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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Homeward Bound

God, I'm getting old! It's not just the aches and pains, the pill popping and the diary full of trips to the doctor's surgery and the specialist's consulting room for this or that test, flu jabs and memory checks. All's pointing firmly to a little patch of ground that is forever mine in a few years time.

What's really a sign of the times passing is my growing intolerance of crowds.

When I was young(er), the thought of milling about in a crowd of thousands in Oxford Street, nose pressed against the glass of John Lewis or M&S filled me with an anticipation which was almost obscene.

Driving down to Brighton, bumper to bumper to spend a blazing summer's Sunday perspiring with the rest of London on steaming cobbles was my idea of heaven. I was one of those seals on South Georgia's steaming, stinking fishy smelling beaches. I wallowed in it all.

Now any trip on London's Underground fills me with fear and loathing.

This Friday just gone was a case in point. I was off to an exhibition at Earl's Court. That meant an unavoidably long journey on the Underground.

First I travelled on the Victoria Line. This is one of the newer lines; opened in 1968. Until I retired in 2007 I travelled on it twice daily for 11 years. Inexorably, day by day, month by month, year by year the journey came to resemble a ride on the end of pier Ghost Train.  The ghouls were not on the outside grinning in, they were next to you, pushing up against you, breathing halitosis into your face, or filling your nose with "Poison" or some equally noxious perfume created by sadists with no sense of smell, good taste or compassion.

Delays. Don't talk to me of delays.

Most days were spent wondering whether this stop in the tunnel, just inches from your station, would be the one to finally bring on a fatal stroke, heart attack or psychotic rage you'd always promised yourself after seeing Jack Nicholson in "The Shining".

This Friday, the train wasn't too crowded, no one was cut in half as the doors closed. After a few stops I changed at Finsbury Park onto the Picadilly Line: the line that "serves" London's gateway to the world - Heathrow Airport. I was to go about 12 stops; or so I thought. After two stations the line closed down - emergency work at Covent Garden ( some diva on the tracks)- and I found myself heading back the way I came to try another route to my destination.

I'm amazed anyone bothers to come to London. How those poor travellers were meant to get to Heathrow in time to catch their flights I'll never know. Any sense of excitement, novelty or humour engendered by our great metropolis would have been slowly rung out of them as they endeavoured to inch their way painfully towards the terminals. It makes Frodo's journey to Mordor seem like a walk in the park.

Back at Finsbury Park, I rejoined the Victoria Line, along with heaving crowds of people who, like me, had been stuffed by the Piccadilly Line's shut down. Arriving at Victoria I, and a million, billion other lost souls are funnelled up the only escalator that was working - all the rest being upgraded in preparation for the f***in' Olympics next year. I was then shovelled, that's the only way of describing the experience of boarding a District Line train, onto my conveyance to my destination at Earl's Court.

Getting from Earl's Court station's platform to the appropriate exit for the Exhibition Hall was akin to the Long March as we trekked over platforms, up gantries and along endless corridors before being spat out blinking into the sunlight across the road from the home of the "Ideal Home Exhibition: Christmas Extravaganza".  My destination was at Earl Court 2 - the mini exhibition centre for all those events that are advertised in the back pages of Dalton's Weekly.

For three hours I endure sitting in on "seminars" fronted by speakers young enough to be my grandchildren, or slimy, slick backed, bible black salesmen with smiles that betoken extreme teeth whitening and gushing ghastliness. I stayed, I realise, because any thing's better than the journey home.

Except it's not. Nothing is worse than a room full of salesmen, desperate to make their commission and dolly birds whose only point for being there is some misjudged belief that a pair of tits and a shapely bum might distract the dumb punters from the mortal danger they're in.

I leave and retrace my steps to my Shangri la that is our little home in Walthamstow. I shut the front door, make a fire, a cup of tea and fall asleep watching "Deal or No Deal" - Heaven.

God, what will I do when the Olympics comes to town?


Steve said...

This has little to do with age and everything to do with sanity. Who wouldn't willingly spurn the madding crowd in favour of peace before one's own hearth?

Anonymous said...

To misquote Johnson, when a man is tired of London Underground, he is tired of life; for there is on London Underground all that life can afford.....

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, as always a fine comment.

Dear Anon, I was speaking to DJ the other day. He's pleasantly surprised to hear from you after so long.

Anonymous said...

But he is a confused man.Can't figure out how the horses can pull the underground trains as fast as they do!

Marginalia said...

Dear Boswell, I suggest a trip to the Scottish Highlands. That should sort out DJ's confusion.

You might like to report back.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. His advice to you is wine gives a man nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit; it only animates a man, and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed. It only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost. So stay teetotal!