What Have You Done Today, Dickon Edwards?

I’m far too good at hibernation, especially in freezing weather. Today I woke up at about 1pm, even though I’d fallen asleep at a reasonable time during the night. To my horror, the whole morning was gone. And I don’t even feel better for the extra sleep physically – I’ve found that sleeping too much makes you feel ill too – you get a kind of sickly headache. I really must make sure I get up properly tomorrow morning, however cold it is.

Managed to get some things done, however, including finally working out how to scan my article for the Sunday Express, on letter writing. The paper is too large for my A4 scanner, and it took me forever to work out how to join two image files and make a new one. As you can see, I still haven’t done it very well, but it’s readable:

It was published two months ago, but I wanted to put off mentioning it here until I was paid, which happened last week (I was told it would take that long). This was, after all, my first proper freelance paid writing job. As in paid decently.  Because my bedsit-renting outgoings are meagre compared to the average person, if I could get just two such writing gigs a month I’d be able to call myself a Working Writer – just about. Three such articles a month and I’d have an income from a job I’d actually be happy with, and could even afford to save. So I need to pitch for this sort of work more often.

Writers often talk about the day their first cheque from a publisher or newspaper arrived – that heart-lifting moment of a dream fulfilled, of a future laid out. I certainly felt very good about the article being published, particularly because they gave me a byline photo.


Sadly, today I had to spend £25 of my proud earnings on a transport penalty fare.

I went to the Museum Of London Docklands this evening in order to attend a screening of Paul Kelly’s films made with Saint Etienne, Finisterre and What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? This meant a rare trip on the Docklands Light Railway from Bank to West India Quay station. On the way back, I didn’t realise I had to ‘touch in’ my Oyster card at one of those voluntary scanning pads you have to look for, rather than at a barrier, which I’m used to. In fact, I found the station confusing enough as it was. I had to run up and down the same steps twice to find the right platform, as there’s two branches of the DLR going through it. The thought of touching in my Oyster card didn’t occur to me – I was too preoccupied with working out where the hell I was meant to be.

On the train there was a TFL ticket guard, to whom I presented my card with confidence. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d done something wrong. Or rather, not done something right.  He scanned my card, told me I hadn’t touched in at the station, and said that this meant I had to pay a penalty fare of £25.

I was pretty upset and angry about this. Particularly as I was clearly – visibly-  an easily confused visitor who had unwittingly made a mistake rather than a knowing fare dodger who had been caught. Fare dodgers don’t present their ticket to a guard confidently.

Plus my Oyster card history would prove I’m someone that doesn’t use the DLR regularly. Plus I’m medically forgetful these days, what with the dyspraxia diagnosis. My brain isn’t as connected up as most people’s.

But the guard’s sympathy only ran to not charging me the full £50 – and he said I was lucky he didn’t do this. I paid on the spot, not wanting to create a scene.

Still, the penalty fare slip has details of how to write an appeal letter to try and claim the money back, and that’s what I’ll do. I’ve poured so many thousands of pounds into TFL over the  years, so I do hope they can let me off for making this one very human mistake.


Apart from that little unhappy epilogue, I otherwise had a lovely evening at the Paul Kelly screening. Mervyn Day is a portrait of the Lea Valley just before the Olympic Park bulldozers moved in, filmed in a very 1970s Children’s Film Foundation sort of way. One the best bits is the voice of an old Hackney Wick bloke saying “There should be signs for dogs”. As in for them to read.

I chatted to Paul Kelly himself on the train home. He was a witness to my run-in with the TFL guard, and very kindly stood up in my defence.


Some happier news. This week I had two further marks back from my BA English degree course. One was 70, the other was 71. That’s two Firsts – just. It’s proof that despite the dyspraxia, I can clearly do good work.  I feel a lot less stupid and useless. Even if I do forget to touch in my Oyster card sometimes, I can be relied upon to write a decent essay about Coleridge.

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