Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tube wisdom

Tube wisdom from Archway station. 
© Laura Stevens 2013 

Last weekend I visited London for the first time. Before the trip I had some doubts about using the Tube. The noise, being packed together in large tin boxes, hurtling down into the bowels of London, tempers and temperatures rising. Glasgow's famous circular Clockword Orange has nothing on the sprawling organism that makes up the beloved London Underground.

To my surprised, I fell in love with the efficiency and the heartbeat that keeps this vast city going. Regular tannoy announcements reminded me of Orwell's 1984 - along with the rats I spotted scuttling across the tracks. Throughout the disruption, people kept moving, swarming ahead with purpose in their every step. Now and then, a lone individual would interrupt the flow. A lost tourist consulting a guidebook written in dots and lines. A stranger unfamiliar with the 'Keep to the right!' rule. One time I found myself tutting at someone who was not walking fast enough for my liking.

My heart skipped a beat as I realised I was just like the lost tourist. Frantically searching my guidebook for answers, even just one answer would do. To my horror I found nothing to help my cause.

The famous Drowning, not Waving poem by Stevie Smith keeps haunting my thoughts. In this excellent recording, she gives an introduction to her poem and the motivation behind writing it. She comments how, in life, people tend to state they're feeling fine when they're not. This year I feel like I've been drowning, not waving.

The Underground is made up of several lines with names ranging from Northern (guess which side of the city that takes you) to Jubilee, Victoria, Piccadilly, Bakerloo - the list goes on. Most of my travel could be achieved by using a wonderful app to figure out which stops to get off and on at. This gave me some element of control. To get to Camden, all I needed to do was get to a stop that connected with the Northern line. Easy, achievable and my reward was getting an amazing vegan burger at Camden Lock Market.

If only life was as simple as the Tube.