I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (50/80)

Tuesday 6 August – Morden (Square F4 on the Tube map), MORNINGTON CRESCENT!!! (B5), Mudchute (E7), Neasden (B3), Newbury Park (B9), New Cross (E7)

Today’s the big day – the assault on Mornington Crescent. In preparation I have commandeered my son’s Hawaian shirt, enlisted my daughter as Official Photographer and single-handedly held at bay the bankruptcy of HMV by buying up their stocks of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Humphrey Lyttelton (Humph) CDs. The Wee Professor, as Chief Intelligence Officer, has been researching ISIHAC’s ‘game’ Mornington Crescent.

Coincidentally the post this morning brings a postcard from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales. The card shows the lido at Rhyl. Mrs Trellis writes: Why are you bothering with all those silly tube stations? Come to the seaside instead.

The Inner Curmudgeon is throwing skillets and saucepans at the kitchen wall. It’s totally ridiculous, he growls. Mornington Crescent! You’ll be lucky if 5% of your readers have heard of ISIHAC and Mornington Crescent

Unfortunately, before Mornington Crescent, there’s the minor inconvenience of Morden – not somewhere out of the darker recesses of The Lord of the Rings but an unassuming suburb at the southern end of the Northern line.

Becca and I are at Forest Hill for the 9.50 am Overground. It’s sunny, the skies are blue. We transfer to the Jubilee at Canada Water and the Northern line at London Bridge. As we sway south on the Northern line, the WP informs me that ISIHAC has been broadcast on BBC radio since April 1972 and that it describes itself as ‘the antidote to panel games’. He cannot, he says, be certain whether this is meaningful since there does not appear to be a listed medical condition caused by panel games. The games are linguistic, musical and nonsensical. Mornington Crescent is a nonsensical game where the contestants list underground stations, roads and neighbourhoods in London until one says ‘Mornington Crescent’ whereupon the game usually ends. Mornington Crescent, The Wee Professor intones, purports to follow a complicated set of rules often made more complex by additional variant rules. However, he observes, a meta-analysis of a sample of 216 games (1977 to 1995) shows a correlation coefficient of 0.07 (p = 0.031) for the hypothesis ‘There are no rules’ indicating a 95.0% chance that this is statistical significant. He pauses for breath.

Hah! I say. In other words there are no rules! I ponder some. That’s like a metaphor for life, I say. We think there are loads of rules but probably there aren’t any.

The Wee Professor looks at me warily. He is uneasy around words like ‘metaphor’ or ‘life’.

There’s a moan that fills the carriage. It’s The Inner Curmudgeon. Put a sock in it, Wee Prof. It’s only a bloody game. All you’re doing is encouraging him, he says, meaning me.

I have decided that I will approach Mornington Crescent following Galashiels rules. The first of these states that I must not take a book or written material of any sort with me. Instead I must listen to ISIHAC with occasional bursts from Humph’s cornet.

We arrive at Morden (Square F4) at 10.50 am. I did consultancy work for Merton Council (housed in the big ugly building to one side of Morden) in the nineties but it’s been ten years since I was here. Morden is much as I remember – a small town centre with a good range of chains and local shops and a big Sainsburys, its red-bricked back turned to the town centre – but with more charity, coffee and betting shops.

It’s sunny and warm. We wander into Morden Hall Park and watch wordlessly in wonder at the Wandle.

Hedge floating down the Wandle: the inspiration for 'Ophelia' by Millais.

Watercress floating down the Wandle: on this spot Millais found the inspiration for ‘Ophelia’.

I decide a cup of tea is in order. We go into the courtyard of the National Trust’s Visitor Centre but the café is closed. It depends on the weather, two old ladies inform me. They only open it if it’s sunny, they say. They think it’s ridiculous. I look up at the sky. I think it’s ridiculous. Plus, it’s sunny. I wonder whether I’m trapped in some game from ISIHAC.

On our way back to the tube, I spot an East European shop. Its sign says: Daiya’Shop with the ‘s’ acting both as the ‘s’ after the apostrophe in ‘Daiva’s’ and the ‘S’ as in ‘Shop’. I enter and ask the person behind the counter if she’s Daiva. She is and she hails from Lithuania. I praise her on her appropriate use of the apostrophe. Better than many English people can manage, I say. She looks baffled at my compliment but recovers quickly, offering us generous tasting slices of salami and smoked ham.

