Given that the last entry had very little specifically to do with London, I think it’s only fair that I should produce an entry that actually is about this city, albeit only a short one. It does relate to the previous post, sort of. See, what spurred me to write an entry detailing the Church of Scientology’s blundering attempts at silencing its critics was encountering a protest by Project Chanology outside the Dianetics and Scientology Life Improvement Centre on Tottenham Court Road while taking a stroll.
Strolling might not have been so necessary were it not for the fact that there were works affecting the Northern, Central, Piccadilly, Waterloo & City, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Circle, District and Metropolitan Lines. All of them, in fact, except the Victoria Line.
The Jubilee Line particularly pisses me off – I swear that line is closed every weekend. I quite like exploring East London, and there is basically no other way of getting to North Greenwich. Admittedly North Greenwich is a dump, but what kind of psychogeographer would I be if I stuck to the nice places? A bad one, that’s what. Actually, I like the grimier parts of the city. They have more spirit than the touristy bits.
Have I ever explained the whole line closures thing? I once met a New Yorker who was over to visit, and she expressed surprise that the Tube stops a little after midnight here. In New York, it’s 24-hour. There’s a very good reason for this, albeit one that makes the Underground look a little short-sighted.
You see, on our subway system, each line is constructed in two tunnels, one for each direction, with few crossovers. In New York, the subway lines have four tunnels. Any transport system needs regular maintenance to keep it going, and the subway is no exception. So every night, the lines are closed off and maintenance, cleaning etc. is carried out. In New York, trains can be diverted into the “spare” tunnels while this is done. In London, however, trains have to be stopped because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Similarly, when engineering works have to be carried out, the Underground has to be closed down. And so we’re forced on to the buses.
You know what’s ironic? I have friends in Oxford and St Albans. There’s a direct train from St Albans to London 24 hours a day, with the exception of Saturday night (which admittedly is a bit of a bummer) and there’s a coach running to and from Oxford 24/7. It’s comfortable and inexpensive. The night buses, meanwhile, are slow and crowded and usually filled with annoying drunks (I’m a classy drunk, I got a top hat and everything). The irony is that it’s easier for me to get into Central London from St Albans and Oxford in the middle of the night than it is for me to get from Central London to Colliers Wood, which is also in London.
This has been a long and pointless ramble, so here’s a thing I saw the other day. Did anyone watch that BBC documentary about the delightful Darjeeling Himalaya Railway? This is one of those railways that I’d love to ride on some day, but one minor detail caught my eye. Check out the station signs:
The Underground roundel was devised in 1908 and has become a symbol not just for the Tube, not just for Transport for London, but for the city itself. I just love the fact that it’s held in such high regard that it’s being used on an entirely different continent – even if it’s not authorised…