The London Blogger Interviews #1: Annie Mole

London brims with fantastic bloggers dishing out the inside scoop on aspects of our city which inspire them, bringing to life and documenting things which might otherwise be missed. As fellow London fanatics there are lots we enjoy reading, so we’re going to start interviewing to find out more. Some you will know; many you will not. We’re looking forward to hearing what they and you think, so do say hello to them and let us know if there’s anyone you think we ought to talk to.

Annie Mole.jpg To kick things off we’re starting with a bang and catching up with one of London’s most famous bloggers, the font of all Tube knowledge, Going Underground‘s Annie Mole.

Describe your blog in less than 15 words for someone who’s never seen it.

The Tube from a commuter’s viewpoint trying to see its funnier side, where possible

Why did you start blogging about the Tube? What about it inspires you?

The blog came out of a static site about the Tube, GoingUnderground.net which I started as a New Year’s Resolution in 1999. Blogging seemed the easiest way of updating the news section after discovering a number of blogs in 2002 and thinking it could work. There’s a lot of source material to write about with the Tube but I’m much more interested in the behaviour of people once they get on it, rather than the trains themselves. You’re thrown into a place that you want to spend as little time in as possible, with complete strangers from all backgrounds. How people cope with that for 10 or 40 minutes leads to some interesting situations.

What’s the most underrated aspect of the Tube?

As much as I moan about the Tube the fact that we have the Customer Charter, so you can claim back your journey if the train’s late by 15 minutes or more, is great and many more people should make use of it. I’m sure that would help improve the service, I reckon Transport for London (TfL) would feel the pain if everyone who was delayed claimed.

Why did you decide to be anonymous? Will you ever reveal yourself?

When I initially started writing about the Tube, I didn’t think the powers that be at TfL would be wild about it and I didn’t want to be sued if I ended up libelling them. However, so far I’ve never been asked to remove anything, so I imagine it’s reasonably fair comment. I keep up the ‘Annie Mole’ name out of habit and fun now even though lots of people know who I really am. There doesn’t seem to be any point in revealing myself – it’s not like I’m famous or anything!

In your wildest dreams, what would be the most surreal tube journey to witness and post about?

Good question. I would love to be a fly on the wall in a Tube carriage stuck in a tunnel with Boris Johnson, Stephen Fry, the “If you can’t have a shave in the toilet where can you have a shave” buskers, Katie Price, David Beckham and Delia Smith as passengers. It would be interesting to see whether and how they’d try to escape or what they would talk about.

What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written?

Not sure if one really stands out as an absolute favourite out of six years. I quite like the ones where I imagine TfL and CBS Outdoor’s conversations when they’re deciding which ads to ban – I enjoyed writing this one Nip Tuck Ad Now Un-Sexy Enough For Tube.

I love Tube celebrity spotting and two personal favourites were a pre-Gavin and Stacey Rob Brydon and more recently Stewart Lee who kindly and rather embarrassedly let me get a picture of him.

What are your best and worst ever tube moments?

Worst memory without a doubt was hearing about the London transport bombings in July 2005. Geoff Marshall used to help me write the blog back then and he posted when no one really knew what exactly has happened. I picked it up and was posting on a half hourly basis throughout the day, trying to update people. But linked to that time are some of the best memories – seeing the way people pulled together afterwards and how Tube travel slowly got back to normal. Being a part of Tube Relief, where a group of us – including the amazing Tami, a police captain from New Orleans who got stranded here after the event because of Hurricane Katrina – visited every station to raise money for the victims.

You’re well-connected to other London and global blogs. How else has your blog made you feel part of London, any other opportunities it’s opened up, encouraged you to try or do?

Trying to be a voice for what other people may be thinking helps me feel connected. It’s great when people comment or email me to say “That’s what I’ve been wanting to say for a long time”. My readers are brilliant, they often send photos or links to other stories or news items that they think might be interesting.

It’s opened up lots of opportunities in terms of speaking to the press about the Tube, being on TV and helping me to get some really cool jobs. When you’ve been blogging as a hobby and for fun for years and managing “a community”, you forget they are skills a number of companies are looking for.

I have a very good relationship with the London Transport Museum who’ve invited me to lots of fun events. Last year Tube Lines invited me to see the Tube overnight, which Londonist’s M@ also attended and I’ve since been to a blogger’s briefing with TfL who after all these years, finally decided to get in touch and talk to us.

Tell us about a London blogger you like:

I love Brian Pigeon’s blog. Pigeons get a hard time in London and must be lowest in pecking order as far as birds are concerned. So it’s fantastic to have a sweary London pigeon like Brian, blogging on behalf of the rats with wings.

And for some general London chat…

Where do you live and why do you love it?

I live in Kew and love it because it’s reasonably easy to get into central London as it’s on the Tube line – just – but far enough away to escape at the weekends. I’m walking distance from Kew Gardens which I treat as my local park and also near to lots of green spaces in Richmond. It’s lovely seeing green stuff after too much time in tunnels.

What’s your favourite place in London?

Really difficult to answer as there are so many parts that I love, depending on my mood. Walking over bridges in central London at night still makes me realise the city’s amazing. Strange little hidden places like Postman’s Park and The Phoenix Garden off Shaftesbury Avenue are peaceful little spots in the middle of the City or the West End. Even though it’s tourist-y I still enjoy Covent Garden, there’s always something or someone interesting to see.

Have you ever been sick on the tube?

Fortunately never in a carriage itself. The worst time was many years ago – before the internet existed – having to leg it off a Tube and be sick in a corridor at Gloucester Road. The last time I can remember, before I started blogging was at Turnham Green station, but at least that was out in the open. Turnham Green is one of those spots where I’ve spotted quite a few vomiting incidents, changing lines to get home. Luckily it’s never happened since I’ve started blogging as I’d be torn about sharing that delight with readers!

Anything else to add?

No I think that’s exhausted me. Thanks for the interview!

Keep up with Annie at london-underground.blogspot.com

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