Daiya in her shop: pig out on the smoked hams and sausages.

Daiva in her shop: pig out on the smoked hams and sausages.

They’re excellent. We end up buying some of both, plus three Tupla Maxis. These look like slimline Mars bars but, according to Becca who bought one in Finland years ago, they don’t taste like Mars bars.

Back at Mordor station all the trains go via Bank – they don’t go direct to Mornington Crescent. That’s OK. Under Galashiels rules we have to approach Mornington Crescent from the north.

Mr TubeforLOLs at Camden Town: tension mounting.

Mr TubeforLOLs at Camden Town: tension mounting.

You’re making these silly rules up as you go along, growls The Inner Curmudgeon as we get off at Camden Town. I ignore him. My mind is on weightier, more important matters. We take a southbound Charing Cross train at Camden Town. We arrive at Mornington Crescent (B5) at 12.34.37 pm.

Mr TubeforLOLs at Mornington Crescent.

Mr TubeforLOLs at Mornington Crescent. That smirk you detect on his face is a smirk of triumph.

Becca orders a photo-shoot on the platform. 173 photos later we take the lift to ticket-hall level where even more photos are snappy-snappled.

Bliss was it that dawn to be alive, But to be Mr TubeforLOLs was very heaven!

Bliss was it that dawn to be alive, But to be Mr TubeforLOLs was very heaven!

I’m about to step onto the pavement at Mornington Crescent when I remember: under  Galashiels rules I cannot exit the station. If I do, the game ends. If the game ends, TubeforLOLs ends.

Do it, Craig! Do it! shouts The Inner Curmudgeon. Then we’ll be shot of this miserable, pointless, lunatic escapade.

I step back quickly and beep my way in through the turnstiles. There’s a plaque to Willie Rushton on the back wall. I walk upto the Station Attendant – whom I’ll call Steve.  Steve takes a step back. I’d noticed before that the seats beside me on the tubes have emptied, that people seem to prefer to stand at the far end of the carriage. Becca’s theory is that people think that I’m a straggler from Care in the Community, I’m out on day-release, and that she’s my minder. She says, It’s your hooting, snorting and laughing with your headphones on that’s upsetting them. Well. Upsetting them the most.

In a gesture of conciliation I lower my ‘cans’ and ask Steve if they get many pilgrims to the station. He answers cautiously, We get a lot of gentlemen of, how shall I put it, a certain age. Most just come in and pose here – he indicates a spot in front of the Willie Rushton plaque – then they’re off. Many don’t even go down to the platforms. I explain to him about TubeforLOLs. That’s an old Tube map you have there, he says, spotting the top of my map in my breast-pocket. Aha! I counter, No, this is my Bible. This is The Map I must follow, the December 2012 Map. Steve backs away. Clearly, he’s thinking: This codger is on day-release. Becca steers me towards the lift.

Our next stop is Mudchute (E7) way down in the Isle of Dogs on the DLR. It takes us 45 minutes (Charing Cross branch of Northern line to Euston, then Bank branch to Bank, then DLR towards Lewisham). We arrive at 1.40 pm. The station is the usual minimilist DLR affair: three Oyster readers, a map and that’s your lot.

Official Photographer, Becca, at Mudchute station.

Official Photographer, Becca, at Mudchute station. Borisconi bikes untouched since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978.

We meet Fran (my wife), Harry (Becca’s husband) and my delightful grandchildren, Iris and Hazel and have a picnic and eat two Tuplas. They (the Tuplas, that is) taste more like Milky Ways with a long finish of nutty bits than Mars bars.

Iris and Mr TubeforLOLs doing the ToobforLOLs shuffle, the ToobforLOLs shuffle, ev'ryone's doing the ToobforLOLs shuffle. Harry (Becca's husband) and Fran (Mr T's better half) look on bemused.

Iris and Mr TubeforLOLs doing the ToobforLOLs shuffle, while singing ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ to the tune of ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’. Harry (Becca’s husband) and Fran (Mr T’s better half) look on bemused.

