Musings from the Underground
Aaahh, there’s nothing like that growing rumble, the slightly smoky rush of air, and the roar and flashing windows as the train comes in. Is it only Charing Cross that has this coaly smell? I think so. Anyway, definitely one of the greatest pleasures London has to offer (perhaps not in the rush hour, though).
Can I make it to a seat with a convincing air of insouciance? Not really. And I’m definitely not scrambling over bags and feet in an unseemly bid for somewhere to park my bum, like she is. It’s OK – leaning is almost as good as sitting. Ooer, I wonder if she regrets that sprint now – she’s got a pregnant belly hovering by her face. Oi! Blokes! Look up from your papers and down from your headphone-induced reveries and offer a pregnant lady a seat. After all, she’s incubating a future contributor to your pensions. Hooray, he’s getting to his feet – my mental darts have done the trick for once. Now she can take the weight off her nadgers. (What are nadgers, by the way?)
Oh, good. Waterloo. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll find that if you stand aside to let passengers off the train and to let those on the platform board the train, we’ll be on our way much quicker, so I do advise you to give it a try … May I wish all those alighting here a very good afternoon and evening. It’s been it’s been my pleasure to be of service to you and I hope you will get carried away with me some time again soon.’ Yup – the driver’s trying out his one-man show on us – stand by for more heavy sarcasm, people.
Loads of people getting off so I can just drift into a seat with every appearance of indifference. Time to get back into my book – oh, dear: it’s looking a bit the worse for wear after three hours in my bag. Hang on a minute – what’s she doing? Blimey – doing your make-up on the tube is one thing, but painting your toenails!? Isn’t that a bit risky, madam? A sudden stop and you might have metallic blue all over your neighbours and some hefty dry-cleaning bills. Or at the very least some ghastly splodges on your pink suede sandals. And your nails won’t be dry for ages – what if someone treads on your toes? Still, the entire carriage is mesmerised – it’s the ultimate in underground entertainment.
Yeah – all human life is definitely here. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner that I love the Tube so. Ah, happy days with the dames, decades ago, when the Circle Line really was a circle line and you could just go round and round on it. We once had a party on it. And what about the homeless? For the price of a Zone 1 ticket they could snooze all day and into the evening in a nice warm carriage, gently rocked by the rhythm of the wheels.
Back to the book … oh, no! Talking of homeless people, here comes one begging, and everyone is overcome with paralysing embarrassment and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO — HELP! Do I dare for once not to do what everyone else does, or shall I just hide behind my book? Be brave: get out your purse and give him £1 (but what can I say if anyone tells me he’ll just go and spend it straight on drugs?) Done!
Nearly there – must remember not to be fooled by the train stopping to wait outside the station for a platform – nothing makes you look more like a prat than standing up too soon. Good, it’s going straight in. Off we go. ‘Oh, thank you very much … very kind of you…’ Forgot about the book on my lap, so now I look like a prat anyway. I’ll just try not to get my bag caught in the door on the way out.