Friday, 24 August 2012

Inexplicable Tuesdays

I know it's Friday. Yes, look, I may write some total piffle on this blog, but I am not entirely brain-dead. Despite what the calendar says, I want to talk about Tuesday.

What is it that's got me thinking about Tuesday? Well, what started was thinking about the slow commute home from the office, catching the train with the other Tuesday-dwellers. There are the familiar faces; Sou'wester man is usually to be found somewhere, telescope scanning the horizon (ok, I made up the bit about the telescope). Also there's the poor put-upon mother with the buggy and the large collection of cheery but unruly children (kids are never really very rush-hour friendly, but if you have to travel, what can you do?). But on Tuesdays, for some reason, my train is always much busier and I never get a seat. Wednesdays, no problem. Fridays, well the rush is spread out as people stagger home from pubs. (That's clever isn't it; they stagger because they offset the timings of their journey home, and they stagger because of the beer. I'm well good at this blogging malarkey, aren't I?) But Tuesdays? No chance.

Why is everyone on my train home at the same time as me on a Tuesday? What's special about Tuesdays then? As a weekday, it's one of a set of seven, a practice in Europe that seems to be attributable to the ancient Greeks, who felt that it would be good to have the gods for the five known planets, plus sun and moon, watching over a day each. The Romans adopted this idea (they had an eight-day week prior to this), and as a consequence the scheme has spread around the world.

Mars, red planet and god-of-war, was adopted for Tuesday. This can be seen in the weekday names from most of Europe's Latin languages, such as Mardi from French. But although the Britons adopted the weekday scheme from the Romans, our names are derived from Anglo-Saxon words imparted on Britain from the various post-Roman invasions that occurred. "Day" is a modern transliteration of "dæg", and we get the "Tue..." part as a transliteration of Norse god name Tywr, a war god, comparable to the Roman Mars.

The history lesson is all very well, but it tells us very little about twentieth century Tuesdays, except perhaps that having my face pressed against train window glass as a direct consequence of mass under-capacity (a term I prefer to overcrowding, since it implicitly blames the authorities rather than the long-suffering populace) can make me feel pretty war-like. What coping strategy might be employed?

I discussed this phenomenon with the lovely Mrs Nam, long suffering and enduringly patient listener when I'm philosophising. She suggested I offset my journey home and try a different train. Good idea. So off I went to catch the service scheduled for twenty minutes later. Amazing! She was dead right, that train was completely calm, relaxed and civilised, and I discovered that I no longer needed to care about what was causing the Tuesday chaos. Super. Mrs Nam to the rescue; wife and superhero.

So impressed was I with this change that I decided to try this lovely new quieter Tuesday service at the equivalent times on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The whole thing could be an utterly life-changing experience. What could go wrong? So, on Wednesday (Wōdnesdæg) there I was, waiting happily for my new train, and when it turned up it was jammed to the rafters. No explanation, no rhyme or reason. A proper old fashioned sardine special; I couldn't even get near the door.

Mars, or Tywr, is obviously toying with me. It seems I am destined to do this weekly battle, bound to have my Tuesday torment by the muses of ancient deities. Perhaps my only hope is to stagger home myself. Hic! Let's hope I don't end up saturnine by Saturday.

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