No iPods blaring, no one shouting the minutiae of last night’s conquest into their mobile, even a seat – maybe there is a God after all.
For once, wolf-whistling builders en route to the station don’t offend. Today there’s no room for feminist principles, only for thankfulness that, contrary to media reports, the turning of another decade has not rendered me invisible to the opposite sex.
My Metro horoscope promises “an unexpected opportunity to travel if it’s your birthday today”. I step out into the pale sunshine at Charing Cross, convinced that the business trip to New York is in the bag.
“This is Dartford. This train terminates here.”
Dartford? No - surely I’ve only been on board for a few minutes? But as I peer into the bleary night, the lights in the carriage go out. I rise, unwisely quick, and lurch onto an unfamiliar platform and the refuge of a convenient bench.
Eyes closed, I go over the evening: the surprise party, the presents, the cocktails, Tom from Accounts. Tom from Accounts? Oh Christ! How can I possibly go to work tomorrow?
As I head unsteadily for the taxi rank, I realise ruefully that today’s “unexpected opportunity for travel” wasn’t to the Big Apple.
Other passengers pack around me so tightly that I couldn’t fall over if I tried. My head throbs in time to the rap beat blaring from my neighbour’s headphones. Every one of my years weighs heavily on me this morning.
Today there is no spring in my step, no admiring workmen to boost my ego. Only pride pushes me on towards the inevitable at-your-age-you-should-know-
better looks from colleagues.
At the station, a triple espresso, yet more aspirin and a lick of lipstick, then it's time to confront the orchestra.