Friday 23rd December
Yesterday I was out doing some last minute shopping, and though I had travelled to Knightsbridge by bus, the journey had been so tedious down Park lane, the bus caught up in traffic for ages, that I decided to come home by tube. I suppose that everybody had the same idea, to do a bit of shopping in the last few days before Christmas, but I had rarely seen so many people about. Are we not in a recession? I asked myself, or is it just that here in London we live in some sort of isolated bubble of prosperity. It seemed as if everyone had taken the day off work; there were whole families, Mum and Dad and children, pushchairs everywhere, and even a few elderly grandmothers taken out for the day. And it was warm and sunny – a change from the cold weather of a few days ago. There was a huge crowd at the barriers to go down to the Piccadilly line; it was taking even longer than usual to get to the gates and then I realized why. Parents with young children totally unused to the unwritten etiquette that prevails on London Underground were both perplexed by the hardly complicated tap-in Oyster card system, and were letting every little Louis and Sacha work it out for themselves, and even though the yellow tap-in emblem was too high for some to manage, there was Daddy to lift the little one up so that she could tap-in all by herself. The fact that they were causing a log-jam by their ridiculous overweening attitude to children too young to understand or remember their experience seemed not to occur to them, After all, young William and Sarah must be allowed to have their own tickets and the family shopping trip would be spoiled without their being treated completely as young adults. Which, I can assure you, they are not.
Well, we eventually got through the gates and onto the escalator. Here again these holiday users of the tube have no idea that one is supposed to stand on the right to allow those of us who still retain the use of our legs to walk past on the left, despite signs in several languages telling them to do precisely that. So yet another log-jam as people blocked the down escalator completely. Oh well, another delay will make little difference I suppose. The trains were slow and the 1 minute on the display board lasted at least five, but eventually a train limped into the platform. Packed, as usual, but I took my chance and forced my way on, experience has taught me the next one will be even worse. I really do not expect young people to leap up to let an older person sit down nowadays; those ideas of chivalry have long gone, but I do get a bit annoyed when mothers insist that their little ones, hardly out of a pushchair, sit by themselves and take up a whole seat. Have they never thought of picking them up and carrying them on their lap, so freeing up a seat for an adult; obviously not. There were the usual suspects on the tube, the Chinese girls, with immaculate hair and nails and Mulberry bags and Pierre Cardin spectacles , the black woman from my own generation laden down with bags of food and shopping and struggling to stand, the young lad in hoody and jeans at half-mast, showing a whole bottom full of designer boxer shorts, the gaggle of young girls all a giggle and showing each other texts and pictures on their mobiles, the smartly dressed business man with the gold tie-pin and cuff-links trying to read his minutely folded FT amidst the crush, and me, squashed and too short to reach the hand hold on the roof of the carriage, and just two fingers touching a side pole trying desperately to keep my balance and not rub up too closely to anyone else, though through the multiple layers hardly anyone would have noticed if I had.
Democratic the tube may be, but so unpleasant, I really wished I had returned by my usual bus journey, but then I wouldn’t have had the subject for today’s little blog would I?