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Posted by Clayton Littlewood
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Tube Diary: August

Tube Diary: 1st August

Muggy, sticky and my freshly pressed shirt is sticking to my chest. It’s 9am and I’m on the platform at Shepherd’s Bush. The train rumbles in. No seats. So I let it go. A tissue blows along the track, reminding me of that scene in American Beauty. Next train arrives. Seats! I take the one by the door, my eyes immediately drawn to the ads: one for match.com, two for the Olympics. And intermingled with searches for love and gold, warning stickers: Emergency, Danger, Penalty, Obstruction, Prosecution, Death. Death…Gore Vidal died yesterday. Even giants have their day. I wonder where I’ll die. Hope it’s not on this tube. Far too public. And kinda embarrassing. ‘He died on the 9:03 to Epping – in a priority seat for pregnant women.’ No, I’d like to go in bed. Or at my desk. But while writing my diary, so I could just slip away mid sentence, like


Tube Diary: 1st August

Single seat. Dolly. Half-empty train. It’s roomy. Airy. Bliss. There’s a pretty blonde girl opposite flicking through The Standard. She’s sitting on the tip of her seat as if she daren’t touch the rest. She leaves. A guy who looks like Santa Claus storms down the aisle to claim it. He plonks himself down, out of breath. His nose, bulbous, deep red. Like a throbbing penis. Two French guys are sitting on my right, one with a Lacoste label hanging out of the back of his jumper (I have to stop myself from tucking it back in). I’ve just noticed the floor. It’s cheap lino, Sellotaped down the middle. I get off at Girls Court. There’s only one exit because of the Olympics, Earls Court Road. Two Olympic assistants outside are directing the flow of people. I must look lost because one, a young girl, says, “Where ya goin’?” “Home.” “Where’s home?” I tell her and then she gives me directions as if I moved here yesterday. I don’t have the heart to say, ‘I’ve lived round here since before you were born!’ So I just smile back. Then as I’m typing this on my iPhone, walking down the street, I think, ‘This tube diary should’ve ended when I got off the train.’ So sorry ’bout that.


Tube Diary: 2nd August

Three men around me: a young bearded guy knitting (bold!), an Asian guy with glasses trying to knot his spotted tie (which clashes with his striped shirt) and a businessman opposite asleep with a string of drool traveling from lip to lip.


Tube Diary: 2nd August

Lot of body fluids on view this morning. Woman next to me just brought her wrist up to her mouth as she sneezed and now has the equivalent of a ‘snail trail’ on the arm of her sky-blue jumper.


Tube Diary: 2nd August

Northern Line. Handful of people on the platform. Train arrives. A seat! Opposite me an Olympic worker (Stables Team. Equestrian). She’s wearing muddy shoes (horse shit?). Two stops later, change at Bank. A woman playing a violin. It sounds lovely, drifting along the passageway. Walk down Central Line platform, pass a tattooed guy with a mohican, a Chinese couple carrying tennis racquets, a woman in a wheelchair (who stands up when the train arrives), two Middle-Eastern guys in turbans, a Hasidic Jew, every nationality, sexuality – London really is the most diverse city in the world and thinking that makes me feel quite proud, and happy. Then I remember that I’m on the way to the dentist.


Tube Diary: 3rd August

Suit next to me with spread legs. So spread they’re pushing against mine. Feel like saying, ‘Exactly how big is your penis?’ Although, maybe it’s not his penis. Maybe it’s his balls. There was a guy in my old gym who used to inject his with silicon, which created one big ball. In the shower it looked like he had a cantaloupe melon between his legs. Then he’d get dressed, put on his business suit and head back to work. Maybe it’s him.


Tube Diary: 6th August

Hazy blue, almost cloudless sky. Enter station. It’s quiet, no sign of delays. What a nice start to the week. So I step onto the escalator, power on my iPhone and start typing. The first train is semi-full so I let it pass. I want a seated journey today. Announcer says the next one’ll be two minutes. It is. But it’s semi-full again. Fuck! Clay, stop it. Relax. Third train arrives. With seats. So I take one between two people. The Metro headline on my right reads; ‘Chemo encourages cancer.’ I brush the thought aside. Don’t want any negative thoughts today. The headline on my left (by that Yasmin Ali ‘whatshername’); ‘So, is Britain too multicultural now?’ Oh for Christ sake. Is she never satisfied! Clay…don’t let anything spoil your morning. I breathe in through my nose. Close my eyes. Trying to centre myself. The air is warm. Acrid. It smells of something. A fart. I stare ahead. Pinched face. Trying to stop myself from giving the guy on my right a dirty look. Must remain Positive Polly not Negative Nancy. ‘Next station is Bank.’ Change platforms. Onto Northern. If any line’ll bring you down it’s this one. Train arrives. Doors open. I let the passengers alight. I’m about to step in when a woman with a rucksack comes flying out and almost knocks me over. Inwardly: ‘You. Stupid. Fucking. Idiot!’ Outwardly: (after she apologises) ‘That’s okay. Not to worry.’ I squeeze onto the train and two stops later we’re at Old Street. There. I did it. I’ve arrived. Chakras intact.


