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Posted by Clayton Littlewood
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Tube Diary: October

Tube Diary: 1st October

On the way home from a book reading with guests Immodesty Blaize, Radcliffe Royds and hostess with the mostest, Damian Barr. I was on last, necked a vodka and coke just before, so went on bursting for a pee. Thought I was about to dribble. Luckily it was ‘pee free’. Did a joint reading with Jorge about a mad customer, one on Pam and finished with St Sebastian. Lovely reception. Felt very Sally Field. Now on the Central, shattered, drunk, buzzing. Gonna need a sleeping pill #ValleyoftheDolls


Tube Diary: 2nd October  

Hungover. Feel sick *closes eyes. Prays*


Tube Diary: 3rd October

A blonde girl buffs her nails, particles land on her lap; commuters sit there tapping, an icarriage of iPad’s; a haughty coiffured lady, her face strangely tight; an aggressive ‘leg spread’ Suit, like a boxer about to fight; Blackberry Solitaire, a girl engrossed in the game; headphone seeping music, played again and again. At Bank I take the Northern, the Misery Line is well named (although wherever you go, the people are much the same). I step off at Old Street, a stride in my step. Fast forward seven hours, the nightmare homeward schlep…


Tube Diary: 3rd October

Standing. With 12 stops to go. Help! Mind you, the day someone offers me their seat, that’ll be a hurdle.


Tube Diary: 8th October

Drizzle as I step off the C1. Speed walk to the station. Down the escalator. The stairs. Billy McKenzie on my iPhone (singing about ‘the edge of the world’). Have to let six trains go by (too busy). Seventh is empty. Two stops later it’s rammed. Everyone grumpy, attitudey, barely awake, like they’d rather be anywhere else but here. It’s 9:10. Billy’s crooning ‘give me time.’ And I’m thinking, I wish I could jack all this in, the getting up in the dark, the facing this horrible lot every morning, the rat race, the dull monotony of it all, move somewhere warm and just lie on the beach all day, writing. Then I remember…this is what I think every Monday morning and have done since I first moved to London 30 years ago.


Tube Diary: 8th October

Dilemma. Is the woman standing next to me pregnant or overweight? Should I offer her my seat? Okay, here goes…’Excuse me!’ *stands, gestures to seat* Dirty look back. Answer = overweight.


Suddenly a young guy with headphones pipes up: “Six times you’ve stepped on my foot! Six times! Again and again you keep doing it. Can you stop standing on my bloody foot?”


Overweight woman (turns around) “I din’t realise I was standin’ on ya’ foot! O.KAY!”


Young guy: “Well you were! You were standing right on it! Some people have no respect for other people’s spaces!”


Overweight woman: “Can you jus’ chill out? I din’t know I wuz standin’ on it, right? JUS CHILL OUT!”


Meanwhile, there’s another large black lady sitting next to me, asleep, with one hand/arm holding her breasts in position. Only problem is, every few seconds it slips and lands on my lap, right on my package. So I’m getting a bit of this, “You should respect my space!” “Oh jus shut UP! I is respectin’ ya’ SPACE!” And a bit of this, Arm drop. Ball whack. Arm drop. Ball whack.


Here we go. Girls Court. Thank fuck.


Tube Diary: 9th October

It’s a library in here this morning. ‘Baby On Board'(er) opposite reading A Tale of Two Cities; guy (bushy eyebrows, shoe lace undone) reading Catch 22. Then there’s You Deserve Nothing, D-DAY and something by Carl Sagan. I’ve got Kirsty MacColl on my iPhone. She’s singing about an Autumn girl flying over London and a ‘wild and wicked slut’ living inside her head. So I’m in a cheerful, minxy, playful kinda mood (‘cept no one knows but you). Ok. Old Street. Laterz sistaz *wink*


Tube Diary: 10th October

I’m all about positivity this morning. Nothing’s gonna get me down. No packed trains. No arsey passengers. No thoughts about the monotony of it all. The sun’s flickering through the windows of the C1. The air’s brisk as I step off. Mika’s singing Underwater on my iPhone (thank you Dom) and now I’m practically skipping down the platform. Someone runs their suitcase over my foot. “No problem,” I say. “My fault!” There’s a spare seat on the train. I nod to the bearded guy also heading for it. It’s yours. There’s a suited businesswoman applying an entire cosmetics department to her face. Bona. Then Mika falls to his feet, just needing the love that you breathe and it feels like it’s going to be a really nice day. Have I finally gone mad?


