Going underground

Yesterday, I was once again required to visit our nation’s capital: though I initially only attempted to traverse it on my way to the fleshpots of Woking.  This time, the cattle of Essex were safely imprisoned in their fields and so I made it to the city in good time.

At Tottenham Hale (named for the days when goods were haled from boats on the nearby river Lee), I left the realm of daylight and descended into the netherworld that is the Tube.  As with Napoleon, all went well until I approached Waterloo – in my case, this was with a Bakerloo line train rather than a sizeable French army.  A mere stone’s throw from the London terminus most often immortalised in chart hits (OK, I have not checked this in detail – but I can think of two hits for Waterloo and nary a one for any of the other termini), my journey came to a premature halt.  The signals had failed – and it soon became clear that switching the PC off and then back on again was not going to be enough to fix the problem.

A 40 minute wait ensued, as the Bakerloo’s boffins tried to get us on our way again.  The driver was very good at keeping us informed, but had little good news to impart for quite a while.  At one stage, it looked likely that we would have to disembark (or de-train, to use the rather ugly railway jargon) and walk along the tracks to achieve our destination.  Part of me was disappointed when this didn’t happen: it would have been quite exciting, but I was wearing a suit and my best shoes both (all three?) of which I fear may have suffered from contact with the filth that I strongly suspect lines the Tube’s tunnels.  The passengers (or should I say customers nowadays?) of some other trains did apparently have this additional experience (at, no extra charge!) – and this rather held up the resolution of my own journey.  Eventually, the train in front of mine pulled a little beyond its normal stopping point on the platform at Waterloo, just enough so that the first carriage of my train could pull into the station.   We could then walk through the train and disembark from the one set of doors with access to a platform.

While we awaited this solution, our train became a liminal space (it would be embarrassing to admit how long I have waited for the opportunity to use the word ‘liminal’ in a post) and so we passengers were able to talk to each other (an activity so outré that it is normally only practised by the foreign or insane).  In my little area of the train, we all (students and men of business alike) agreed that we much preferred the bus – it may (usually) be slower, but if anything goes wrong you can just get off (de-bus anyone?) and walk.  You can even notify anybody that you might be meeting that you will be late – or you can if you are carrying a mobile phone, carrier pigeon, distress flare or other aid to communication.

On my return home some hours later, my Victoria line train started going very slowly – with many an unscheduled stop (well, I assume they were unscheduled).  I did begin to wonder if I was cursed: had I offended Hades or Persephone and was doomed to remain trapped in their realm?  Was I in need of rescue by my own Orpheus-analogue? Though, had that been the case, I would insist he was fitted with a neck-brace before the rescue commenced to prevent any looking back: I’m no Eurydice (whatever you may have heard).

I think the driver of this Victoria line train also tried to keep us informed of what ailed the line, but whereas the Bakerloo train (built in 1972) had a clear public address system the Victoria train (built in 2010) could barely produce a whisper, so I have no idea what he was trying to tell us.  So much for the cult of youth, mark up another victory for the middle-aged!


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