Tube Diary: 7th August

Running late so hopped on the first train that arrived. And there’s a seat! As I settle in the train wobbles n’ weaves it’s way along the track, the recorded announcer telling us that we’re on our way to Hainault. Around me are two Chinese children sharing a seat, a black woman wearing headphones (eyes closed), a size zero ‘Olive Oyl’ like woman applying lipstick and a blonde haired Scandinavian guy standing by the door flicking through the Metro. A seat becomes available next to the Chinese children. The blonde guy takes it. Then one of the children says to him, ‘Daddy, how many more stops?’ Also around me; Team GB tees, a Union Jack bag and a Czech Olympic polo. I’m dressed in khaki today, from shoes to shirt. Don’t feel entirely comfortable in this colour. Feel a bit G. I. Jane. I prefer somber colours like grey or black. Here we go. My stop.


Tube Diary: 7th August

Olympic marathon to get home. On your marks. Get set. Go! Started off at the wrong end of the Old Street platform, so now I’m at Bank and have a long walk ahead of me to the Central. In front, blocking my path, an extremely wide lady in a canary yellow dress. I weave to the right. To the left. But it’s no good. It’s like trying to overtake a large lemon cake. I duck into a side passageway and back out at the end. There. Now I’m on the Central. There’s a guy next to me alternating between picking his nose and his ear, examining his finger after each exploration. Arrive at Shepherd’s Bush. Now on the escalator, stuck behind two guys in Olympic shirts standing on the wrong side. I dodge past them (they’re from Azerbaijan). Leave the station. Hop on the C1. One stop later a stocky black guy (who always looks a bit ‘care in the community’) gets on screaming about ‘RESPECT!’ He glares at me. Heading my way. So I jump off again. Walk five minutes. And I’m home. Yay! I’ve done it! Gold medal to Clayton.


Tube Diary: 8th August

Tattooed, bearded, muscular guy in a flamingo pink teeshirt standing next to me reading Attitude magazine. Have a feeling he may be ‘so’.


Tube Diary: 9th August

Off to the Festival Hall to see Marc and the Mambas perform the Torment and Toreros album. *So* excited. This album had such an impact on me as a kid. It introduced me to Jacques Brel and Scott Walker. It dictated how I dressed, the friends I made, the crowd I veered toward. Being a Marc fan back then was like being part of secret community, a cut above everything else that was going on in the New Romantic scene. Marc was everything. An identity to focus on (when I was still coming to terms with my own), my first introduction to an artist. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mimed along to this album. In fact, I can document the past 30 years of my life against each Marc album. This one brings back memories of searching for skull and crossbones jewelry in Kensington market, crimping my badly dyed hair, re-applying mascara on top of mascara, snorting half-cut speed in dodgy ‘after hours’ bars, living in a bedsit and paying £12.50 a week rent, hanging out with Soho’s waifs and strays, ‘one night’ stands, and writing about Marc in my diary. Just like I’m doing today.


