Morphing time at the train station

So 10 minutes morphs into an hour, and if my train turns up on platform 1 on time, I’ll be getting onto it when I should be getting off.

I was late leaving work, and although I was pedalling to the train station as fast as I could, I wasn’t going to get there on time. Sadly I was still 10 minutes away when my train was at the platform; it wasn’t going to wait for me, and it pulled away on its hour journey to my home town without me.

rectangular bottom imprints

Shattered and exhausted from all that extra hard cycling (in vain), I locked my bike and made my way on wobbly legs to the cold metal bench in the station waiting room. I had 20 minutes to kill before the next train, which of course morphed into 50 minutes because the next train was cancelled.

So I’m sitting here with aching legs, a bottom with tiny rectangular imprints on it, a stomach that’s rumbling, a heart which is beating louder than a rowdy nightclub and a head with teeth clenched in frustration with the thought that my 10 minutes cost me, in real time, an hour.

If the train turns up on platform 1 on time, I’ll be getting onto it when I should be getting off.


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Contact with my Doppelganger

After over a year of ignoring each other, contact has been made with my doppelganger! A public acknowledgement of each other’s existence, but I’m worried…

With my long distance and long commute times, flexibilities at home are maxed out. Flexibilities are now so strained that there’s no room left for further movement, either in time or space.

A delayed or missed train means that I won’t be in time to get to the daycare centre before closing time, or I’ll miss the exciting department meeting at work. My timings and movements are closely meshed with my wife’s who’s also got a tight schedule with her work and her travel.

But here’s the thing. Today there has been an upset. Actually it started on Tuesday thanks to a horrendous train delay. Train delays are bad enough anyway, but in Holland they’re crazy. You simply get kicked out of the train and get left stranded with no information. “This train doesn’t go any further. Get off.”

I got home 2.5 hours late, and crucially my girls were already in bed and tucked up for the night. They weren’t awake when I gave them their goodnight kisses; I wasn’t there when they needed me to be.

The impact has shuffled onwards through the week. Yesterday some cretin in his big car pulled out across the cycle lane and I needed to slam on my anchors; I couldn’t move around him as there were oncoming bikes in the other direction. Needless to say I felt obliged to kick the side of his car and let him know what a prick he was.

And he looked at me as though it was my fault. That I shouldn’t have been there.

And walking back to the station at the end of the day I managed to trip over a concrete slab the builders nicely left on the pavement. Yeah, I should have been looking of course, but I was focussed on getting to the train station on time, but it shouldn’t have been there. It could have been embarrassing, me rolling around on the floor in the early stages of rush hour, but at least my doppelganger was in front of me and didn’t see it.

I’ve written in the past about my doppelganger – and made the comment that he and I seem to have also synchronised with our train times, favourite seats on the train and places to park our bikes. It’s an awkward synergy, much like when your toilet trips in the pub get synchronised with a complete stranger, but I think over the course of the last year we’ve now both somehow got used to it, silently ignoring each other but keeping the other under close surveillance and making up stories about each other.

So now I’m convinced he’s got a dodgy knee. I damaged mine some years ago when a large single cylinder motorbike backfired when I was kick-starting it. Admittedly it’s mostly OK now, but every now and then, like when I climb a mountain (not many of those in Holland…) or cycle quickly (to avoid my doppelganger slipstreaming me), a few twinges remind me it’s there.

And now he’s caught up. He’s got an electric bike now which means he doesn’t need to slipstream me (and I certainly can’t pedal fast enough to stay in front of him), so he regularly overtakes me and zooms on ahead. But why? After he’s parked his bike he walks the final 100 meters or so to the train station.


It’s so slow it’s like a taunt which says “Even though I’m not in a rush, you cycle so slowly I still overtook you. And yes, I saw you fall over yesterday.”

So I reckon he’s got a dodgy knee too, needs the electric bike to help rest it, and walks slowly as it’s too painful to do anything otherwise. He surely didn’t hurt it turning a key on an electric bike (or however you start them); or maybe he fell over somewhere and landed badly.

