Saturday, 14 July 2012

Hell in a steamy carriage

The London Underground is maybe the worst place in the world to be on a rainy weekend day. The entire network becomes a giant sauna and everyone who ventures down the creaking escalators ends up covered in a thin layer of everyone else's sweat. They say it's so humid down there that scorpions happily exist in the tunnels. A deeply unnerving thought. 

The weekend is also when the engineering works get done. Confused people get diverted onto bizarre lines, and find themselves trying to change trains in unknown stations where LU staff, attempting to solve congestion crises, bark instructions whilst herding people out of pointless exits, which force them into the rain. 

Worst of all, however, are the tourists, who don't know the rules of travel in the capital. They shuffle along, carrying over-sized umbrellas and ridiculous maps. They suddenly grind to a halt in seas of moving people. They talk loudly. They queue jump. They take photos. They stare.

The major stations are currently filled with terrifying policemen holding comically large machine guns, a deterrent, one assumes for terrorists who want to have a crack at destroying the Olympic . Philippa mentioned them yesterday, and I saw them for myself at Victoria today. Meanwhile, temporary barriers divert the crowds into increasingly claustrophobic spaces. There is something hell-like about London at the moment, be in no doubt about the fact. How on earth will it feel when another million people descend in two weeks' time?  

I've just visited a rain and wind-swept Worthing, where we've been comping the music we recorded last Thursday. Producer Paul has given up smoking and hasn't touched a fag for three days, which is highly impressive. On the way to his house, I noticed what a bizarre selection of shops seem to line the street between West Worthing station and his house. There's a coin shop, an establishment which specialises in landline telephones, a dance studio, and a shop which only sells vintage toys... And guitars! 

I'm now wending my way to Lewes on a train more packed than any tube I've ever encountered. The lady next to me is eating cheese and onion crisps. The woman pressed against my shoulder is spouting racist remarks about how "the people on this carriage wouldn't stand up for a pregnant woman in their own country. They pretend they don't understand, but they do." I think I shall be watching Meriel's open air production of A Midsummer Night's Dream tonight. I can't think for a moment that we'll be able to watch it in all this rain, but like a true Brit, and ever the optimist, I've brought a pair of water proof trousers and a kagool. 

350 years ago, and Pepys was up by 4am practising his "arithmetique", and at his desk at the office next door within an hour. He probably wanted to be out of the house before workmen removed all the tiles from his roof as the first stage of adding an extra floor to his home. 

A group of people arrived, quite by chance, at his house in the afternoon including his cousin, Thomas (a doctor with a fine pedigree who Pepys considered to be simple) and Pierce, the surgeon, who had successfully removed Pepys' bladder stone three years before. Pepys fed them a boiled haunch of venison and everyone was very merry, we're told. 

No comments:

Post a Comment