This is a post created in collaboration with Trainline.
It can be a bit of a lonely life, the one of a Freelancer. I generally work from home and the odd member’s club or coffee shop, so many a time have I become so frustrated with my lack of human interaction that I’ve wandered into John Lewis or Costa to run a simple errand only to talk the hind leg off whichever poor person I find behind the till.
I trip over words as I, wide eyed and enthusiastic, am overwhelmed with the sheer joy of talking to someone (anyone!). And I include technology in that, which is why I’m here writing about the brilliant new Trainline voice app that seamlessly connects with my previous favourite piece of voice-activated technology, the Google Home.
I just love that three minute interlude daily when I get to, you know, have thrilling conversations with people – or computers – who aren’t either my children or myself. All that adult interaction: brilliant.
The lack of water cooler moments with your colleagues when you’re a freelancer carries over into the festive season. It’s one of the things that makes me feel really quite sad about the life of solo working: I truly miss the work Christmas party, an occasion where you’d get to not only have a couple of illicit hours out of the office but eat a slap-up Christmas meal accompanied with crackers and work gossip.
Each year for the past couple I’ve managed to do a bit more socialising with friends come December, just to scratch that festive celebratory itch. And this Christmas 2017 was even more special because my lovely writer, author and all-round inspirational do-er friend Laura invited me to her house for a special freelancer’s luncheon with a promise of tonnes of fun and inspiring women.
And when Trainline, Europe’s leading independent train travel app, asked me if I had any special journeys coming up for which I could trial their new voice technology, I thought HELL YES! Spending my morning speaking to an app (I heart technology) and my afternoon to amazing businesswomen? Perfect Christmas-themed day alert…
I’m a big fan of the Trainline app. It’s my go-to for all train information before leaving home and is such a great way to buy tickets: I travel into London from Milton Keynes and quite often around the time I want to head in to town – always dictated by the school run – the queue at the station is mind-bogglingly awful (i.e. longer than ten minutes, which when you leave an average of seven minutes to pick up a coffee and find your platform is not compatible), so it’s a perfect way for me to save my stresses, find out essential info and pay for train travel on-the-hop.
The two occasions I’m shortest for time are usually as I’m doing my last bits of prep before leaving the house (lipstick,handbag selecting, the important stuff) as well as when I’m in the car hunting for a parking space. So voice activated tech is perfect for me, and though I sometimes feel a wally when chattering to an inanimate object it really does seem to work for me. I’ve really got into it since my Google Home device arrived six months ago; I never listen to the radio unless I use my voice to demand it these days ;)
And so before I left for the London luncheon this week, instead of the usual scrabble for phones and train times, I simply yelled at my Google Home to access the Trainline voice app, “when is the next train from Milton Keynes Central to London Euston?”. It was easy as the chatter that came freely later that afternoon: it was essential information I gleaned while hunting down handbags and putting on my lipstick, natch.
I asked the same question of the app on the drive into the station on my iPhone and the info was perfect: my train was on time and leaving from platform four. And I didn’t have to read one awkward train information board to find it out.
It’s not just ad-hoc train journeys you can ask the new app about, either. It also tells you jokes (the kids love this feature!) and you can set up a daily commute for the information you request on the regular. But for me this time it was just the on-time 12pm from Milton Keynes Central to London Euston for the afternoon.
And what an afternoon it was! I came away later that evening feeling so completely nourished. Not just with food but with the company of such amazing women: all freelancers, all feminists, all intelligent, all incredibly fantastic. We shared and laughed over the most brilliant feast of vegetarian food and I was left feeling so very happy and full. An afternoon well spent indeed, and one with a seamless and easy journey there and back to boot.
So thank-you Lara, for being what might possibly be the world’s best Christmas party host (build-your-own gin station? Table decorations of dried lavender and orange? GLORIOUS). Thank you Trainline voice app for making life that little bit easier. And thank-you Christianity for inventing what might be the absolute loveliest celebration of them all.
Although this is sponsored, all thoughts are my own.