GETTING OFF ON GETTING OFF
Some of you may wonder how I spend my time when I’m not writing this blog or making frequent tweets on Facebook or showing my face on Twitter (why aren’t you following me, as do a load of foodstuffs and sex workers??? NiceEtoile, hop to it). Well, a normal day incorporates a couple of hours trying to find work as a jobbing writer, and 6 hours sorting out the recycling so I can distribute it into the 87 specifically-designated bins provided by the council, the contents of which they subsequently quietly ship to landfill sites in China:-
which leaves the remainder of the day to watch Come Dine with Me, Judge Judy, and Country House Rescue. No wonder I’m exhausted. Oh, and in my spare time (which is limited, obviously), I write drama.
One of my plays, Readers Wives, is about four women who meet up for a reunion, having not seen each other for twenty years since they left school. Well, in a spooky example of life imitating art, last night I spent a highly enjoyable time meeting up with three girlfriends, some of us having not seen each other for, believe it or not, twenty years. (I played me, by-the-way. I’ve almost got the characterization figured out now). We had a great time (unlike the hapless women in my play), we laughed, we reminisced, we ate and drank, we met the gorgeous son of my host who happens to be the drummer of the fab group, Swing Out Sister (she’s my favourite type of friend, if I’m honest), one of us slept off her share of the 38 gallons of wine in a lovely, warm, comfy guest bed. (Think that was me, but will get back to you as soon as the results come in).
[NB: My next play is going to be about George Clooney falling instantly into deep love with a petite, but curvy middle-aged woman the moment he lays eyes on her as she’s dribbling whilst being in the process of climbing up his leg.]
This all took place in East London, a part of town which will come to a complete standstill in the summer, thanks to traffic priority being awarded for three weeks to anyone who has anything whatsover to do with the Olympic Games (including sponsors such as McDonalds and Coca Cola) at the expense of ambulances, blood delivery services, and doctors trying to get to work to tend to those who are suffering from the effects of overindulging on McDonalds and Coco Cola. Anyway, just in case, I didn’t take the car yesterday; one, because I wanted to make a point; and two, because I don’t have one.
Which meant I had to travel on the Underground – both to my destination, and back home again this morning. You have to steel yourself to do this – not because the Tube system isn’t safe; it is, mostly – but because certain lines (notice I haven’t written ‘Central’ anywhere in this sentence) ferry around London the worst-dressed people in the city. (What IS it with Croydon Facelifts – scraggy hair pulled back so tightly over the head, girls’ eyebrows end up hovering behind their kneecaps. And let’s not even go there with dark-coloured lip liner outlining where the lips would be if Coco the Clown was applying the Max Factor. Or should that be the Min Factor?)
Anyway, even more distressing than the sight of the fashion victims was the curious case of ye olde English announcements.
My first train today pulled into Mile End station, whereupon it remained for 10 minutes. Eventually the guard clicked on the tannoy to announce there was some sort of emergency further along the line, and that if anyone was in a hurry, they could take the District Line just across the platform, and so should ‘alight’ from the train. Alight? I haven’t alighted from anything since 1863.
All the recorded announcements on the London Underground use this outdated word, as in: South Kensington: Passengers for the museums should alight here.
Er, is it not the case that a fair proportion of passengers for the museums are, in fact, foreign tourists, many of whom might well have looked at an English phrasebook published some time during the past 100 years, none of which will contain the word ‘alight’? But never mind if nobody understands when they need to get off the train, these visitors are already living the museum experience for the price of a tube ticket.
What image does this give to the world of the good citizens of this country? That we wear top hats and sport handlebar moustaches, and carry walking sticks in order to wave them about ahead of us in case we bump into something in the year-round, pea-souper fog? (The French already think we’re all called Norman and prefer to hang out in the kitchen, thanks to the way they teach English over there). It’s a country, London Transport, not a bloody theme park.
But they don’t stop there. (Well, they stop at Mile End, as we know. For a considerable time).
I ‘alighted’ from the Central Line carriage, and ‘boarded’ a District Line train. Which soon came to rest in a tunnel. Quick as a flash the driver’s South London twang filled our ears: This is due to a red signal, we’ll be onward bound very shortly. Onward bound??? Right ho, Carruthers!
Of course, I had plenty to read whilst waiting to be bound onward, like the notice I’ve written about before in these pages: Improvement work to tracks and stations may affect your journey. Well, how is that an improvement, then?
And as the train neared the final station on the line (anyone know why my journey from Mile End to Wimbledon took exactly one hour to the minute??? How does that happen???) the pre-recorded disembodied female voice informed me that the train was about to terminate (I know that some of the rolling stock is old, but that seems a little dramatic), ending her announcement with a jaunty All change please! (And yes, she definitely said the exclamation mark).
It’s a good job Transport for London, as I believe London Transport is now called – probably at a cost of billions of pounds worth of new stationery (or should that be ‘stationary’?) – doesn’t have an input into song titles. Else Elvis would have been singing You’re nothing better than a breed of dog with a long face and large drooping ears trained to pursue game; The Stones would complain of being unable to obtain any gratification whatsoever; and the Beatles would have noticed a rather attractive young woman has purchased an Oyster card in order to travel by public transport to her destination.
Oh, I give up. Transmit me aloft, personage of Scottish extraction.