Tube Diary: 11th October

Bank. Walking from Northern to Central, watching dust balls blow along the passageway (which I read somewhere are a mix of dirt, skin cells and human hair) – off to Hackney Wick to the John Lee Bird exhibition and see the marvellous McCarricks do a set. Take the first train, contact lens in, so everything’s crisp. Get off at Stratford. Now one stop to Hackney Wick. But which platform? I’m lost. This station’s a maze. Thirty years in London but drop me in the East and I’m like a nervous tourist, wandering round in circles, too afraid to ask for help, thinking whatever train I get I’ll end up in Gatwick. #cantmanup #help


Tube Diary: 11th October

Train home. The art was powerful. The McCarricks set brought me to tears. Now in a packed carriage with a drunken office party singing Happy Birthday, a Chinese kid who appears to be self-harming, a body builder wearing a red tee with ‘Say and Do’ printed on the front – the floor littered with rucksacks, River Island shopping bags, body space at a minimum. It’s uncomfortable and quite weird when you think about it, trapped inside a small capsule, hurtling along, with a load of people I don’t know and will probably never see again. Can’t wait to get above ground, to sanity.


Tube Diary: 12th October

There’re certain unspoken rules on the tube. They’re not written down but (mostly) we abide by them. There’re the definite ‘No-Nos’ like: Don’t talk too loudly. Don’t stare and don’t touch. Then there’re the etiquette ones: Don’t sit next to the only person in the carriage. Don’t read over the shoulder of your neighbour. Do offer up your seat to the elderly/pregnant/disabled. Kinda basic rules really. Then there’re Clay’s Rules (based on tonight’s journey).


1. Maybe this is just me, but seeing women putting their ‘full’ makeup on (I actually saw a woman doing the whole Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise thing this morning), I just think there’re some things you should do indoors, don’t you? It’d be like me plucking my ear hair. So please stop. Thank you.


2. No eating. No explanation needed. Masticate at home (I said ‘masticate’ but that too).


3. No nail buffing. What next? You start scraping off your verruca?


4. Before you leave the office don’t think ‘I know! I’ll just douse myself with that lemony perfume/aftershave I found in the gym.’ There was a reason it was left there.


Oh, and no Crocs. Because I don’t like ’em.


Tube Diary: 16th October

Shepherd’s Bush. Just a smattering of passengers on the platform. Train whizzes in. One stop later (Holland Park) it fills up. The crowd frantically searches for the best places; first seats. Then window benches. Finally the aisle. There’s a bearded guy standing nearby reading the Metro. He keeps jerking his head and yelping. But this being London everyone keeps their heads down (‘cept me). Behind him there’s another bearded guy (glasses, bit Alan Carr-ish) staring at me while picking his nose. Nice. Today is my first ‘jacket day’. The weather’s finally turned and I’m surrounded by a sea of winter clothing; so it’s jackets and fatigues. Jumpers not tee’s. Leather boots to the knees. And the great thing about all this tube clothing is…no smelly armpits ’til mid May!


Tube Diary: 16th October

Single seat. Dolly. There’s a HUGE guy towering over me, holding onto the bars above with both hands, thrusting his barrel belly forward so that my delicate nose is almost wedged inside his belly button. So if in tomorrow’s Metro you read, ‘Man kills passenger by falling on him’ – at my funeral, please, nothing by Celine Dion (or that Bette Midler one they always play).


Tube Diary: 17th October

Lady standing next to me on the platform elbows me out the way to get on the train. Now I’m sitting next to her. She’s wearing a polka dot blouse and a striped skirt. Tempted to tap her on the arm and say, ‘Dots n’ stripes? With a tartan handbag? Are you having a laugh?’ I imagine her looking shocked. Then I point to her shoes. ‘And what are those?’ ‘What’s the matter with them?’ ‘Don’t you know the rule? NO WHITE SHOES AFTER LABOR DAY’ ‘Oh, I’m sorry. ‘Well please try harder tomorrow!’ ‘Yes, I will,’ she says, flustered, getting up to leave. ‘Now outta my sight. You’re giving me a migraine!’ There. That told her.


