Stand Back From The Platform

Next stop....hell

Next stop....hell


There can be few more deeply unpleasant places to wile away your miserable existence than on the London Underground.

 The Tube is 249 miles long, carries over a billion passengers every year and on this particular evening, it seemed most had chosen to join me on the £4 journey to Victoria.

It was rammed. With physical dexterity a Russian gymnast would be proud of I managed to curve my body backwards to almost mirror the shape of the carriage while being pushed from behind by a large Italian woman with a voluminous cleavage. I thanked the Lord I was facing away. Awful awful awful.

The carriage, I noticed , was built in 1964. Same as me. Perhaps it’s a Gemini.  I paused to reflect on who was ageing better. At the risk of this descending into cheap gags about rusty undercarriages it seemed easier to grimly conclude that we both went round in circles, were slightly soiled and had seen better days.

However, give it its due. It’s a remarkable engineering achievement. In a bid to make this blog educational we should pause to consider some facts.

Most of underground is above ground (55%)

There are 270 stations

Victoria is the busiest dealing with 76 million weary passengers annually

Each train averages 77 thousand miles a year at a supersonic speed of 20.5mph

Wildlife spotted on the tube network includes woodpeckers, deer, bats, grass snakes great crested newts and (rather appropriately) slow worms. 

Best location for spotting mice- generally any platform at Oxford Circus

The peak hour for tube suicides is 11am.

Aldywych Station (now closed) featured in the Lara Croft Tomb Raider computer games (level 12 games nerds). She killed rats.

if you travel from West Ham to central London pigeons regularly accompany you to get more food.

And my particular favourite….a fragrance called Madeleine was introduced onto two pungent lines in 2001. It was taken out of action the following day as it was making travellers sick. 

The law of averages would suggest some frank and disarming tannoy announcements over the years. I wont let you down:

“to the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage, what part of ‘stand clear of the doors’ don’t you understand.”

“We are now approaching the new tunnel, so after three…1, 2, 3 wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

 “Go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care, I’m going home.”

“This is information for passengers waiting on platform 2. There is no information.”

 And how about this as a microcosm for the entire rail network:

 “I apologise for the delay, caused by trying to fit too many trains onto too little track.”

 However, none of those come close to an announcement I heard as we pulled into Edinburgh Waverley in the Eighties:

 “This is a message for Mr Thomson. Panic over Wullie, we’ve found yer bunnet.”


All Aboard

Used with permission of George Goodnight. Click on this to go to his Flickr page where you can see more of his great photographs
Last week I ventured south of the great dividing line between the north and proper north – Scotch Corner Services- to earn a crust working in London.

 Trundling through the countryside on the East Coast main line our carriages are packed. More than packed. Heaving. I was one of the lucky ones to get a seat. How can this line not make money I thought as a large woman dragged a suitcase up our carriage hitting the elbow of everyone on the way.

I always approach a train journey with a feeling of despair and impending doom. While secretly pinning hopes on a forward facing window seat surrounded by flirty students all taking an Honours Degree in seducing older men on trains I end up with the sort of people who shouldn’t be in the community without matron mopping up behind then.

And yet again I wasn’t disappointed. Facing me across the table was an young lunatic with a sniffly nose and an attitude. He spent most of the journey drinking cans of turbo lager and texting. I notice he had ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed on the knuckles of his hands. I spent most of the journey between York and Peterborough silently chortling to myself as I imagined him being involved in a tragic industrial accident, losing a finger, and having to spend the rest of his life with ‘love’ and ‘hat’ on his paws.  With dedication like that surely a job in millinery couldn’t be ruled out.

And so the journey passed with various travellers arriving and passing through my world- in this case Coach F.  The roll call will be familiar to you- the elderly couple with something unspeakable wrapped in foil; loud groups of women with make up vigorously applied (in the dark it seemed to me) off to see Billy Elliott; berks on mobiles; foreigners appalled at the pathetic speed of the train and the price of coffee (£1.70) but most of all, people like you and me putting up with it all and doing anything to pass the time.

There are a number of fascinating games I like to play to pass the time so I don’t lose my mind. Counting rabbits; counting crops; counting Christmas trees; looking for naked people in upstairs windows (admit it you’ve done that) and in an increasingly disturbing middle age development checking out greenhouses on the progress of tomatoes.

And  for those of a technical bent try this. Switch on ‘Bluetooth’ on your mobile, search for other devices and within 30 seconds an intriguing list of names from your carriage will pop up on your phone. You then spend the rest of the journey trying to guess who’s who. So my apologies to Krazy Kath, Dave’s Phone, Nokia N96, Mental Tam and Boro Forever if I got you all mixed up. And in case you’re wondering who Clear Off Nosey is then the secret is out.