The Eaton Diary of London    2001  

The Tube

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Friday, March 16, 2001


Today, as always, I was back on the Tube. Every day is different in some way. You can't come so close to so many people in such a short time, without noticing how diverse are the people in your carriage each ride. The one thing that is always the same, however, is the vacant 'Tube stare' we all develop. I guess we need to appear bored, and to disguise the fact that we're secretly eyeing each other over as we sit looking at each other on a easy ride, and as we stand, wedged eyeball to eyeball, on a crowded ride. One mustn't show any inkling of enjoyment, of course, and I guess, after the initial novelty, and perhaps the occasional serendipitous contact that movies are made of, I have to admit, there is in fact no real enjoyment to be had on a Tube.

But back to my first ride today - only 2 stops, in an unusually empty carriage, - it was late morning after all. What made this ride remarkable was a busker. We've seen a few on the trains since being here. The first one last Saturday took us completely by surprise, when he suddenly shouldered his guitar and began singing very raucously to his captive audience. I was partly amused by the woeful rendition, but mostly bewildered at the cheek of it, so I didn't feel obliged to dig deep in my pocket when the mandatory well used paper cup came out of his.

Next day a couple of young accordion players joined our carriage. I couldn't detect the tune; in fact I think they were each attempting a different tune at the same time. Fortunately buskers only stay in each carriage for one tune, collect their donation, (or more accurately, their sympathy money,) and then move to the next carriage at the next stop. I guess it's a good lurk if you're cut out for that sort of thing, since it doesn't require an extensive repertoire.

Well, last night it was another young accordionist who jumped on to favour us with an almost unrecognizable snippet of Fur Elise. (I think he was busking to raise money for corrective eye surgery, but I shouldn't be unkind.)

However, if that wasn't punishment enough, the same lad got on my carriage again this morning, playing the same tune, just as badly. Come to think of it, I don't think that tune has ever been played particularly well on an accordion. As he passed by with his crumpled paper cup and its very few coins, I wished I'd had the courage to say, 'I'll give a donation if you'd learn another tune!' (And perhaps, another instrument!) I think any comment would have been lost on him, however. But good on him for doing something, and it helps makes life interesting.

Moments later, at Hammersmith station, I jumped off that District Line train, and onto a waiting Piccadilly Line train to continue my journey. I had to force myself through the door, just as it was closing. We were packed like sardines in this one. In the 5' square standing room only space by the door, were about 6 German tourists with their suitcases, obviously just arrived at Heathrow. They chatted away in German, while 2 inches to my right were a young couple, - the boy, an Aussie and the girl, American, discussing a friend's pursuit of his 'spiritual' self while lonely and homesick in London. Then 1 inch to my left was a lovely middle class, middle-aged mother with what appeared to be her daughter. They would not divulge their nationality by steadfastly adopting the 'Tube stare' and not opening their mouths. They could have even been British! But behind them, in this extremely crowded space, was another Aussie. I could tell he was an Aussie because he was straddling his backpack and surfboard. Now, I ask you, who but an Aussie would cram himself, his backpack and his surfboard onto a crowded tube train at lunch time in Central London, in winter, and disembark at Piccadilly Circus?


What a circus!


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Copyright 2001 H Grant Eaton  Contact: