This night is winding down…

This is another archival repost from the old blog, written in september 2009.

I’m putting the wrong key in the lock, confused by lack of interaction with garden gate. It is, after all, an epic journey from W1 to SE21. It starts at Goodge Street tube, a museum piece of a station, sporadically servicing the commuter this season. You can eat a KFC in the time it takes to descend in the 102-year-old capsule and wait for a train to arrive; in fairness to London Underground, one would still be mid-meal if one had anything more macroscopic than the cute little box of overpriced popcorn chicken offered up next door to the ticket hall. Leaving the excessive packaging behind on the platform, I find myself, quite by accident, on my first West End-Morden through-train ever. So I decide that it might be fun to ride it through to Stockwell and take the Victoria line, rather than changing to a bus at Kennington Oval.

Approaching an hour and an impressive two-and-a-half miles into the journey, I’m still standing on the southbound Victoria line platform at Stockwell. I’ve been there for twenty minutes, slowly getting angry at the adverts and the people who stand on the yellow line reading the free papers. No particular reason. The electronic display occasionally reminds us that seven of the eleven tube lines will, deliberately, be ceasing locomotion for the weekend. But it shows none of the usual “next train 2 minutes” notices. The platform has filled from half-a-dozen to a hundred or so. I start picking tube-dirt from my nose ostentatiously. Somewhere an alarm warbles. And finally, at ten past midnight, the station master fills the tunnel with noise, the relevant content apparently being a confession to his having lost the train. Half the platform and I give up.

Buses have become poets since they introduced audio announcements for the blind, drunk, and tourist. The one-nine-six to Norwood Junction, the three-three-three to Tooting Broadway, and the N-three to Bromley North, passing Morval Road, Dahlberg Road/Efra Parade, and Brockwell Lido. They can be infrequent and overcrowded, unsafe and unclean; the driver driving without mirrors, the homophobe on the back-seat-but-one, the couple loudly discussing the drunk man two rows in-front, who pretends to read a book, and the crying girl on the phone, telling her father of how she had lost her new shoes. But they are surely lovable things. The rail replacement, the diversion end, the sorry not in service. You can look down on the world and look down on humanity from the top deck of a big red London bus. Yes, once in a while one should stop rushing around and just watch the world while the twelve to Dulwich Library lulls you with Peckham Rye and Lordship Lane: get yer bicycle nicked and enjoy the gentle staticity of London’s public transport, where a seven mile journey takes two hours and nobody thinks anything of it.

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