Half of London is enjoying Mudchute Farm – picnicing, feeding the animals, strolling around, riding on ponies, milking the goats. But, though it would be good to stay, TubeforLOLs calls. Becca gathers Hazel into the sling – she will accompany us for the next two stations.

It takes an hour to get to Neasden (B3) – DLR to Canary Wart, Luverly-Juberly line the rest of the way. We arrive at a little after quarter past four. Neasden was one of those stations I wasn’t sure whether I’d visited or not.

The Neasden Labyrinth. Now, how do we get out of here?

The Neasden Labyrinth. Get me out of here, I’m a TubesforLOLselebrity, says Popeye.

It’s clear as soon as we arrive that I hadn’t. I would have remembered Neasden. Anyone visiting Neasden would remember Neasden. It’s, well, it’s … well, how can I put this kindly? Like Harlesden? (See post, Upon a peak in Darien.)

No, I think it’s best to fall back on Wittgensteins’ aphoristic conclusion to the Tractatus: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Besides it’s a place where people live and work. It’s not a place that people visit, or at least not much. Seeing us scrutinizing the local map in the station, the Station Attendant hands us a small typed note. This gives directions to IKEA and the Neasden Temple. That, with Wittgenstein, about sums Neasden up.

Still Life with Neasden. (Nature Morte avec L'Antre des Genoux). Study by Kurt Schwitters for late Merz.

Still Life with Neasden. (Nature Morte avec L’Antre des Genoux). Study by Kurt Schwitters for late Merz.

We take the Jubilee line all the way to Stratford. The Inner Curmudgeon gets increasingly crotchety. You know, Becca says, I’ve got an Inner Curmudgeon. I think I got him from yours.

This is what ex-colonials call a ‘curve-ball’. Long suffering readers will remember my summary of Neo-Darwinism – that basically we humans are but giant robots controlled by our genes. The bleak thought hits me: forget genes, perhaps we’re at the mercy of our Inner Curmudgeons, perhaps it’s the ICs that are controlling us, ensuring their own survival from generation to generation?

I look queryingly at Hazel: is she but a vehicle for a future Inner Curmudgeon?

Mr TubeforLOLs inspects Hazel for signs of Inner Curmudgeon.

Mr TubeforLOLs inspects Hazel for symptons of Inner Curmudgeon.

She doesn’t look as though she’s possessed by an Inner Curmudgeon. She’s having a ball. She’s clambering around her seat, looking out at her reflection, eating her Maisy’s First Toys book, laughing, walking up and down the carriage (hands hooked into Becca’s fingers), eating The Metro. The headline Owners of killer dogs could face life in jail goes down particularly well.

We change onto the Central line and arrive at Newbury Park (B9) at six o’clock. We fall into discussion with a Station Attendant about their floral display which includes a scarecrow called, well, let’s call him ‘Paul’.

Installation: Garden with Scarecrow at Newtbury Park station.

Installation: Garden with Scarecrow – let’s call him Paul – at Newtbury Park station.

What’s happened to Paul? I ask, pointing at the scarecrow. Paul? he replies, What d’you mean, ‘what’s happened to Paul?’ It’s amazing how quickly the tension can rise when Mr TubeforLOLs is around. I’m Paul, the Station Attendant continues. Apparently, his colleagues have called the scarecrow after him because they think it looks like him. I can’t be one hundred percent certain but I don’t think Paul is too enamoured of this. We beat a hasty retreat.

Newbury Park station: one small newsagents and one humungous concrete hangar.

Newbury Park station: one small newsagents and one humungous concrete hangar. What’s not to like?

Outside the station, the three-lane dual carriageway, the A12, is in full snarl-up mode. We walk to the local centre about a third of mile to the west. It’s part the usual suspects, part huge decorated sheds housing B&Q, Toys’R’Us, JD Sports and the ilk. But in the back streets it’s quiet, peaceful. People, mainly Asians, are sitting out in the local War Memorial Park or outside their houses or on stretches of hard landscaping at the backs of flats. Sitting out, chatting, resting, snoozing … I quite like it … It’s at this point I wake up: Becca is slapping my face. She’s a midwife is Becca, she’s got a diploma in slapping.

