Rhiannon Harries: Watching time go by on public transport

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

It's easy to wonder, during January, why one bothers living in a city with opportunities to eat, drink and entertain oneself in a different manner every night of the week.

Suggest doing any of it now and you'll find everyone has sworn off socialising while they concentrate on becoming thinner, cleverer or saner by spring. I'm starting to wonder, though, if it might be something I said, as most people also seem determined to invest the least amount of time possible in their virtuous endeavours.

Taking advantage of dead time on public transport has never been more popular. Thus far on my 2010 commutes I've sat next to a man learning Spanish on his iPhone, a woman logging her food intake on a dieting site on her laptop (oh dear, that Crunchie will have done her no favours) and several people snoozing over spanking new copies of Dostoevsky, et al.

It has (for once) been hard to tell what the iPod-wearers are listening to, but maybe a few were tuned into the "knowledge grabs" from the new company iMinds, who promise to turn you into, well, a Trivial Pursuit giant – at least with their increasingly popular eight-minute downloads on topics from Confucius to crop circles.

Elsewhere, the quick-fix theme continues. One friend has a French personal trainer brushing up her conversation skills as they run – she'll never be able to order a plate of frites, but she can name every muscle in the human body. And a new London spa is offering an "urban daytox", promising to rejuvenate mind, body and soul through one-day retreats.

Making the most of your time is no bad thing, but if you can only stand to do something because the alternative is to read the adverts on the tube, I can't see it lasting much beyond February. Still, plenty of time to dream up another strategy before next year.

Mystery of the missing footprints

Get some snow on the ground and suddenly everyone turns super-sleuth (and not just because we're all shuffling along like Poirot). Since moving to my house two months ago, I've barely encountered a single neighbour, and this week there have been bizarrely few footprints leading to other doors in the street. It's all becoming rather eery.