towards to wild boar themselves.

Meanwhile, the animals themselves continue to lounge and forage beneath the Ponte Gerolamo Serra and elsewhere, bringing a little of the wilderness into the city.

The Conversation

Robert Hearn, Assistant Professor in Human Geography, University of Nottingham.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.