Forty minutes later, at 7.20 pm we arrive at Canada Water – Central line to Stratford, Jubilee from there. The first train is for New Cross and I decide I’ll bag it. Becca settles for heading home to Peckham. She’s exhausted, it’s all that slapping. Hazel is as bright as the proverbial clothes-fastener.

At 7.25 pm I arrive at New Cross (E7). It’s a quarter of a mile east of New Cross Gate – though why New Cross has two tube stations has always been a minor mystery to me. I walk east towards the Albany Empire in Deptford. I knew this well in the seventies and eighties. One of its leading lights – indeed, a leading light of British alternative theatre – was Jenny Harris. I saw her last summer when she was speaking at a London Bubble conference. Afterwards, she asked me to contact her, she wanted to talk about photographer Chris Schwarz’s archive. (See post Thought for the Day …) Sadly, Jenny passed away late last year. Back in New Cross, my thoughts take on an autumnal cast.

Tie and Pearls off Deptford High Street.

His and Hers mural by Artmongers off Deptford High Street. Horizontal chimneys (left) cropped off by Mr TubeforLOLs’ poor photographic skills.

But there’s too much going on, and the weather is too balmy, for such thoughts to last. I walk back to the station, past the big newish Health Centre with its own allotments. Around the back, NO OUTSIDERS is painted on a derelict Victorian house. Across the road, there’s a Victorian school which now houses a Community Education Centre. It’s called the Mornington Centre. The day has come full circle. If I’d got out at Mornington Crescent I’d never have got here, to Mornington Centre.

And then it hits me. I realise what I’m feeling: a sense of accomplishment. I’ve reached Mornington Crescent and I’m glowing with achievement. I’m standing on New Cross Road – the gritty, grimy A2 – while opposite the sun is lighting up the Amersham Arms and I’m basking in a glorious sensation of fulfilment.

Amersham Arts, New Cross with A2 - the road to Blackheath, Canterbury and Damascus? Mr TubeforLOLs has his revelation.

Amersham Arms, New Cross with A2 – the road to Blackheath, Canterbury and – Damascus? Mr TubeforLOLs has his revelation.

I shake my head trying to dislodge this warm fuzziness. To achieve fulfilment from this preposterous, absurd, boring TubeforLOLs journeying? That’s ridiculous. I shake my head again, vigorously, but I can’t shift the feeling.

8.20 pm and I’m on the train (Overground north to Surrey Quays, change to West Croydon / Crystal Palace branch of Overground) at 8.20 pm. I’m home by 9.00 pm. Gracious me, I haven’t felt this good since … since …

12 thoughts on “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (50/80)

  1. Nick Hayes

    Very enjoyable post and definite improvement in the photography especially the portrait at Camden Town which seemed to express effortlessly the ineffability of its subject. But I fear I may have bad news for his inner curmudgeonliness and which will require a return visit to Mornington Crescent if the whole project is not to be put in jeopardy. Sadly a misreading of the Galashiel rules is the culprit. To be sure rule 7 did state that to exit over the threshold of the station would invalidate the game, but as any regular (as opposed to dilettante) listener of ISIHAC knows, rule 7 is no longer valid, and is now replaced by rule 8 that states categorically that for the game to be concluded an egress over the station boundary onto the pavement must be achieved. This is known as the illusion of liminality where closure is only achieved after the transgressive act of crossing a physical border. For a fuller explanation of this see my postgrad thesis on Wiitgenstein’s celebrated dictum: speak first, think later – a principle by which you know I have tried to live my life.

    A brief note on logic (not a subject I should be tangled with): lest it be thought rule 8 becomes rule 7 and therefore also becomes invalid, a correct reading of the addenda to the Galashiel rules (section V subsection vii para 2) makes it clear the existing rule 7 still stays in place as an ontological reification even though its validity does not.
    ….now now wee professor before you reach out to your keyboard remember wittgenstein: a little bit of the sound of silence would not go amiss.

    I await a report on your return to MC with interest.

