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My work friend Becky and I had a chuckle yesterday as we discussed the free water that was handed to us at the tube station in the morning. Free water? Seriously? It was raining. We were baffled as to why after two months of the most glorious weather (resulting in sticky tube journeys) that they chose now to give these out.
If you live in Londres, you will relate to the transport tribulations I am about to speak of. The very first thing that I had to adapt to in London life, 5-ish years ago, was the furiously fast pace of the city. Everyone seems to be in a rush, so you kinda go with it. And quickly too.
We are lucky to have the tube system that we do but, my oh my, do we have some dramas. When it rains, the crowds become 10 deep on the platform. When it’s hot, we swelter underground. There is nothing like turning up to your destination dripping with sweat. Lovely.
It’s not only the sweat that gets to you – it’s the very close proximity of fellow passengers. You get all too used to having an elbow in your side, someone stood on your foot and an armpit in your face. The classic stand-their-grounders will just not move down the carriage. Oh no. The wannabe Usain Bolts of the tube world sprint to make a tube to find they are a tad too slow and jam the doors. A telling off from the tube driver is on its way.
DON’T get me started on the pushers and shovers. They really get my goat. (Note to self: use that phrase more – love it.) Amy (Paris crew) and I had a very interesting conversation with some guys recently about what we would introduce as Mayor of London. The discussion fell almost immediately to travel and ‘Tube monitors’. I decided a sin-bin approach could work. Anyone caught pushing would be taken to one side and not allowed to board a train for ten minutes. I think I am on to something there. Maybe.
Ooooh, listen to me! I think this may be my most rant-filled blog sesh to date. It’s good to get it out though, right? I’m not sure it’s ok to say ‘sesh’ though.
Comedy tube moments do occur. My lovely friend, Beth (Paris crew), was up to visit for a weekend with my sister, Hannah. The tube travel was all new to Beth. We had not talked at all about which stop we were heading for. The tube was incoming, the crowds were shifting towards the doors and everyone started to pile in. As the doors were closing, Beth turned around in the tube with a face of panic as she realised Hannah and I were still on the platform. Much to the amusement of those around us, we were frantically shouting and mouthing the destination stop. I am pleased to say that we were later reunited. Close call.
I will never forget when a lady in the same carriage as me had an uncontrollable laughing fit. It set us all off. She kept trying to explain why she was laughing but couldn’t get the words out, so simply pointed to the other side of the tube. A teenage couple were leaning against the doors in a passionate embrace (makes it sound a little more romantic than it looked). At every single stop they would fall out, get back on and start again. Get a room – or off the tube at least. The most memorable part was how everyone on that carriage said goodbye to each other as we reached our stops. A rare event.
I don’t use buses as much as I should. As Caroline (Paris and NYC crew) reminds me, they are a far better mode of transport – you can enjoy the views! The thing is, sometimes I panic I am on the wrong one or will miss a stop…..
I had this problem on the way to Greenford High School. Clare (paris crew) had invited me to the school that she teaches at to do a talk on my 60 Postcards Project. I set off – two tubes and a bus. Easy. Not if you are me. I made it as far as the bus and looked out for my stop. I didn’t know where my stop was so, naturally, I asked the other passengers. Never again. They all told me to get off at the wrong bloody place! Argh. Time was ticking.
I hopped on another bus and had to jog to the school. Ah sweat – hello again. I had left no time for water – Clare met me at reception and was leading me to the classroom of kids. Except, it wasn’t a classroom – it was a lecture theatre. Uh oh.
There I was, stood in front of 40/50 school children. I had tried not to think about it too much so that I wouldn’t get nervous. Gulp. I am glad about that, as I realised it was the first time I was announcing to a large group the words, ‘My mum passed away last year’.
The kids were absolutely amazing. They were so attentive and made me feel at ease. I had brought along postcards for them all to write a message on. An inspiration or something they would like to achieve. As I wandered around the room, they were asking questions, buzzing with ideas and it was a real insight into why my Mum loved teaching so much.
There were many speakers on the day. This included Kerry (Paris crew) about her work at the Media Trust, Rupal about setting up a charity in Africa and working in Sexual Health and Natasha who delivered a talk on her ‘Body Gossip’ campaign. Clare wanted to show the children examples of projects and experiences of the world. I was absolutely honoured to be a part of this and proud to be there as Clare’s friend. She doesn’t realise just how incredible she is at her job and how inspiring she is to the children that she works with. (Note: Clare is not in the country but has NOT left me forever, – just for the summer). Thank you Clare and Greenford High School for a fantastic morning with you.
This week has flown by…..I think it’s about time for a long Bank Holiday weekend, don’t you? (Imagine how packed the tubes will be 😉 )
Letters from the kids:
Hey Ollie, thank you for your letter. I still have my sad days, but I feel very lucky to have such an exciting project to get stuck into. Mum is the driving force behind it, so that keeps me going! As do your letters! Rachael x