Tube Diary: 18th October

Just read in Standard that Romney’s 6 points ahead in a nationwide Gallup tracking poll. I feel sick.


Tube Diary: 21st October

Dolly Line to Wimbledon. Passing tv ariels on rooftops, chimney stacks and council blocks, Victorian mansions and autumnal trees. The sky above, a grey gloomy sea. Now on the overground. Next stop Norbiton (the end of the earth). I’m on the way to a friend’s wedding reception. But as I’m just getting over food poisoning, I feel like shit. Consequently, I am ‘so’ against the idea of marriage at the moment. Gay or straight. Can’t we all just fornicate and live in sin?


Tube Diary: 21st October

There’s an ad on here by KLYP promoting a ‘clip on’ flash for your iPhone. It shows a mixed race woman ‘before’ and ‘after’. In the ‘after’ her skin’s turned rosy pink. And the strap line: ‘Want Better Looking Friends?’ I don’t like it.


Tube Diary: 22nd October

Still feeling rough from this weekend’s food poisoning, and what with this train rocking from side-to-side, the waft of ‘clothes clinging’ perfume, a woman slurping a Starfucksus coffee on one side, someone gobbling a Mcsomethingorother on the other, I’ll be doing that Divine scene any minute, the one where she pukes in her handbag.


Tube Diary: 23rd October

On my right, a woman applying blusher (the dust landing on my lap). On my left, a woman brushing her hair (flicking it in my face). That does it. Tomorrow I’m going to sit here in a facepack, cut my toe nails, buff my heels with a pumice stone and clean my ears with Q-tips.


Tube Diary: 25th October

Woman (early twenties, highlighted hair) examining her nose in a compact mirror. Next to her a woman (same age, page-boy haircut) applying the full maquillage (overdoing the blusher). Everyone very sleepy. One woman actually ‘is’ asleep, nodding her head, slowly, lower and lower, so it looks like she’s blowing the guy next to her (I appear to be the only one finding this amusing). I’ve got Pulp on the iPhone, Jarvis is singing about meeting up in the year 2000 (which brings back weird memories) and now we’re heading in to Bank. So it’s TTFN mes ami.


Tube Diary: 26th October

Northface must be having a sale.


Uh oh passenger alarm ahead.


On here at the moment: a woman sniffing very loudly and swallowing what appears to be a bucket load of phlegm; a bespectacled sleeping station guard with two rather large bellies (one above the belt, one below) dribbling down his egg stained sweatshirt, and two girls with faces the colour of pumpkins using phrases such as ‘nicked it from is ‘ouse dinai’ and ‘I ain’t even on the pill is it.’


Tube Diary: 26th October

Two strangers are having a conversation and exchanging names. This is ‘such’ a no-no on here that the other passengers are staring at them in disbelief, as if they are both completely mad, or (even worse), from ‘out of town’.


Tube Diary: 29th October

Rush hour. Train trapped between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn. Then an announcement, “Due to a problem at the next station we maybe here for a while.” Which is tube parlance for ‘If you haven’t got a seat you’re fucked.’


Tube Diary: 30th October

Woman opposite (red ski jacket, no makeup, hair scraped back in a ponytail) falling asleep while reading a book. Gradually her head starts to lower (until her chin hits her chest), her fingers start to loosen and the book slips down her thigh. Suddenly she sits bolt upright, composes herself and carries on reading. Then the same procedure; the lolling head, the loosening fingers, the slipping book. This happens four times. Finally she falls asleep and the book topples to the floor. It’s the new Will Self.


Tube Diary: 31st October

Not a good start. Shepherd’s Bush closed due to a train stuck in the tunnel. Consequently all buses are rammed. This called for careful planning. So I sprinted (well, minced fast) to the next stop, jumped the C1 to High Street Kenny, caught the Circlette to Girls Court, crossed the platform and now I’m on the Dolly. Phew! I love the Dolly Line. I love the single seats. The 70s velour seat covers with their green Pac Man like patterns. I love the amount of space. If I was to drop dead on a train I could go quite happily on here. You could collapse without having to touch anyone.




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