Airports – Hell in a Hangar

Airports. Domains of the damned. The early morning, bleary-eyed trip to the train station. The tacit recognition of fellow early-morning travellers. The scream of children-tiredness or badness, I can’t tell at 6am. I also don’t care at 6am, I just want them to shut up. Coffee. Bad, airport coffee. Taking your shoes off going through security in case you’re a terrorist. The feeling of the cold, hard airport floor beneath your feet. The cold. The persistent coldness of a permanently air-conditioned building. Never dress for your holiday when flying, you will get a runny nose. Plastic. Fucking. Bags. Paying £1 for said plastic bags. Queues. Lots and lots of queues. Queues to JOIN queues. Security guards who crack jokes in the small hours of the morning as I stare at them blankly, my brain failing to compute their peculiar, shit humour.


The feeling you get when you remember why you’re at the airport. The thought of being met at the other side by someone you haven’t seen in far too long. The smile as you walk through the doors in Arrivals. The hug you know you’ll get that makes the journey, and all that goes with it, so very worth it.


Encounters of the Tube Kind

If there’s one thing that makes London so quintessentially “London”, it’s the Tube. This mode of mass transportation keeps the city ticking. It manages to be simultaneously one of my favourite and one of my most hated things about living here.  Each line has its own unique flavour, too (not that I go around licking them or anything. Some people do, I imagine. Not me though). Here are my favourite three.

The Bakerloo line is the granddaddy. It’s the oldest line on the underground and my god does it show. It rocks back and forth so violently you could dislocate your shoulder…assuming you have room to dislocate your shoulder. It is a bit like stepping back in time when you’re down there, though. Some of the stations have a distinctly Victorian feel about them. And many have a distinct odour, too… Between that and the rocking, this is a line best avoided when hungover.

The Northern Line is that little bit meaner and grittier. No seats for you, man on crutches! Back off, 8-month-pregnant woman! That seat shall not be yours unless you’re willing to put in the hard graft, to push yourself that extra inch, to really squeeeeze yourself into any available space and make the most of the opportunities that come your way. And if that means avoiding eye contact with little old ladies (I’m talking to the boys here) who flail and trip they’re way from Camden to King’s Cross, it’s a price you’re willing to pay for those 10 minutes of sitting down. Dignity, pride and decency-these are weaknesses on the tube. You will pay for them with your personal space.

Then there’s the Central Line. Oh yes, the Central Line. Similar to the Northern Line in many ways, the Central takes it another step further by being packed full of people who have no souls and being sweatier than a dart player’s arm pits. Every journey is a gamble on the Central Line. It makes for an interesting, if unpredictable, commute. Will I get on this train? Will I lower myself to attempt to imperceptibly inch that elderly gentleman out of my way, using my shoulder and some ingenuity? Will anyone notice? Will the train door close on my head at every station? Will I have a lost a little bit of my humanity (and a few brain cells) by the time I disembark?

Of course, sometimes, the London Underground and its lines and carriages can be full of little surprises. Am I the only London commuter who has chuckled to herself as a slightly unhinged conductor has eased the tedium of a long day’s driving into the blackness through the medium of inappropriate use of the tandem on the Jubilee? Surely I’m not the only one to be offered a free hug on the District Line? I know I’m not the only one who’s been-ahem!-rubbed up the wrong way at 8.30am on the Northern before she’s even had a coffee… I shouldn’t think so, and yet these are the little curveballs and oddities that make that commute more interesting and, I suppose, more bearable (yeah, you know it, even the rubbing).

Some of my more memorable Encounters of the Tube Kind:

One thing you always hear tell of before you move to a city like London is how many mentally unhinged people live there. For a few days after I became a citizen of this fair city, I was disappointed not to have come across a single one. Then, one wet, miserable day, after getting on the tube at Tottenham Court Road, an elderly man got on just after me. Something about the way he looked (mental) made me think “This guy’s Irish.” He smiled around the carriage, walked down the centre aisle and began to bless people (oh so very Irish!) in the most gentle and lovely manner. He got off at the next stop. I looked up and caught the eye of a woman sitting opposite me and she burst out laughing and roared out “Could have been a lot worse!” This gives me hope for future crazies.

Another time, as I was heading home one day after work, I found myself standing in a completely packed carriage (as usual) beside a buggy. I thought, “If this train jerks at all I’m going to land in that child’s lap.” The only way to avoid this was to try to hold the pole in the middle of the carriage. The main hindrance to the execution of this plan was the man standing directly in between me and the pole. I didn’t really have a choice-I was wearing flats and couldn’t reach the pole above me. I reached around and grabbed the pole, all the while keeping my eyes firmly on the ad for on the opposite wall. The realisation suddenly dawned on me that a) I was basically embracing this dude and b) he was trying to make conversation with me. On the tube! The audacity! I kept my eyes trained on an ad for some vitamin pills and tried my best to ignore his attempts to make eye contact. Eventually he tired of me and started on some other misfortune. I say misfortune-she actually seemed to enjoy the conversation. Who knows, maybe they went off and had babies.

Video of the Week – Spreadsheet Invasion

I haven’t been as proactive as I should have been since I got back to this (woops) and received another handslap for my troubles (thanks Ste!). There is a real post coming (with words and everything!) but, for now, it’s Video of the Week time!

Those of you who get the tube regularly or have gotten it before will know the drudgery and monotony of standing on the platform, staring across at a soot-laden wall, waiting for the next train. Man, those two minutes can really drag! With this in mind, London Underground have commissioned a series of silent videos to be broadcast on platforms along the network in a bid to enliven the misery of morning commutes. The campaign is called Smile for London. It will run from the 17 – 28 January 2011 on weekday mornings and evenings during the rush hour commute. Further information can be found by clicking on this linky thing right here:

Cheers, London Underground, you’ve made my mornings 20 seconds less crap!

The first video is by student, Amy Thornley, and is titled ‘Spreadsheet Invasion’. Check it out below:

For the record, I think my favourite one is ‘Lazy’, although watching it drunk probably wouldn’t be the best idea in the world. If anyone happens to see any of these in stations around London, let me know what you think!

It’s How You Get There That Counts

Another beautiful morning on public transport in which I publicly humiliated myself. There’s a bend just after my bus stop that is not to be faced lightly. You must ensure that you are seated and steady when approaching. The amount of times gravity has had its wicked way as I have been making my way to a seat and swung my handbag into the face of an innocent fellow passenger… So I’ve learned my lesson-or at least you’d think I have-never get caught standing on the upper deck at that particular point of the journey. This morning, however, the lower deck filled up stupendously. The posh-lady-announcement came over the speaker, “Seats are available on the upper deck”. So off I go, on my merry way, up the bleedin’ stairs, to find that the only seat available on the upper deck was in the middle of the back seat. Anyone who ever got a school bus will understand what I was going through at that point. Also, not one woman among them. I gingerly made my way to the back seat but alas! we had reached the dreaded bend! As I swung myself around to sit down, the bus swung itself the other way and gravity had a bit of a laugh (as well as everyone else withing gawking distance). I tried in vain to counteract the effects of the swinging but the most I could do was avoid plonking myself on some unfortunate man’s lap! What he got instead was a face full of boob. If I didn’t know where to look, I think it’s safe to say that he did. I sat down (eventually) and giggled. Yes, I giggled, like a teenage girl. It’s something about the back seat of the bus, it turns me into a teenager.

I can’t wait to see what the journey holds for me this evening. Never a dull moment on the London transport network…