So this morning something strange happened and it sums up the accumulative effects from the delayed train on Tuesday which has me displaced in time. The displacement means that today I came to work early so that I can leave early and collect my girls and spend some time with them tonight and make up for Tuesday. And here it is: my doppelganger was on the same early train – he’s early too. I walked behind him from the station to the bike shelter, overtaking him about halfway, and paying particular attention to the concrete slab which was now no longer where it was yesterday. As if it had never been there…but I know!

bike cycle turnstile turnstyle

I unlock my bike and head for the turnstile out of the shelter. There’s only one, and it serves as both entrance and exit so at busy times there’s an unwritten rule of alternating people coming in and going out. It’s my turn. I put my bike in the slot in the ground and look up to check it’s clear. It’s not – there in front of me, is him.

He holds up a hand, signalling that he’s waiting for me. I swipe my card, the turnstile opens, and I walk through. You’re welcome! he nods, and I nod back.

After over a year of ignoring each other, contact has been made! A public acknowledgement of each other’s existence!

And I’m worried that we’re going to blow away into non-existence like matter does with anti-matter. It’s already happened at least once before.

You know what’s weird? When the train on Tuesday stopped and we got kicked out…it was at the station where the doppelganger gets off.



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Anti gravity train

The Dutch train service continues to amaze me! Today we have the anti gravity train – the sign on the Dutch train window shows objects flying free from the pull of gravity!

The Dutch train service continues to amaze me!

First, there was the Moment of Proof on the time travel train.

And now…there’s the anti-gravity service!!! Floating earphones, books and laptops – hold tight! (if you have arms…)

Anti gravity train
Anti gravity train – the sign on the train window shows objects floating free from the pull of gravity

Perhaps this is the alternative methodology for the hovering train!


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Does time have a personality?

Old Father Time – a personification of time. But would you say he has a personality? A jovial old fellow who delights in our brief moments in time, or a grumpy old codger who’s seen and experienced it all before? I this recent experience of mine might show that he has a sense of humour!

Old Father Time (or “Kronos” or “Chronos”) is probably one of the most famous personifications of time.

Father Time
Kronos. Image courtesy: oldfashionedholidays

Often pictured as an old man, Father Time looks after time, and according to , carries a time keeping device, interestingly, which monitors time in a uni-directional flow (source: wikipedia). This might suggest that Father Time doesn’t like time travel as he’s guarding the safe passage of time.

So he has preferences and desires.

So can we say that he has a personality? Would he be a jovial old fellow who delights in our brief moments in time, or a grumpy old codger who’s seen and experienced it all before?

Perhaps this recent experience shows the former.

I took this photo of a train station clock reading 16:50 which I took moments after the announcement that the 16:45 was leaving “in a few minutes”.

The clock has the last laugh
The clock has the last laugh!

Informational announcements on the train station are almost infamous for being a misnomer in that they provide very little useful information. Either this is a vampire clock which doesn’t show up in photos, or time has the last laugh by not humouring me and helping me show the stupidity of the station announcement!

Then again, maybe I had the last laugh. I took the (non)photo whilst waiting for the 17:00…and it came on time! 🙂


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Temporal shifters

Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself amongst those persecuted creatures. My natural aversion to time shifters makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

This weekend we realign ourselves with astronomical time when we set the clocks back to a longitudinal basis and not one of human desire for lighter evenings.

This is good…

under rock

Summer time is like lifting up a stone or a rotten log when the insects, now exposed to the light, come out and play…pretty much like how people go out on their summer holidays, or venture out into their garden for the first time (in the boreal year) and bring with them their loud music, picnic hampers and state of panicked chaos.

Crowds hit open spaces, throwing or kicking balls and frisbees, screaming in excitement; exhibitionist boys vying for the role of alpha male in their prime, so too the girls, feigning disinterest in the testosterone driven spectacle despite layers of make-up plastered on and layers of clothing pulled off.


Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself among those persecuted creatures.

So the return to natural time will be a blessing. I’ll have my dark evenings back again when I can look upwards at the stars at night, and I can do things in peace during the day. The rotten log has been returned; non compliant temporally displaced humans put back into place.

There is another bright side…the lie in. What used to be 6:15 am (and a severe difficulty to negotiate in getting out of bed) will now be 5.15 am…giving me an extra hour in bed. It makes my 7:00 am train less of a burden to catch.

I choose the lie in, but others who are tied or handcuffed more firmly to their rigid daily routine will rise out of their slumber an hour earlier and begin their day an hour early.


I have no problem with this…unless they usually catch the train at 8:00 am but now sit on my already over-crowded 7:00 am commuter train. Now there are less seats, less standing space, and more germs.

It will take a week or so before these time shifters revert back to their home time and their home train. I look forward to that time, as I also look forward to my arrival at my destination train station in one healthy piece.

