Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Euston, we have a problem

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." So said Samuel Johnson. As soundbites go, it's not bad at all. After all, he was pretty good with words, was SJ. In fact, I'm sure Ye Touriste Boarde must have jumped on this one back in 1777. So much better than "Plague-free for 111 years."

Today I made one of my none-too-regular visits to our capital. I probably go about half a dozen times each year, for various reasons. And I'll admit to still being at the point where I quite like going there. For me, a provincial, there's still something about going to London, especially (as today) for work reasons. Whether I'd feel the same if I did it every day, I don't know. Makes for conversation, though.

"Yes, Mom, I'm in London one day next week." Don't forget, this is like another continent for my parents. (My second brother lived in Dubai for several years, so God only knows where they thought that was).

The reality is nothing quite so glamorous. Typically, the event you're going to starts at 9.30am. So that means getting up at Oh My God-o'clock. Getting the train from Birmingham International at 7.30 with several hundred grumpy sleep-deprived Brummies, some of whom probably do this every day. Getting into Euston and then experiencing the London Underground.

I love the London Underground. It's chaotic and a little shabby in places, and at peak times you often have to get quite personal with a stranger's armpit. But it's normally quite efficient and covers such a huge area. You get into it straight at Euston and some minutes later you emerge, blinking in the daylight like a pinstriped mole, at a point on the other side of the city. Millions of people use it every day to get around the city - without it London would be a mess.

Today there was a tube strike in London.

Our train got to Euston at about 8.45. "We'll get a taxi instead," we thought.

Oh, the humanity.

I have many ideas of fun. Whilst, admittedly, some of them involve Liv Tyler and Greek yoghurt, others are printable. However, none of them involve spending over an hour in a subterranean taxi queue. I found I entered an anti-Zen state when everything irritated me. And I mean everything. Is this what people with voices in their heads get?

"You in front. Stop faffing with your Blackberry and pay attention. The queue in front has moved forwards. For the thirtieth f*cking time. Move it...."

Kick. Scrape. Kick. Scrape. Kick. Scrape. "You, back there. Mister, pick your briefcase up when you take every-single-half-step. Else I'm not going to be accountable for my actions."

"Madam, there is no shame in yawning. No, none at all. Be a sweet, though, and cover your mouth before you dislocate your jaw, will you?" Look away. Look back. "Oh God. She's still doing it."

The girls in front of me that won't. Shut. Up. "Breathe, why don't you?"

We got to the event half an hour late. They'd delayed starting as they knew people all over the city would be held up. Which was nice. I calmed down and got through the day.

As we ended, they announced that they had walking plans if anyone would like them, as an alternative to fighting to get a cab. "Might be our only option, even if it's a hike across town" we think, "let's go for it."

It takes less than ten minutes. It's a straight walk down one street. I suspect it would have been more or less the same in reverse this morning.

So let me understand this. I stood in a culvert this morning, listening to every ringtone ever released by Messrs Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson, for over 60 minutes. I got to the point where I was renouncing my lifelong pacifism and was ready to set about all around me with a Bic. And all for a journey I could have instead despatched with a nice breezy walk through the sunlit streets of the capital?

The underground staff need to stop their strike pretty quickly. I've seen through their subterfuge - there is no need for the Tube at all - everywhere in London is actually ten minutes from everywhere else.

If other people catch on to this, they're doomed, I tell you.


Tom said...

The real subterfuge is that the next time you have to venture into the dark innards of the living, breathing beast that is London, you will discover that "the man" will have instituted a new plan to make you walk 20 min. rather than just 10 this time. This, in an attempt to "create a healthier workforce", will mean exercise by force. I hate "the man."
No one should have to walk when there is another form of conveyance available. Even if you have to wait an hour to take a 10 min ride. Be it underground, taxi, rickshaw, or donkey cart.

I make others haul my ass around just because it makes me feel better knowing that I've contributed to someone else's good health.

fatboyfat said...

You are, of course, quite right.

If we were meant to walk, we would not have been blessed with appendages at the end of our legs to use on accelerator pedals.

Too_Lively said...

This interesting stuff. I shall return!

fatboyfat said...

Excellent! Pull up a chair, make yourself at home.


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