Saturday, 30 January 2010

Tubular Hells

From the age of about 15 I wanted to live in London. Its energy, its eclecticism, its anonymity, it all drew me in. And then there was the tube. I thought it was fantastic! You jump on at a station at one end of London and it whisks you off through the underbelly of that smoky beast to deliver you wherever you desire. Not quite a jet pack, but pretty impressive for a girl who has always relied on rickety old buses getting stuck behind tractors rumbling through the town centre.
For the first couple of years of living in London I was lucky enough to live close enough to my workplace to be able to walk. The tube was still reserved for excursions out to see sights, meet friends, shop, party – and at times that avoided the crush of the rush hour. It wasn’t until I moved north of the river that I discovered the true Hell of the underground.
Luckily my first few months of my new commute were over the winter. Although the northern line still resembled that annoying advert about grape juice, it was bearable. Okay, so you had to strip off layers as you descended on the escalator to prevent a mid-December sauna in your wool coat, which in turn took up more precious space in the bulging carriage. But, unless you were unfortunate enough to have an armpit hanging over your nose or a newspaper poking your ear, it was doable. But the summer was another matter. Although I only had to travel on the tube for about ten minutes, by the time I reached work I started to wonder why I bothered to shower in the mornings.
When I changed jobs I was relieved to find that my new place of work was once more in walking distance. Again I was free to stroll to work every morning, headphones in, head held high, my only worry being whether the pedestrian crossing will go in my favour of not. Life is sweet.
Having said that, over the last few weeks I have been using the tube more often to attend work appointments. And I’ve actually quite enjoyed it. Not only does it give you an opportunity to read your stars and the funnies, but having wandered around in the icy cold for 20 minutes or so, its stuffy heat becomes a real comfort.
I discussed this with some friends the other night. We came to the conclusion that London would not cope without the underground and it was therefore a necessary evil. However, by heading out to work just five minutes earlier (or later, if your boss is the understanding type), you can avoid the crush and travel to work in relevant comfort.
As for me, I will relish my tube-free journey for as long as I can. And when it becomes necessary once more... well I will have to try to avoid the rush hour as much as possible. Failing that... I guess I will have to just suck it up.

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