A warm and fulfilling experience for the mildly adventurous.
This seems like a fine opportunity for meeting, and talking with, or at very least hearing the conversations of, strangers. Whoever they are. Weird people with their mad thoughts, considers someone who intends to spend their entire day in an underground network of tubes for no obvious reason. Well, some of them are above ground actually.
Carriages that scoot around the multi-coloured lines separate people. Not from one another – they’re still linked in the network after all – no, what the carriages separate their users from, is all that non-transitory space outside of themselves, the places where pressure is exerted downwards upon a population all-too-often pulled violently apart by the demands of work. Be here, do this now, don’t forget to check that. But the tube system can be experienced as a temporary in-between, a space where it might be possible for these things not to matter. A person in here needn’t feel compelled to do anything in particular aside from just travel, mainly because they are inside a moving tube and underneath the ground. It doesn’t seem reasonable to demand much else from them.
…But an initial dead end is to be found at 12:41 Shepard’s Bush, with no access from red to orange lines (disappointingly the physical tracks are not painted as advertised), at least not without exiting the station and incurring an unwanted fee. The setback allows for some in-station dawdling, a bit of healthy backtracking, and some freewheeling re-direction, ‘there’s no pressure to be anywhere or do anything’; he thinks, in imperious middle-class, cisgendered, whiteness. Those are the labels. Maybe then, ‘pressure’, isn’t the correct term.
What’s really meant is, ‘no rush’.
Coffee gets gulleted from cardboard cups through little sippy holes, which can make a fully-grown adult feel a bit like a baby, but babies don’t drink coffee, and it would be irresponsible to make them do so. So, ‘off with their lids!’ The queen could declare with great practical imprecision from the height of her golden chair. The wind brushes aside our fallen cups, sets ‘em rolling around, incoherently, in semi-circular fashion. The Underground has got no bins because the terrorists are winning.
13:15 Edgeware Road: consternation caused by the Destruction of Hammersmith & City Circus. Clowns everywhere, total jumble, and where exactly are these stairs going? Come back here.
No, please. come back.
The news down here generally isn’t worth reading, and testament to that today is exemplary, with one inane headline blasting:
‘Transport For London Introduce Controversial No Platform Policy’
What utter dross. Proof that political correctness has gone totally off the rails – a bit like that tram in Croydon.
In other news: The Sun
13:30 King’s Cross
Same problem as at Shepard’s Bush: snapping barriers closing off paths, crossed with crude and monotonous demands for money. No-chance-o-rama. This is intended to be a £1.90 ride, which is to last eight hours.
Here it is possible to break the law by sneaking out through an open disabled access barrier, but upon realizing the likelihood of closed barriers at the re-entry point, it seems also necessary to unbreak the law by sneaking back through the same barrier. For a brief, exciting moment in time: felony.
However, as exciting developments do indeed happen, it presently comes to light that so long as any passenger can make it from one barrier to the next, as part of a ten-minute time-challenge set by the network operatives, any given journey may continue without incurring an extra charge. ‘Calooh! Callay!’ You get ten minutes.
To find out more rules in this game, participants need only ask one of the many helpful members of staff who live at the stations. Such as James, who operates in Liverpool Street Station, actually has a cousin who was nearly in the band Steps, and enjoys ‘a vegetable stew’ whenever he’s feeling under the weather.
Alright, James. Nice one!
Pass over some part of Hackney, which from many accounts used to be a bit of a grit bin – the image, however, clearly belied by the nagging closeness of rooftop drinking terraces seen from this raised position of the overground’s tracks, but these are just superficial, surface-level judgments. St. James Street looks nice as it trails off into the distance.
Now then, it’s just a palm tree, no need to take a picture. Humanity already has enough pictures of palm trees by now, doesn’t it? What difference would another one make, regardless of how pleasant it’s particular lighting environment is? Some people have a real talent for visually capturing these sorts of moments. Anyway, there it is, a palm tree, making the most out of November.
