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.”