Why I love London Underground
On the weekend I was reminded exactly why I love London Underground despite all its many many faults.
As I sat down on the carriage seat, the doors to the carriage closed, then after a moment, slid open again. There was a moments pause of slight confusion and dawning irritation as the carriage doors failed to close and the train stayed exactly where it was.
Then the speakers burst into life and the dull slightly dead voice of the announcer stated that, “Thanks to the gentleman carrying the large suitcase… or is it a satchel? who just forced open the doors to board the carriage… the train doors may have been broken and you may all have to detrain.”
After a few minutes where the passengers shuffled nervously and made generally threatening comments about that selfish man with the large suitcase (or satchel) and what they’d do to him if we all had to detrain. The speakers crackled into life again and the voice droned, “It appears that the doors are broken. We will try to fix the problem but you may have to all get off the train and board the next one due to the actions of the gentleman with the large bag.”
Another few minutes of shuffling and Man-with-a-large-bag-threatening, the doors of the trains suddenly shut with a beep. There was general relief and the announcer spoke again to say, “We have managed to fix the doors and will be departing shortly. London Underground apologizes for the delay to your journey caused by the gentleman with the large bag.”
This morning I woke to news pictures of a shop and street that I had often seen. Except now they were burnt out husks of broken glass and flimsy plastic cordons. The streets across which I’ve walked at least a hundred times are littered with shards and burnt grey corpses of cars. It surreal to see a familiar place so changed, so disfigured.
Its not far from our part of London.
As evening approaches there’s an almost tangible phantom tension in the air. We went out to dinner and at the restaurant pub the waitress remarked, “I just heard from someone that we’re the only place open in the area because of all the riots and that. I hope they don’t come here.” The last line is delivered humorously with a little accompanying chuckle but behind that laughter there is an edge of real fear.
As we make our way home we note that the local shops all have their shutters down despite the fact its hours before closing time, there are very few people out walking and even the cars that drive past seem more anxious than usual.
Everyone I spot through car immobile car windows and through the shutters of shops are on their mobile phones, worries etched across their face, perhaps I’m over analyzing, over thinking, but I doubt it.
We walked past our local newspaper agents, its still open, harsh white light spilling out onto the dirty street. I notice they’ve put their shutters down over the glass side of their shop, only exposing the entrance. The usually friendly asian owner stands guard outside while his brother mans the tills. The owner’s hands are crossed behind his back as he shuffles from one foot to the other nervously, like a policeman on guard. Very few words are exchanged.
I reach home and enter through the front door, as i come into the room facing the streets my mother tells me ti turn off the lights, “Not to do anything that will attract the attention of rioters”
The fear and worry has managed to seep into even our home, our fort, our security.
The riot is approaching.