Things I See At 5:30am

And so I’m embarking upon a new chapter of my life, and that involves setting out on a commute at 5:30am. This is fine – I like driving at that time, because it’s quiet and I can enjoy the journey, and that’s not something I often say about driving. But being out and about at that time, and having little to do other than contemplate, listen to podcasts and not crash, I’ve started to notice things.

Nothing major, nothing scary, don’t get me wrong. I’m just talking about the landscape of my commute, like the guy who stands next to a ‘diverted traffic’ sign every morning. I guess he’s waiting for a lift, but he could also be in charge of the sign, being something to do with the roadworks that necessitated the diversion in the first place. He smokes, which is a habit I can’t stand, but at the same time I can’t blame him – the sun isn’t quite up yet, there’s an early morning chill in the air and there’s nothing much to do when you’ve only got a big yellow sign for company.

Talking of the weather, the commute is making me more aware of the natural world. I know that sounds strange, what with me being sealed up in a car, but it’s true. The sun hits my rear view mirror and I’m dazzled and I realise that duh, I’m travelling from the East Midlands to the West Midlands, so of course the sun is behind me. Theoretically I could navigate by it, if I were brave and if there weren’t roadsigns.

Noticing the world around makes me realise something. That liminal time at dawn doesn’t belong to humans, not really. Sure we’re out there, commuters and dog walkers, but nature seems to react differently. Pigeons peck around the middle of the road, fearless, totally ignoring the cars heading towards them. Traffic at that time is non-existent and that makes pigeons brave. Humans haven’t yet used weight of numbers to reclaim their territory from the night.

Then there are the mysteries – who, or what, knocked over all those wheelie bins? Who put that single traffic cone in the middle of the road? Why does mist come and go so quickly as it hangs over fields? What are those radio stations that break into the podcasts I’m listening to? One of them plays a lot of Bhangra, another played a loop of sixties TV themes, but there are never station indents or commercials or the names of presenters. Is there still a flourishing pirate radio scene in the UK? I thought technology would have rendered it obsolete, but maybe not early in the morning, maybe not late at night.

And why did cars pull on to the Tesco car park in threes this morning?

5:30am makes you ask these questions.

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