Meanwhile, I sit at the front of the train. Upon arrival at most stations, the front carriage ends up furthest from the pedestrian exit, ergo, most people sit at the back of the train to give themselves a shorter walk. It suits me – I have a quieter spot, but I can’t call them lazy, after all, it’s me choosing the lie-in!

This aversion to these time shifters…it makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

Still, there is another solution…

The final solution - sleeping on the early train
The final solution – sleeping on the early train!


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Image courtesy for cartoon:


I have a doppelganger. He looks a bit like me and he behaves a bit like me. But he’s not me; he’s a little taller but not as scrawny, he’s a bit less bald, and he doesn’t wear glasses. He wears a black coat as I do and slings a small grey rucksack on his back. As I do.

And he really gets on my nerves.

Like me, he doesn’t talk to other passengers on the train and avoids them by fixing his focus on glitzy but intellectually dull pages on a free newspaper. Reading about characterless celebrities with non interesting lives. Loser. At least I read books. Or write in my journal.

But sometimes he likes to watch real people.

The first time I caught sight of him I thought he was a pillock and best avoided. The trouble is that it seems he’s everywhere I am – and can’t be avoided!

The routine

He catches my train every morning. And he cycles to his office on the other side of the road as mine, pedaling the same speed as me – either just in front or just behind. He leaves his office when I do, and cycles again either just in front or just behind me, back to the train station where he catches my train to take him back to his home.

The train

He waits on the same part of the platform every day so that he’s best positioned for his favourite seat – a single seat towards the back of the carriage where he can sit without the elbows and knees of an adjacent passenger protruding into his personal space.

I like to sit on the seat at the side with the back to the window. Many don’t like it as it means a sideways motion when travelling and that means I have space. No arms or legs or bags or large newspapers invading my personal space. And I can watch him trying not to let me see him watching me!

He observes everything with silent disdain; a scowl or disapproval of any facet of life he may encounter in his unchanging sphere. And yes, I have caught him eyeballing me too, through the corner of his eye – I have seen it!

(Non) Contact

I’ve never spoken to him, but he’s never spoken to me either. He started it.

A couple of times I have tried to make contact; to break the strange awkward aversion, but it never pans out. When I make a deliberate sustained look directly towards him, that’s when he sneezes, or reaches for his phone, or looks the other way. There’s always some excuse to not look at me directly. What am I…Medusa?

It seems that there is an unspoken battle between us, although I cannot say over what. Maybe for our very own existence.

I wonder. I read something a while ago that doppelgangers can’t share the same space or time – it is a paradox of causality. Some explain that multiple versions of a person exist in multiple parallel universes which are created at “bisection points” – when alternate outcomes of momentous or key decisions have been made.

Personally I don’t believe in the instantaneous creation of mass and energy out of nothing on a whimsical decision.

But if it were true, maybe a crossing or an intersection of these [not-so-parallel] universes would allow a person to meet an alternative version of himself? Or would interaction cause one or both of us to disintegrate? Or the universe?

I don’t know. But I do think it would be painful to find out.

(Too much) Contact

I’ve only ever seen him smile once. Perhaps. Actually, it was more of a smirk. I hadn’t seen him for a few days since the weekend. I wondered where he was because he wasn’t waiting on the platform at his usual place. He must have been ill because on Thursday he was back and letting me know about it as he was coughing loudly on the train. And he wouldn’t stop.

It was strange because he wasn’t on his favourite seat – he was sitting behind me. I bet he did it on purpose as my side bench wasn’t free and I was sitting on a regular forward facing double seat. I could almost feel his germs flying through the stuffy train atmosphere in a direct but statistically random walk to the back of my own bald head.

I stood up early to leave the train so I was facing him whilst he remained seated. He decided to sneeze at that moment to avoid eye contact, but I’m sure I saw a smile of smugness, content that he’d infected me; an invasion of my physical and personal space.

As I stepped off the train there was a cough behind me. Too close behind me. It was him.

He followed me, as he always does, on his bicycle on the way to work. Some may call it slip streaming, but I find his close proximity disturbing. Shadow cycling. He was right there by the mudguard of my back wheel…so close I could hear him sniffing.

I increased my speed, and he matched it. I slowed, as did he. Why won’t he just overtake me? In desperation and frustration I weave from side to side in a futile attempt to shake him off. Get in front! S**t before shovel!

But I couldn’t get rid of him. I never can. He’s always everywhere I am.

