Funny what you encounter whilst travelling on the tube. From buskers to thesps*, and from beggars to the odd mayor. Truly, all life is there. For the perspicacious traveller, there is a never-ending stream of things to learn and people to observe.
This very day brings us not-one-but-two tales of unexpected Underground sightings. Firstly that of a young Indian mother who was curious to know the identity of the man who had complimented her on her baby, and who simply did not believe her husband's assertion that it was the Prime Minister. It seems our Dave is not universally recognised, for it was indeed the PM, setting a glowing example for other ministers by taking the tube.
The second encounter is far more fun, if a tad disturbing. It occurred between Admiral Lord West, who was travelling in full maritime regalia, as you do, and a curious eight year old, who wanted to know about the uniform and what it meant. The jolly admiral was understandably horrified to discover that the boy in question apparently had no idea what the navy is**, and he and other passengers spent the rest of the journey explaining to the wee lad and his classmates.
You may tut, grimace or yawn over either of these stories, but what they both show is the yawning potential of the time that we spend on the Underground, and the fact that no-one has yet really managed to harness it. Well, perhaps the knitting biddy in the photo has - but most of us sit in a torpid stupor, or as T. S. Eliot put it:
Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time...***
We need more initiatives like the Circle Line Book Club that we read about a couple of years back. Knitting tutorials would be just grand, thinking about it. And we definitely need more MPs and jolly jack tars down there mixing with the hoi polloi.
Just a thought.
*sorry: yes, we know it's not London, and we know you've probably seen it before, but it still made you smile, right?
**yes, in anticipation of your comment - one should take some small comfort in the fact that we live in peaceful times when military matters are marginalised.
***Interestingly, in the same verse of Burnt Norton, he also references 'this twittering world'. He knew a thing or two, old Thomas.
Image by shadowjumper from the Londonist pool.