Thursday 2 May – Fulham Broadway (Square E3 on the Tube map), Gallions Reach (D9), Gants Hill (B9), Gloucester Road (D3), Golders Green (B4), Goldhawk Road (D3), Goodge Street (C5), Gospel Oak (B5)
It’s a hard act following Forest Hill but someone has to. And, while the Horniman Walrus will soon be off on his holidays to Margate (see previous post, The Walrus and the Curmudgeon), I indulge myself in what must be one of the most pointless TubeforLOLs days ever. From the South West to the far South East to far North East and back to the South West before heading North, then back West, then a stop off in Central London before heading North again. Then back home in the far South. But if I make it to Gospel Oak, I’ll have visited 125 stations in 122 days and, for the first time since my first visit on 1st January, I’ll be ahead of the TubeforLOLs game! What an achievement!
An achievement! snorts The Inner Curmudgeon. Huh! It’s alright for him but what about The Wee Professor and me? We just get lugged around hither and thither. We have no say in the matter. You’re always banging on about democracy but what about our democratic rights? You think we’re just cardboard alter-egos. But look, if I cut myself do I not bleed …
The Metro headline is: Google tax ‘lies’. The scare quotes are the Metro’s in the unlikely event that Google aren’t lying.
I’m going to be underground so much today that I’ve elected to take the tube equivalent of the South Circular to my first stop, Fulham Broadway. That’s the Overground loop via Clapham Junction. Believe me, it’s as slow, boring and tortuous as the South Circular.
I’m reading Kathleen Jamie’s trip in Northern Pakistan and this quote dings the dong: ‘Though the journeys are long, you get used to them, and even still I feel a huge exhiliration driving around the Northern Areas. Though you ache and are bored stupid, you’ve thought every thought, dreamed every daydream, but some corner will turn and the river thrashing below [the Thames] or the soaring mountain above [Gants Hill] or the sheer wild beauty of a village [Golders Green] will remind you why you came.’
It’s eleven o’clock and it has taken an hour and a quarter to get to Fulham Broadway station (Square E3). Fulham Broadway’s USP, its Unique Selling Proposition, is that you are decanted straight from the platform to the shopping mall. There’s no bothersome street to negotiate. It’s a classy mall, too. It’s got a Metro Bank and a Krispy Kreme.
There’s not even a snarl up on the Broadway, although a woman in an Alfa ploughs straight through the red light at the pedestrian crossing, scattering Fulham flaneurs left and right. You see what I mean when I talk about bothersome streets. This is Fulham after all, not Forest Hill.
My next stop is far east on the DLR Beckton branch. I spend the time noodling an alternate universe where Krispy Kreme bushes bloomed on the savannah five hundred thousand years ago. Bliss it was in those days to be alive – a corn-syrup and saturated fat white chocolate and almond praline doughnut here, a corn-syrup and saturated fat lemmings meringue pie doughnut there. But then homo kremiens gets too fat to evade the savannah predators, those awful alligators. I’m at Gallions Reach (D9) a few minutes before noon.
For some reason I’ve always thought that the decorated tin shed above housed a shopping mall. I realise my mistake almost immediately but I walk round two long sides of it, just in case. It’s not a shopping mall. I’m not even sure what it is. It’s only when I get back and search the internet that I find out that it is a ‘distribution and fulfilment 3PL specialist’. Well, I sure am glad I sorted that one out.
I’m in Gants Hill station (B9) by one o’clock. Gants Hill’s USP is that it is the Piccadilly Circus of the East. Not many people know that. Like Piccadilly Circus, it is organised as spokes around a central hub with the station underground and exits on the pavements by all five major spokes (just like Piccadilly Circus). There are shopping parades both sides of each of the five spokes (just like Piccadilly Circus). That’s ten shopping parades! My mind seethes with the possibilities.
I walk all the way round Gants Hill, up and down the spokes. One of the main roads to Essex, the A12, goes through here. Many’s the time I’ve fumed as I’ve inched towards the Gants Hill gyratory but the traffic today, such as it is, flows freely.
I’m particularly taken by Tinseltown which advertises that it does 40 different types of burgers and 60+ different milk-shakes. My mind is positively flumdummoxed by the choice. On a normal day I’d still be there, wondering which burger and shake to go for. Luckily today is one of my lactose-intolerant vegetarian days. But what a USP! 60+ milk shakes!
It’s two o’clock before I’m back at Gloucester Road station (D3). It’s three stops away from Fulham Broadway, I passed through here a couple of hours ago on the way to Galleons Reach.
Aye, says The Inner Curmudgeon, and why didn’t you pop out and have a look-see? No-one would know. I can tell he’s feeling distinctly crotchety. I’m quavering a bit myself.
This is well-heeled chain-land with a touch of the tourists. It has a spurious cosmopolitanism about it. I have a double-wrapped but otherwise unremarkable mozzarella and tomato baguette from the only non-chain sandwich shop I can find. ‘Double-wrapped but otherwise unremarkable.’ Yes, I think, that’s a description which fits Gloucester Road. No USP here.