All the time. Day after day.

Another day. Another time.

It’s another day and I’m on the train again. I’ve forgotten my book and I have nothing to read. I’m bored. I need to do something to pass the time on this hour long train journey. Lying nearby is one of those ridiculous free newspapers. I thumb through a copy, bored as hell, but there’s nothing else to do.

I glance at a few other passengers but they’re immersed with their phones. One is making notes and looking a bit peeved about something. I’ve seen him around quite a bit. He’s always looking at me. Must be a nutter, so I try to avoid him.

I’m not feeling too well, I think I picked something up from some cretin in the train. And I think I know who. The last few days I’ve stayed at home; he’s probably aware of that and noted it down in his journal. But today I’m feeling a bit better and I’m back, but this stuffy air in this carriage isn’t doing me much good. It’s busy today, God knows why, so I’m sitting in a regular seat and already I’m blocked in and I can’t get up to walk to the train entrance where the air is fresher.

It’s a really tickly cough that won’t go away. If I talk, it gets worse. I can’t get out.

He’s come and sat in front of me now. He’s always around. I can’t get rid of him.

Argh. I’ve got nothing to do! I’m so bored. I can’t even look through the window as my seat is by the broad metal window frame. I can look forwards at the back of the chair in front. That’s it.

I’ll check my phone; it has pictures of my wife and girls. They cheer me up. I’m looking down at my phone. I’m trying hard not to cough but I need to sneeze. I can’t sneeze looking down, but as I inhale and look up he’s standing in front of me. He’s always there! Wherever I am! No matter. It’s my stop, and I can lose him. Besides, my wife loves me. So do my girls. I smile at the thought and stand up.

When I get my bike from the bike shelter he’s there, looking at me. I always think he’s going to say something to me, but he never does. It’s very awkward.

Thankfully he’s in front of me. I hate it when he’s behind me; I can feel his eyes bore into the back of my head. But it’s difficult with him in front too. He wobbles, and does unpredictable things. I’ve tried overtaking him, but he speeds up! In desperation I free wheel, but he slows down! Anyway, I guess I’m still recovering – I feel weak and my nose is running.

I want to overtake him; to pass him and get shot of him, but I can’t. He wobbles all over the place making it impossible for me to do so.

He’s in front of me again when I cycle home from work. I’m tired and not in the mood for this nonsense. He’s tailing me again. I’m nearing the end of my journey. I’m approaching the level crossing near the bike shed where I’ll leave my bike and catch my train home to my girls.

It’s not far to go, but now I’ve had enough. I’m running late, and maybe I’ll miss my train. Surely it’s close. I urge the rubber of my front tyre to touch his back wheel – he can’t avoid me now!

I call out. I can feel the pressures of two parallel universes twisting and contorting, striving to make contact at a single moment in time, at an elastic point in space.

Let me pass!

He looks behind, glaring at me. He slows, but doesn’t make space. There is a wailing and amber light engulfs us.

Stay back! he hisses.

Of course I have no choice but to stay back. As usual. He won’t let me pass. I try again to move to one side.

Now he’s slowing down, but he’s holding out his arm. The noise is deafening. Whining. Screaming.

He’s looking back at me.

It’s not safe!

Within the amber lighting I can see a blur of blue and yellow. My train! It’s hurtling past me, a massive tonnage of metal relentlessly responding to electrical charges initiated on an atomic level and upwardly scaled to the real and tangible motion of matter of the train.

I squeeze hard on my brakes; friction from the rubber on the front wheel losing its purchase on the ground which slides out from underneath me. When I roll over and get on all fours I see my bike in pieces near the rail track.

No. My bike is still in one piece. That’s his bike; a twisted frame with sheared rough edges of metal agape.

I stand and walk towards it. Blue light is flashing, but it’s hardly doppler. He’s nowhere to be seen.

Doppleganger's empty seat.
Was he ever really there?

He saved my life; my current existence is because of him. But I’ll never seen him again. It’s ironic that I never wanted to see him but now I want to, at least just to say thank you. But that can’t ever happen.

There’s his chair – empty, as if he never existed. Just a ghost through a train window.

But my own existence still goes on.

Doesn’t it?


Time travel train: moment of proof!

So here it is!

All of my seemingly endless journeys and musings about time travel on my daily train commute – has it all pointed towards this moment of proof?

