On the Sixth day of Christmas
“Ugh, do you remember when she used to write funny posts about coffee?”
Rude. But yes I do remember.
Oh happy days, when the antics of my customers made me mildly amused, instead of making me want to do terrible things with boiling water.
Today, haply, is the day that we bid goodbye to our twelve days of Christmas theme. I will still be posting, more or less, for the remaining six days, but I think Christmas has truly gone, and there’s no point flogging a dead donkey… or something.
Anyhow, The Tube is 150 years old!
Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. I went up to London today for a University interview.
[Had to wear my Don’t talk to me! face all day, with extra vicious eyes to ward off fellow applicants’ advances. Lovely University, interview went well; 50/50 chance that I got in, 80/20 chance that the interviewer saw my dress get stuck on my chair as I left the room, and I actually flashed him.
As we were having the tour, one of the students commented ‘There’s no Waitrose on campus!’
Reader, I punched her*]
I love the tube. It is my favourite of all the commuter vehicles, if you can believe it. I think most people love the tube (unless you are claustrophobic) if only for the fact that it is perfectly convenient and very useful for getting around our great capital. I love the tube because, if Woking station is Sports Day for commuters, The Tube is the Olympics. Imagine, if you will, that instead of suits, these brave men and women are wearing racing stripes. Running up and down flights of stairs, along interminable platforms and in and out of tunnels, all the while following a series of intricately colour coded signs. I witnessed one man dive from the top of the flight of steps to the bottom, barely touching the ground, push speedily past me and leap through the doors of the tube with all the grace and precision of a finely honed athlete. I climbed in carefully after him, and two minutes later, the doors slid shut as the train departed. I think he was really hoping that the train would leave straight away after he got on, it probably would have made his leap a lot more dramatic and impressive.
Mostly, I enjoy watching the agonised expressions of commuters who find themselves in this uniquely challenging situation; The moment when you, a seated commuter, look up and see that there is a woman standing next to you. This woman appears to be Pregnant. So you should give up your seat to her. But, and here’s the big problem, she might not be pregnant, she might just be deceptively overweight. What to do? Risk the wrath of the lady and the disgusted looks of the rest of the carriage by not offering her your seat? Or risk the wrath of the lady and the disgusted looks of the rest of the carriage by offering her your seat, and discovering that she is not in fact pregnant?
One brave passenger took the plunge and for the rest of the journey the man who had been sitting beside her rubbed his knee ostentatiously, as if to imply some injury which prevented him from giving up his seat, and that at heart he really was a hopeless philanthrope.
At his stop, however, he sprung up athletically and threw women and children out of his path with reckless abandon as he made for the door.
I sat happily in my seat, playing a little game I love to play called ‘don’t get mugged.’ (I didn’t have a seat when the possibly-pregnant woman needed one!)
I actually play this game pretty strategically, and generally like to position myself between the man with an iPad so big that it’s like he’s holding a flat screen television, and the woman who is playing Hangman on her fancy Kindle. I like to think that if someone has to be mugged, logically, it will not be me. This is much the same method I employ when crossing roads. As long as there is a big group of people, I will cross even if the light is red, scuttling across the road and thinking to myself “they can’t hit all of us!”
Anyway, here are some fun facts about the Tube, courtesy of The Telegraph.
1. The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the underground network is only 260 metres. The tube journey between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line takes only about 20 seconds, but costs £4.30. Yet it still remains the most popular journey with tourists.
2. Many tube stations were
used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, but the Central Line was even converted into a fighter aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980s.
3. Aldgate Station, on the Circle and Metropolitan Lines, is built on a massive plague pit, where more than 1,000 bodies are buried.
4. The Tube’s logo is known as “the roundel” (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar)
5. One of the early names proposed for the Victoria Line was the Viking line.
6. The American talk show host Jerry Springer was born at East Finchley during the Second World War: his mother had taken shelter in the station from an air raid.
7. The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board.
8. In January 2005, in an attempt to alleviate a problem with loitering young people, the London Underground announced it would play classical music at problem stations.
9. During the Second World War, part of the Piccadilly line (Holborn – Aldwych branch), was closed and British Museum treasures were stored in the empty spaces.
10. A census carried out on September 27, 1940 found that 177,500 Londoners were sleeping in Tube stations.
11. According to a 2002 study air quality on the Underground was 73 times worse than at street level, with 20 minutes on the Northern Line having “the same effect as smoking a cigarette”.
Wasn’t that fun?