Tube Diary: 11th August

Catch the train with Martin, kiss him goodbye at Bond Street. Get off at Tottenham Court Road. Through Soho Square. Meet SJ at the little coffee shop on the corner of Old Compton and Frith. Order inside. Angie’s sitting by the window, looking like she’s stepped straight out of Vogue. She arches a pencil-thin eyebrow, “Look wot the cat’s dragged in! ‘Ow are you darlin’?” I tell her my news, then ask her what she’s been up to. “Well…I’ve just ‘ad me tits done again.” She pats them affectionately, pulling her top down slightly to show me them nestled inside. “Angie, they’ve been big, small, big, small again. You’ve got tits like yoyos!” She ignores me. “Wot else ‘ave I bin doin’? Oh yes, I’ve ‘ad a foot made smaller.” She slips her feet out of her shoes and lines them up. “I’m just savin’ up to ‘ave the other one done.” I nod (even though I’m not too sure if she’s having me on). “Oh an’ I’ve just qualified as a Physic Medium.” The assistant carries my coffees outside. So I kiss Angie on each cheek and take the seat opposite SJ and catch up. A few minutes later a Big Issue seller stands next to us and shouts, “Anyone got any change so I can get absolutely pissed?” No one answers. “Well there ain’t no point in lyin’ is there?” Two coffees later we leave and pop into the Algerian coffee shop where I buy Jorge a bag of Cantucci. Then, as we’re walking down Dean Street, a skinhead with few teeth and a scar running down his face blocks my path. “Ello mate,” he says, shaking my hand so hard he almost shakes it off. “Hey, wot did you do with all those clothes from your old shop. I just got out of prison see an’ I need some stuff.” I tell him that I’m sorry, but that was four years ago and that all the clothes are gone now. But then SJ reminds me, as we continue on our way, that that must be like yesterday for him. Kiss SJ goodbye on Oxford Street and hail down the number 10. So I ‘spose this entry should really be called ‘Bus Diary’ cos’ that’s where I am now. Upper deck. Almost home.


Tube Diary: 17th August

Five girls next to me. “Has your mum got grey hair?” “Yes.” “So’s mine!” “And mine!” “Mine too!” “Really, so has my mum.” “I don’t know what I’d do if I found a grey hair.” “I found one, but it’s a nightmare cos’ I’m allergic to hair dye.” After about 5 minutes of this banter the train arrives at Bank (my stop) so I stand, glance in their direction, run my fingers through my hair (mine’s as white as a bog brush) and as they watch me flounce toward the door, mouths open, I smile and say, “Some of us are Glad To Be Grey!”


Tube Diary: 17th August

Couldn’t face the Central so tonight I’m on the Dolly (single seat). There’s quite a cross-section on here tonight; Suits, tourists, and sitting opposite me a woman with dyed black shoulder length hair (parted in the middle). She’s wearing a hippy style dress, with glasses perched on the end of her nose, reminding me of a teacher I had when I was eight called Mrs Rose. Now I didn’t like this Mrs Rose. She was always picking on me for no apparent reason. So I put in a complaint about her to the headmaster. He must’ve said something because every morning at assembly from then on, I would peep across, and there she’d be, giving me daggers. This went on for weeks. Until one day I decided I’d had enough (her glaring was giving me nightmares) and I thought, ‘Okay bitch, today you’re gonna get it!’ So after the daily prayer had finished, and we were all trooping out the hall, I glanced over, and there she was, impregnating me with her evil glare. So I stood perfectly still, glared back defiantly, took a deep breath and blew her a huge raspberry at her.


Tube Diary: 20th August

In a hurry so jumped on first train that pulled in. Big mistake. It’s rammed and I’m now standing in the middle of the carriage, holding onto the pole (while typing this) as the train wobbles east. It’s very humid. At the end of the carriage the window’s open but there’s a gargantuan man standing in front of it, so the only breeze is that flowing beneath his armpits. Around me people are reading work documents, dozing or playing computer games. There’s a painfully gorgeous guy below me (olive skin, jet-black glossy hair, Tom Hardy lips). He looks like a young Oliver Tobias (another heart-throb from my youth) – one of those people that it’s hard to take your eyes off, that makes you wonder if he’s aware of his power. It’s 8:40 and we’re coming up to Bank. Time for the Northern (wish me luck). Okay. Here I am again. God, it’s even more humid on this one, the air’s a lot warmer. I’m sniffing it (like Divine in Polyester) and amongst the ripe body smells there’s a waft of cheap deodorant (can’t think of the name, but my swimming pool tastes of it). There’s a business woman nodding off in a seat nearby. She’s wearing a tight skirt. Her legs are open. Next to her there’s another woman applying mascara. She’s pulling a face. But I’m watching the woman opposite them who’s staring from one to the other. So I’m ‘watching a watcher’ (if that makes sense). Okay, Old Street. Time to start my day.


Tube Diary: 20th August

Back on the Northern. It’s emptier now. There’s a guy on here holding a grubby polystyrene cup. His hair is matted. His face smudged with dirt, cheeks sunken. He catches me looking and walks toward me. But I don’t have any cash, so I have to shake my head. I feel bad, writing about him but not helping him. He shuffles on down the carriage with a haunted expression. Like a prisoner from Auschwitz. Now I’m walking down the passageway to the Central. It really is hot down here today. The air is heavy. Laden with smells. Like Bangkok. I step onto the first train. There’s a seat. I take it. A bead of sweat drips from my armpit all the way down my upper body. It’s 12:05. At Oxford Circus a girl gets on who looks like Lady Gaga. She’s eating a ham and cheese baguette while holding a Costa coffee. I have a feeling the coffee’s gonna fall over me any minute. It always surprises me when people eat on here. It’s like when women do their makeup. Aren’t some things best left at home? (like writing a diary I hear you cry!). Here we go. Shepherd’s Bush.