Here we go, this is where the tough get goin’. Chingford. Do they have in-station toilets at Chingford station? Yes. Ever been to Chingford? No? Not likely. It is here though, in places such as Chingford, that the unique and untainted thrill of being free from any of the usual geographical necessities associated with purposive travel begin to kick in proper. Oof! At the end of a line, because it is the last place to stop, it becomes an accidental destination for anyone making their way along these tracks without any specific intent in mind. This is equally true for those who fall asleep on the line, but this type of scenario is far less hassle than that one. In the clear light of day, let it be known that Chingford station is a totally okay place.
The city comes back into view someplace around Hackney Wick.
The big city.
The massive city.
The large city. Everyone should hate it.
15:00 Stratford, AMAZING! In as little as 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is entirely potentially possible to travel from The Westfield Shopping Centre, via Chingford, to The Westfield Shopping Centre. WHEW! Next stop, ‘Manor Park Cemetery and Crematorium’, which, comparatively speaking, makes Shepard’s Bush seem no longer like the dead end it first appeared, although perhaps it never was.
Incidentally, she wonders, ‘is it possible for anyone to do anything these days without writing something about it? It is as if everybody is stuck in the belief that documenting their own lived experience is somehow naturally deserving of another person’s attention.’
Well, what if it is?
A luminous London underground logo slides across reflections of the faces staring back at themselves from blocks in the skyline. As the details of buildings fade to dark silhouette, their own silent expressive arrangements grow bolder in the transitioning contrast.
17:02 West Ham.
Irrelevance seeps into everything. The canary is a type of adorable brightly coloured bird that was once used to detect whether or not there were dangerously high levels of poisonous gas in working mine shafts. It did this job by dying because of poisonous gas. In 1986, the practice was discontinued and over 200 canaries were made redundant.
‘Wharf’ is the noise that a dog makes when it regurgitates something that has made it feel ill. It is not a nice sound.
Animal Sacrifice-Dog Vomit.
Of course, this must be Canary Wharf.
But wait, this isn’t a tube stop. It’s a shopping centre. It’s all a trick. Passengers here, it would seem, are regularly forced to walk into an unsettling, slick, 3D rendering of the adverts they’ve been subjected to at other points within the system. It is all here, in real space, in live time. What sickening treachery.
Useful fact: If you put your Oyster card in the microwave it tops up.
6 hours in a question rears its head: how could something so predictably uneventful possibly serve as a suitably fulfilling all-day activity?
It could be thought of as a kind of meditative mundanity – a way of finding feeling in the contradiction between actively transporting from one place to another whilst really going no-place in particular. Dwelling in a calm understanding that everyone else on-board has got somewhere to be, but that this is not the case for they who travel with the curious aim of experiencing non-directional unpredictability, whose destination is an ever changing, always moving, though never rushing, nowhere.
A conscious water droplet decides to fall into its preferred body.
But getting back from this place will require planning.
At Euston 19:00 it peaks.
Steve Reich’s, Music For 18 Musicians, Section II, has been chosen specifically to accompany the detached spectatorship of one particular hurry home, as a train to someplace far beyond the reach of this limited network takes aboard a crowd of apprehension, the sound-assisted view is balletic, is imaginably akin to how it might feel to stand on set in some scene from a Jacques Tati film, only, in this reality, it is filled with a bustling indeterminacy that poses as imagined choreography. It is all of rarely-so-sincere emotional magnitude. It is how being semi-serendipitously in the right place, at the right time, with the right tune can make a person feel. It just is.
Timetabled chaos pulls away, and the faint sound of whistling can be heard from a young man who can be seen floating down an otherwise empty escalator.
All this, and yet the point of re-entry to whatever it was that stood before the closing of this circuit – however wastefully convoluted – is as necessary as the full stop is on the end of a sentence, if it is to have any conclusive grammatical sense, rather than being an open ended call for its completion by a different person, such as yourself.
8:10 South Ruislip. Not much going on here at this time on a Sunday.
The time has come for £1.90’s worth of travel (the whole journey actually totted up to £5.50 if the debt incurred on my Oyster card is included in the total) to find closure once again, in Greenford, now at 8:21 pm