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Monday, 26 July 2010

Finchley Central

I've recently been humming "Lady Madonna" (LM)  Why? When I first heard it didn't do a thing for me. So now 40 years on why does it resonate?

I remember that LM was a great disappointment to me when it came out in early 1968.  I was on Willesden Green railway platform on my way to college in the Strand, London. I must have heard it on the radio in the morning because there I was on the station with that chorus going through my head.

But it wasn't what I wanted to hear from the fab four. After  "Sargent Pepper's" and "All You Need Is Love" beamed around the world in a new age love in, everything else was an anti-climax.
"Hallo/Goodbye", was a huge disappointment after Pepper and "The Magical Mystery Tour" film missed the mark by a nautical mile.

All  was to be redeemed by the "White Album".  But in March 1968 on a North West London tube station this 2nd year science undergrad knew nothing of that.

This was the morning of my contact with authority.

At the time I thought being a student was a pretty penny pinching existence even though I received a grant of £300 a year and  my fees paid by my local authority. All I had to do was to live on that grant. I'm afraid there was no thought of taking a part time job to supplement my income - it was a matter of making the money stretch throughout the term.

This was where London transport came in. As I recall the cost of a ticket from Willesden Green to Temple was 2s 6d (12 1/2 new pence). However, you had to change off the Bakerloo Line to the Circle/District Line at Embankment. The fare from there to Temple was 6d. You can see where this is going, can't you.

There were ticket collectors on most stations but they weren't that effective. So the usual approach was to buy a 6d ticket at Willesden and when you arrived at Temple tell the ticket collector there that you'd caught the train at Embankment just one stop back and pay 6d. This usually worked. Except on that morning the cunning London Transport had laid a trap for unsuspecting defrauders like me - they'd closed down Embankment. There was no way anyone could get on or off the network at that station without showing a valid ticket.

So when I said, "Got on at Embankment, didn't have time to buy a ticket." I was gently drawn to one side. "I'm sorry sir, you couldn't have. Now where did you begin your journey today?"

I have always be in awe of authority in the shape of policemen, taxmen and ticket inspectors. I meekly replied "Willesden Green", my eyes averted and my head lowered. "That'll be 2s 6d; Can I have your name and address. Student are you?" Not only had this man caught me out - he knew I was a student. What other super powers had he?

"You know this means that you have committed an offence and are liable to be prosecuted. I should warn you that should we decide to take this further the fine would be substantial."  With that he took my name and address and gave me a receipt for the full fare.

I never, never did that again. I heard no more from London Transport. The inspector had no intention of doing anything. He realised that simply putting the fear of God into me would be enough.

2 comments:

The Chick said...

Being an American, it was kinda hard understanding this fare system - I have no idea how much money that translates to in my part of the world. But our light rail in my area is the same way. They don't check for tickets all the time, but when they do and you don't have one - that $1.35 ride, just cost you $175 - citation on the spot !

Barry Coidan said...

OK. In 1968 there were 4$ to the £ so 2s 6d was equivalent to 50 cents.

Now, they're tougher here too (I think) since I've been law abiding for over 40 years!