Tube Diary: 21st August

Stud quota on here tonight is teetering toward ‘outta control’. *flutters eyelashes & fans himself with the Evening Standard*


Tube Diary: 22nd August

Hop on the C1. It whizzes down Holland Road. Then one, two, three stops, until it gets to Shepherd’s Bush. I get off. Head toward the station. As I’m typing this into my iPhone I walk straight into a bollard. An elderly woman notices and starts cackling uncontrollably. It crosses my mind to call her a witch, but instead I take a deep breath and march into the station. Then down the escalator. The stairs. Onto the platform. There’s a train about to leave, but as it’s packed I decide not to rush for it and walk to the far end of the platform. Another train arrives. It’s empty. So now I’m sitting in my favourite spot (Priority Seat) opposite a woman who looks the spit of Yoko Ono, and a square-shaped guy (tangerine jumper around his neck, wispy grey hair and eyebrows so long they’re practically in ringlets). Two stops later and the train’s now packed. There’s a woman putting on her mascara (please stop this!), a Suit (designer stubble, hippy bracelet) ripping an article out of City AM, stuffing it in his pocket and a queen in a pin-striped number (with hair like mine) that keeps giving me the eye. I’m in blue today (Italian shirt, Iceberg trousers) so as I step off the train, even though I’m about to head even further underground to the Northern (hell bound), I’m relatively calm. Bye for now.


Tube Diary: 22nd August

Christ. There’s a woman opposite me (polyester blouse, wrong size bra) eating a curry. *changes seat*


Tube Diary: 22nd August

That’s better. Two women next to me discussing the problems of having people visiting. “My brother came to stay and kept switching the tv channels without asking!” “Did you say anything?” “Din’t think it was worth it.” “Well me and Bill like a nice walk after dinner but we can’t do it when mum’s down because of ‘er waterworks.” “Why do you have to take her?” “No but we do like to be there in case she gets stuck.”


Tube Diary: 23rd August

Heading for the one spare seat. Someone else has the same idea. Should I: a) pretend I haven’t seen them and head faster? b) invite good karma and let them win? *loses seat anyway while deciding*


Tube Diary: 25th August

Woke up late feeling rough. Made the mistake of looking in the mirror. Skin like a plucked chicken. Two hours later, face in place, now on the Central. On the way to meet a horror film director for coffee (clue = what insect has a lot of legs?). Found a brolly on the C1 and then it started raining. So hoping to find a lottery ticket on the way home.


Tube Diary: 30th August

Early today and jumped on the first train. Managed to get a seat. So here I am, iPhone at the ready, wedged between an Asian Suit flicking through his iPad and a teenage girl playing drum and bass on her iPod. Over by the door there’s a woman holding onto a Victorian coat stand. She’s got a banana sticking out of her coat pocket. Opposite me a young guy is pulling faces while deep in thought (I do this too for some reason). There are two adverts above, one advertising the dangers of smoking and the other tickets to see Donald Trump. Amusing myself by imagining what graffiti I’d write above them. Settle on; ‘Both of these will leave a bad taste in your mouth.’


Tube Diary: 31st August

Walk down platform. Step onto the tube. Take the space by the window. At Oxford Circus the train fills up. A middle-aged guy with headphones barges on, throws me a haughty look, plonks his briefcase on top of my feet and starts tapping into his iPhone. Hmmm. Maybe he’s not aware of what he did. But, even so, his attitude has got my back up. Should I tell him? Lose my cool? What would Joan Crawford do I wonder? As I’m thinking this through, I ease my feet from underneath the case. First one. Then, slowly, the other. I’m almost there (just my big toe left) when the case topples over and the contents spill out (a Tupperware container, some papers and a black tee-shirt). The guy glances down, tuts, and bends down to retrieve them. Suddenly the tube doors open and herd of people storm in. In the mayhem (people pushing, trying to find a space), his tee-shirt gets attached to a woman’s stiletto and gets dragged down the carriage. And the last vision I have before I get off is of the guy, flustered, headphones hanging loose, on his knees, trying to prise it free. *swishes down the platform thinking ‘Don’t fuck with me fellas! This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!’*



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