    1. sandycraig2013 Post author

      The Inner Curmudgeon replies: Remember it was me wanted Craig to jump out, then everything would have been done and dusted and I could have got back to proper Curmudgeonly ways!
      The Wee Professor replies: Thank you, Nick, but my part in the analysis of Mornington Crescent was purely statistical.
      Mr TubeforLOLs replies: Thanks, Nick. Not sure what you’re banging on about: the ‘Galashiel’ rule? Never heard of it. I was following the ‘Galashiels’ rule. What a difference an ‘s’ makes!
      The Inner Curmudgeon sticks his oar in: Pay no attention to ‘Mr TubeforLOLs’ as Craig is calling himself. Besides, he wasn’t ‘following’ the rules, he was making them up as he went along.
      The Post’s Author finishes this rag-bag: I understand your concern, Nick, but have faith. All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

  2. becca

    hmmmmmm…… i wonder whether anyone else is playing tubeforlols? and also why not include this pic?? ahha!

  3. sandycraig2013 Post author

    Well, the Station Attendant we called Steve made no mention of TubeforLOLsing by any other card-carrying masochist. He talked of a blog about where best to stand on platforms to get out nearest to your exit, and another which helped pregnant woman get around easier.
    As for not including the image – Steve’s ‘IloveMCR’ badge – well, it went out at the first draft stage. But I may use it later, who knows.

  4. Nick Hayes

    Thank you becca for drawing my attention to the egregioius omission of your IloveMcr photo.Speaking as one for whom this great city is their adopted home, I am affronted…yes affronted … by this wilful snub to our thriving metropolis. There are precious few, if any, references to this northern section of the tube in the whole tubeforlols project, so it is mystifying that the chance to rectify matters with a fetching photograph is passed over, The vague undertaking to use the photo at a later date cuts little ice. One can only hope that wnen Mr Tubeforlols gets to Oxford Circus. nearby Manchester Square, home to the stunning Wallace Collection,may merit at least a brief mention.
    (this is all getting very silly!)

  5. sandycraig2013 Post author

    Dearie me. And there was I thinking you would be watching replays of the 2013 Ashes triumph though, come to think of it, Manchester is the only ground so far where England haven’t walloped the Aussies. Manchester Square, alas, is nearer Bond Street than Oxford Circus so, much as I agree about the Wallace Collection (named, of course, after William Wallace who routed the English a few centuries ago), I will likely give it a miss.

    1. Maurice

      You mentioned a station functionary at Neasden handing out instructions on how to get to IKEA. Shouldn’t there be an equivalent at MC handing out the rules to ISIHAC as they pertain to MC, and your silly Galashiels addendum? Or would that be like the instructions that came with the small rubber paddling pool we recently bought for our grandson? As long as you ask, the folded sheet of paper opened to about four feet by two and a half, packed with ink on both sides, about 4 point lettering, on how to inflate the stupid thing and what not to do once it’s got water in it – all in 27 languages. An example: Do not let your child lie face down in the water for any length of time. In 26 other languages too.
      Thanks Sandy, I’ve been looking for a wider audience for that particular anecdote for some time. Listened to your radio interview today. Elms’s final description of your quest as “pointlessness beyond imagining” just about sums it up. But your loyal followers love it.

  6. sandycraig2013 Post author

    Thank you, Maurice. The Inner Curmudgeon suggests that you buy your grandson a snorkel. Then he can lie face down in the water to his heart’s content. I, of course, could not possibly advise such a reckless course of action.

  7. Rob Steen

    Lovely stuff, as nobody ever said at City Limits. Fair grilled the cockles, Sandy. I look forward to the Stratford-Stanmore tale with much interest (and no little hometown bias).

  8. sandycraig2013 Post author

    Many thanks, Rob. I do hope the cockles were tasty – I’ve never tried them grilled, with or without cheese. Looking ahead I’m not sure whether Stratford and Stanmore will figure in the same TubeforLOLs fantasy, particularly since there are three stations next door to each other at Stratford (Stratford, Stratford High Street and Stratford International) – a bonus for Mr TubeforLOLs.

  9. worldsworstlandlord

    Deptford, hey? I was once pickpocketed at the market [deep Dannimac pockets]. I grabbed a passing patrol car. They drove me to the station car park – no further – and stonily asked me how it could have happened. ‘Er, they’re pickpockets!’ Reply: ‘We don’t have pickpockets in Deptford.’ They should put a sign up at New Cross station ‘Welcome to a pickpocket-free zone’


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