I’m still having the Krispy Kreme heebie-jeebies. This next alternate universe involves vast savannahs filled with slow-moving, lowing herds of homo kremiens stuffing themselves on the aforementioned baked goods. They’re being tended by mean-looking alligators. Yes, alligators. In dark suits. They’re rounding up the kremiens and taking them to what look distinctly like abattoirs where … Well, they shoot horses don’t they?
My next stop is Golders Green station (B4). I arrive a few minutes before three. There’s a Quote of the Day: ‘Example moves the World more than Doctrine’ said Henry Miller, Novelist and Painter (sic). I’m not sure I agree with that.
It’s hot outside in Golders Green but not as hot as the trains underground have been getting through the day, so that’s a relief. What is even more of a relief is surfacing into bright dancing daylight. The tube’s artificial light has been wearing me down as much as its stale chuffy air, its shaking and rattling, the coughs and sneezes from fellow passengers.
Like Gants Hill, I’ve passed through Golders Green in the car, but I’ve never visited it or its station before. It’s not quite the Jerusalem Central I was expecting though most of the restaurants whatever their cuisine – Indian, Italian, Thai – have the kosher seal-of-approval prominently displayed and there are plenty of men wearing big beards and beanies or broad-rimmed hats. It’s much more of a centre than Gants Hill or Gloucester Road and it’s more cosmopolitan than them (though Gants Hill has a large Jewish presence). I feel relaxed here. Even more relaxed after I’ve devoured a huge, though hugely expensive, caramel and pistachio ice-cream.
I get to Goldhawk Road station (D3) at four o’clock. I don’t see any hawks or raptors of any type or colour here unless they’re the stall-holders at the Shepherd’s Bush market which straggles by the side of the railway line. But in the few minutes I’m there ten ambulances and marked and unmarked police cars scream through with their sirens blaring. Tip to readers thinking of visiting Goldhawk Road: take your ear plugs with you.
I walk towards the corner of Shepherd’s Bush Green. I have fond memories of the Bush Theatre and of 7:84’s production of John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy’s The Ballygombeen Bequest. One of the funniest and most political plays ever (alas subsequently banned under our libel laws). I smile as I remember Stephen Rea and Roger Sloman’s performances. It’s only when I get to the corner that I realise that the Bush has moved over to Shepherd’s Bush Road. The old Bush Theatre is now an O’Neill’s. I turn back, a little disappointed.
The Hammersmith & City line sculls busily past Westfield with the Westway and the mainline railway tracks to the north and office blocks, tower blocks and sixties social housing to the south, plus the occasional Victorian street smuggled in. A couple of bulldozers duel under the sun on a brick-strewn wasteland. I imagine another homo kremiens universe. The whole universe is packed with vast crowds of kremiens devouring the doughnut-producing Krispy Kreme bushes. The kremiens are stacked one on top of another. But, sooner or later, something has to give: the savannah can’t sustain this huge number of huge kremiens. There is a sudden, irretrievable population crash …
My penultimate stop, Goodge Street station (C5) arrives at around five o’clock. I’ve already thought of a rip-roaring prank and almost miss the Thought of the Day. ‘Look within. Within you is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up if you ever dig.’ That’s a pearl from good old Marcus Aurelius. There’s nothing like an old-time Stoic to cheer one up.
My prank is to get persuaded by one of the nice young men or women who hang around outside this shop to be dianetically tested. Scientology, that mash-up of messianic science fiction, celebrity marketing and spurious self-improvement; the krispy kreme sect. Alas! There’s no-one hanging around on the pavement and the shop itself is shut. I bet I know where they are: down at the nearest Krispy Kreme.
I go back down in the lift with half a dozen policemen off to keep order at the Chelsea-Basle match. I try to persuade them that it’s bound to be a less hairy experience than policing a Celtic-Rangers match but they’re not having that. Clearly, a Scottish football hooligan is no a match for your actual English hooligan. Plus, hairiness is, apparently, no longer an indicator of lawlessness. Shaven baldy-headedness is. Your English hools do that better.
There’s problems on the Overground between Highbury & Islington and Willesden Junction again but promise of a train coming through in the next quarter of an hour. The train is packed and I mean, packed: you couldn’t slip a Krispy Kreme in anywhere. I get a space in one of the overhead luggage racks along with a young Mum and her buggie. It’s half past six before I get to Gospel Oak station (B5).
It’s aptly named: the pub opposite is called the Old Oak and, to judge by the flabby shaven baldy-headed white men stripped to the waist drinking and shouting outside, the Gospel around here is the Gospel according to Football. In the beginning was the Ball …
I walk along and turn on to the hallowed turf of Hampstead Heath where Keats walked. Except, of course, this is Parliament Hills Field which Margaret Thatcher, late of this alligator, donated to the City of London as part of the dispersal of the GLC’s assets. Ah well! No point in having good building land under some form of democratic control. There might come a time when the democrats decide to build on it or sell it to others for building and then, good golly, land prices would come down and the hoi polloi might start owning rather than renting their homes. (A good little earner, this renting business.)
I’m home at Forest Hill shortly before seven thirty. The Leaf festival is in full swing on the Albion Millennium Green. Prospero is giving Ariel a run for his money. Shakespeare is in the alley, eating Krispy Kremes. I’m homeward bound, I’m wracked by dreams.