Tag Archives: London Underground


I’ve been a commuter for more years than I care to remember but this week has pretty much taken the biscuit. I haven’t had a week like this for many, many years.


Every day so far this week there has been a problem both ways on my line, the District Line, and it’s only Wednesday. I ended up getting a cab part of the way home on Monday because I was so late, and almost crying with tiredness. I’d had a very busy weekend. The cab driver went the slowest way in the world, although, in fairness, when I told him I wasn’t happy, he refunded some of the money. Still, you’ve got to love a tryer. (Do I look as though I came off last year’s Christmas tree?)

Tonight though, little Hot Chocolate and I were walking to Victoria together. It’s always a nightmare at that time of night, which is why we don’t often do travel at this time of day. We had almost reached the crossing closest to Victoria Station when a woman coming the other way barged into HC.

“There’s no need to push,” said HC.

“Oh yes there is,” said big rude blonde woman going the other way. (And I so hope you read this, you ignoramus. And if you don’t know what that means, look it up in the dictionary.)

HC and I were stunned. True, there were lots of people, and true, when you are trying to get onto a very crowded train, there is place for a bit of barging, but in what world do you think it is ok to barge into someone smaller than you who is not even trying to be difficult?

HC is a little firecracker usually so big rude blonde woman must have got her on a very good day. She was lucky. Very lucky.

HC and I went our separate ways and I went to my platform. The train wasn’t too crowded so I go on, and got a seat. (I usually tend to let trains pass if they are too crowded, I don’t generally do the whole sardine thing.) I got as far as Embankment when they announced a problem at Blackfriars. It was hot and crowded and I was already glowing so I got off, went back one stop and got on the Jubilee line. That was pretty crowded too, but not unbearable. And the AC is a bit better. I got back on the D line at West Ham, knowing I’d have to stand most of the way, and then a woman got on at the last minute, and pushed up very close to me.


Ok, I get this, I understand that travelling on a crowded tube is horrible, especially when you are short and can’t reach the overhead bars. (Hell, I can only just reach them when I’m wearing flats, which I tend to wear to and from work now.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I try to be considerate. I could see the woman wanted me to move my hands as I was gripping onto the vertical bar, so I did, which allowed her to lean her head on it. I’m there sister, I know how this feels. Then she nestled in closer to me. I am not crazy about people being close to me without permission, I’m very conscious of my own personal space and let me tell you, I can suck my teeth with the best of them, which did not go down a treat. Then something amazing happened. At the next station, the woman in the seat by me got up to get off and the little woman squooshed past me and took the seat!!!!!! (She was short enough to get under my – very clean and fragrant – armpits.) Actually, I would probably have let her have it, I’m fit enough to stand, even though I don’t like it, but how rude to shove past me like that! As it so happened, by the time everyone had disembarked at this station, there were enough seats for all of us.

I love London and this is the worst of it, and it is not at all typical, in my experience. I, for one, will give up my seat for people less able to stand than me, and many’s the time young men have given up their seat for me. (I know I should be grateful, but I’m really not that old. I’ve just had a hard life. Nor am I pregnant. Seriously though, it is sweet and I am grateful) I just think if we all had few more manners on the tube, it would make life easier.


Which includes:

Don’t play your music too loud. I’m not deaf although YOU will be if you keep playing your music so loud when you are wearing head ’phones. I know you are going to get upset if I ask you to turn it up so we can all hear it properly; I also know that it needs to be louder when the train is moving so you can hear it above the noise of the train if you are wearing those cheap little earpieces. So do us all a favour, and either (a) buy a decent pair of Bose or Dr Dre’s that will stop the surrounding noise interfering with you and you interfering with us, being cheap isn’t classy; or, (b) turn it off.

Have a shower and use deodorant. It’s really not difficult and I don’t care how poor you are, there is no excuse for being smelly. Fresh sweat may be full of apocrine pheromones and be a little erotic but stale sweat is not. HAVE A WASH. Honest to God, there is nothing worse than travelling in close proximity to someone who smells like a four-year old yak from the foothills of the Himalayas.

In the same vein, wash your clothes regularly. Think about where you are travelling. Much as I dislike it, people DO put their feet on the seats, and worse. Do I need to spell it out? Do you really want to be carrying that around with you for a long period of time? And if you can’t afford the dry cleaning bills, wear things that can be washed instead.