The moment

I’m on the train which is slowing down for the next stop. I glance at the information monitor on the wall in front of me…

The proof

proof for a time travel train?
Current time 18:03…expected arrival 18:02

The irony

The train was delayed! I’m confused though…was time lost, or made up?


A Trip on a Train

Now that we’re in summer time I departed for work on a train which left – relatively speaking (and even though it turned up late) – an hour earlier than the same time last week.

I found myself sitting on a journey which previously, morning by morning, had got steadily brighter. Now, like a temporally backward hiatus, I was thrust back into darkness, at least for the first leg.

It’s fairly dark in the mornings at 7 am (summer time) at this time of the year in Holland, but as the vagaries of light reflecting upon the outside world and hitting my dreary retinas became clearer, I was shocked to see the ground covered in a frost of icy but magical fairy tales, and trees draped in ice like spectres of the night.

What had happened to the daffodils and tulips and other spring-ey kind of things I had glimpsed only days before? Had I finally traversed through time on a train, upon which I have had seemingly endless musings about time travel?

It wasn’t too long of a wait until I realised what I was looking at: white blossom and the usual dreary white concreted grounds of Holland. So no time travel (which regrettably in this world of predictability, comes as no surprise).

A couple of stations further on a gentleman seated himself opposite me with the assistance of a white cane. His gaze was distant, though I’m sure that his sight was indeed incredibly – if not infinitely – short-sighted.

Most other passengers (and despite my third person observation of them I include myself here as one of them) were using vision to gauge our traversal across space all the while passing the time. Our visually impaired travelling companion was not optically equipped to keep himself so-occupied in this way.

What was going through his mind I had no clue, but surely his mind was not as cloudy as his vision; he had navigated the platform, the train doors and the passage way to find his seat by the glass door separating the populated carriage with the entrance hall of the train all without the assistance of onlookers and those with whom he was embarking the carriage.

How does a blind man see the world in his imagination? Against what observation or perception does he measure his journey, be it the distance towards his destination, or marking the passage of time, the punctuation of which is so necessary to alleviate the boredom of doing nothing?

A piercing whistle dragged me from my thoughts and from those of the blind man back to the train which lurched suddenly to a stop.

Shortly a lady sporting too much make-up and armed with five small paper bags hooped in the crook of her inner elbow burst through the door. She was evidently relieved to not have missed the train which, even as she was bustling down the aisle, was accelerating away from the station at a pace to make up for lost time.

The glass door flung to behind her, beginning to trace the path along its predestined and extravagant pendulumous swing, seeking its final resting point of closed equilibrium at the end of its trajectory. Without turning his head, the blind man reached out his arm and let the door fall back on his hand, fingers slightly splayed.

As he allowed the beveled edge of the door to gently caress his hand and come to a silent rest, I came to realise that perhaps this soul whose perception of the world was won through audio means, and maybe an as yet unknown further sense, was more aware of space and time than the rest of us are.

I continued reading my book, The Time Machine. It was a reread, and though the words on the pages were invariably the same as the first time I had read it, they had struck my consciousness and I found that they spoke to me now with a deeper clarity than before. I put my book away as the train neared my station. I glanced out of the window and caught sight of the rising sun which was still low, a perfect disk of orange through the mist.

Trip on a train

Unlike the large dull red future sun of Wells’ Time Machine, my sun would live to see – or indeed create – another day. I rose from my seat, though not as majestically as either the sun of the future of the present. I followed my doppleganger and stepped off the train, ready to embrace what that day had in store for me.


A train of thought

Some time ago I wrote about an infinitesimally small moment in time by using a thought experiment involving a fly and a train.

We know from harsh experience that trains don’t run on time. Like mine this morning, which was cancelled. Or perhaps occupying an infinitesimally small spaces. Whilst watching the wheels on the…train (on the opposite platform) go round and round, I got round to thinking about the point of contact between the wheel and the rail.

Let’s assume that the train wheel is perfectly circular and incompressible, and that the train line is perfectly straight and also incompressible. How much of the wheel touches the train line?

Point of contact

OK, I’m no graphic designer, but I’m trying to show that no matter how much you zoom in, the point of contact between a circle and a straight line remains just that – a point.

No. I can see no other way of seeing it – the wheel is lucky to be touching the track at all! Well maybe that explains the hovering time travel train in Back to the Future III ! 😉

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

On a more serious note…this linking between time and space. If I can just figure out the implications on time, then maybe I’ll know if my train will turn up on time tomorrow…