London Underground, the artery of this great city has multiple personalities. It’s the height of Olympic fever in London at present and I’ve been diligently making my way into Canary Wharf, slipping into packed carriages between tanned good looking men and women dressed in bright orange and jostled by pushchairs sprouting the Team GB flags.
At this moment if I were to compare the tube to anything it would be to a United Nations lunch – an international buffet.
The atmosphere is fabulous. Everyone is happy, even the drivers and platform teams. A nice lady stopped me as I was disembarking yesterday to tell me that my earring was falling out. Would that happen on a normal day? Definitely not. The unwritten rule is not to talk to anyone you don’t know. We’re too busy elbowing other passengers with the Evening Standard and watching seated passengers for signs that they might be getting off at the next stop so that you can slink into their space.
Back in the day as a young single woman, I shared a tiny flat in Kew Gardens with my brother and his girlfriend. Working in the West End I travelled daily on the District Line. Each day the carriages resonated with a cacophony of lively Italian conversation.
I moved out of his flat and took up the Jubilee Line. That proved to be a little more cosmopolitan featuring beautifully dressed Japanese passengers chatting with polite quietness to each other heading towards Swiss Cottage and Finchley Road.
I ended up on the Bakerloo Line for a few years after another move. That was my least favourite due to the drunks (this was a while ago!). I heard the funniest line ever one day though. On a peak time train, packed up against an armpit, with someone else’s backpack digging into me, I heard the familiarly plaintive sound of a man attempting to board a thronged carriage.
“Can you move down inside please.”
A reply heavily laced with disbelief was voiced by an Australian guy.
“If it gets any tighter in here, there’s gonna be penetration.”
I’ve ended up on the Northern Line, moving further and further each time I move house. It’s my favourite so far and works well most of the time. A different type of people seem to disembark at each station. At Camden, you’ll see a hoard of tourists or Punks and Goths and there’s usually a drunk or two that gets off there or at Kentish Town, the next station up. In Hampstead, you’ll see the yummy mummies and families with young children on their way to the Heath or the couples meeting up with friends at nearby gastro pubs. In Highgate, you get the well-heeled workers, most of whom look like lawyers or creative types.
The whole vibe about the Tube is not to catch anyone’s eye. I’ve quickly had to swivel my gaze to look deeply interested in the line of adverts to avoid being caught out. A recent advert that amused me was for an online dating agency and stated something along the lines of: The man sitting below this ad could be the man of your dreams. It was unfortunate that the chap that happened to be seating under it that day was a nice old gent in his seventies sporting a comb over. It was hard to keep a straight face.