Mobile ‘phone conversations. In my opinion, the worst thing that LUL can do is to make it possible for us all to talk on our ‘phones on the whole of our journey on the underground. I really do not want to know the entire conversation you had with your husband/wife/son/daughter/boss/whatever. Your private life is just that: private. Or should be. Even I don’t tell you everything about my life here, and yet, in the space of half an hour, I know more about some people than you will ever know about me.

And while we are on that topic, when you are talking to your friends, do you think you could moderate the level of your voice? It is undignified to shout and I still don’t need to know everything, but be warned: if you speak loudly enough for me to hear, I may well use your conversation in a book or story. There is no copyright on what you say in public. Sorry and all that, but it’s your fault if you speak loudly. We writers love a bit of people watching and eavesdropping.

If that’s not enough to change your behaviour, I don’t know what is, until I take your photograph and blog about you (no laws broken there either folks, sorry, not in this country). Until the next time…

© Susan Shirley 2015


Dedicated to my friend on a Special birthday. Happy Birthday Nicola, this one’s for you. xx

Picture 007

We Londoners (I think I’m allowed to call myself that after living here for 30 odd years) don’t like people sitting close to us on London Underground or mainline trains, if we can avoid it. Our tolerance of people being close to us changes as more people board the tube, but the dance that we do is interesting. It goes something like this…

Board the train; look for a seat, a seat where there will be no one sitting either side of us. I’ve said it before, and it still holds true, I like to sit in the seat at the end of the carriage if I can. I don’t like human contact. Well, not on the tube. As the carriage fills up, the reality is that someone will sit next to me. I hope and pray it doesn’t happen too soon, but I must look terribly attractive, because someone always comes and sits next to me, even when there are loads of other seats. The people who do that clearly have no sense of personal space. That or I really am smokin’ hot.

We all seem to have a fear of the centre of the train, too. We tend to congregate around the doors, forcing people who try to board the train closer to Central London to barge onto the train much like a SWAT team on a raid, complete with ramming equipment.

“Can you move down please?” Nudge, push, shove.

“Move along the carriage.” Whack, barge, thud.

These pleas fall on deaf ears, of course. The people standing near the doorway shuffle a bit, but rarely do they move inside. I think, if I’m honest, it’s because it can be such a faff to get off if you are caught in the middle of the carriage or the end where there is no door when the train is still packed and it’s your stop.

courtesy of Pixabay
courtesy of Pixabay

There are some other things about travelling in London that add to the interest too. For example, I always forget that I wear my cloak of invisibility whenever I leave my house. I know I’m wearing it because people drive their baby buggies into me, or tread on me, or, my personal favourite, when I am already walking down the stairs (and I do like to hold onto the hand rail going down stairs, I just don’t seem to be able to balance properly otherwise). When I’m halfway or more down the stairs already, why would people start walking up right in front of me and force me to move out of the way, or curse me if I don’t? Well, of course, the only answer is that I am invisible so they don’t know they are doing it.

Last week was a classic. I’d just been to the osteopath, so was at a station I don’t frequently use. I duly waited for the crowd coming off the train to die down and started walking down the stairs. I could hear my train come in but knew I had enough time to get to it. At least, I knew I had enough time to get it if it hadn’t pulled in and people hadn’t started getting off. Honestly, I really understand how people get crushed in crowds; you’d have thought this mass of people coming off of the train was in fear of its life. I only had to travel about two more steps and then about a yard, and I had to do my impersonation of an American Football Halfback going for a touchdown in order to get on the train! This is the trouble with being invisible.

courtesy of Pixabay
courtesy of Pixabay

And then there is the music. I seriously worry about the young peoples’ hearing if they listen to such loud music so much of the time. But I think what makes them turn the music down best is when I start tapping my feet and jigging about in my seat. It is clearly not cool for an older person to enjoy a young person’s music. Works every time.

And finally, can I just mention male fashions sense? Or lack of it? Gentlemen, on which planet did it become ok for a man to wear smart business shoes, with red, white and black striped rugby socks, black scruffy shorts and a white tee shirt? Tell me. It is not a good look and whoever told you it was, was lying to you. I know the weather’s been hot, but is that what passes for City attire these days? Shorts, unless they are the Bermuda variety, worn the way the Bermuda police wear them, are a no-no in the City, as far as I am concerned.

courtesy of Pixabay
courtesy of Pixabay

Actually, there are some things that should never be worn outside of the house, let alone in the City in my opinion. Jogging bottoms. Socks with sandals. Stained clothes. Sometimes I wish we could go back to Edwardian times….

©Susan Shirley 2014