The Shepherds Bush station on the Hammersmith and City Line is within easy walking distance of my house. Itís my gateway to Hammersmith, the City and some places in between those two locations that I never need to go to.
Unfortunately, it also boasts of the least regular tube services in London. A wait of twenty minutes is not uncommon. I could walk to Hammersmith in that time. Plus there are no boards telling you how long you have to wait, just occasional recorded messages giving you approximate timings. If the bloke there can be arsed to press the play button.
Because of this inefficiency, I satirically refer to the Hammersmith and City line as the Hammersmith and Shitty line (I thought about calling it the Hammershit and Shitty line, but was afraid that the power of such satire might destroy the whole of the Underground system, if not the Universe itself).
The Central Line is just another five minutes away and is much more regular (when itís actually working and bits arenít falling off the trains). But I am an eccentric millionaire (so eccentric that I donít even have a million pounds) and like to use my local facility. And not just because Iím too lazy to do the walking.
There are two other reasons:
1) The H&S line is mainly above ground, which makes for a much more pleasurable journey. Waiting at an overground station can be quite a pleasure, especially if the weather is nice. You feel laid back like youíre in a Lilt advert- whatís the rush?
2) There seem to be more characters (by which I mean loonies) on this line than on any other in London. Loonies make me feel alive (and also personally less insane).
On the Hammersmith and City Line, drunk girls sit next to you eating chips and then say stuff like ďOh, how rude of me, would you like one?Ē Men with gold teeth shout (and I mean shout) into mobile phones, making sure that everyone on the platform can hear them setting up a date with an ex-girlfriend whose boyfriend is out of town.
That bloke from Byker Grove who now presents CBBC (I expect - Iím 36 and so donít watch kidsí TV; I am just guessing thatís what he does) gets on at Shepherds Bush on his way home at 6pm. I presume he lives in London, not Newcastle now. If he wants to get home before 6am he should really not be using the H&S line.
Itís not stuff thatís going to make the newspapers. No-one will ever write about these incidents in a magazine, but it is real, it is life, itís fun.
The other evening I was sitting in my local station waiting for the tube. There had been no announcement so I didnít know how long the train was going to be. What suspense. Itís more exciting than doing the lottery.
There was a couple sitting next to me who were kissing. (It was only about 5.30. The bloke from Byker Grove was still on the air. Thatís how early it was.) They were snogging so voraciously that I almost got sucked into the midst of their passion (and not in a good way), like a spaceship would get sucked into a vortex in some poorly-thought-out TV sci-fi drama.
I tried to ignore them, but then the manís arms, which were scrabbling round his (presumed) girlfriendís bodily areas, began encroaching on my own body. Just my arm for the moment, but I felt sure if I stayed I would be manhandled further by these people who were blinded to where the other began and ended by the insatiable lust that had driven them to act like dogs in public, in the broad overground daylight.
Perhaps this was an unsophisticated attempt to ask me to join in with them, or perhaps the man had become bored by his partner (though I have to say it didnít look like it, even though I was trying not to look) and had decided to try and seduce me instead. Possibly freed from his Terminator-like grip the woman would willingly and happily make her escape. She may have been there for days waiting for someone to be foolish enough to sit near them, aware of this manís insatiable lust for anything that was crafted in flesh.
Much as I hate the phrase Ďget a roomí, I was tempted to use it, or at least to say, ďGet a bit further down the not particularly busy platform.Ē
Luckily, as the pawing of my arm intensified, the train pulled into the station. I got up and moved towards it, but the amorous couple were too engrossed in each otherís mouths to move. They didnít seem interested in getting the train at all. I thought they were being foolhardy. They werenít on the ultra-efficient Victoria Line now. There wasnít another train directly behind this one. The next train could be 25 minutes.
Who knows how far they would have got (in sexual rather than geographical terms) by then. Though at least they would have a chance of seeing the Byker Grove bloke and possibly mistaking him for Leonardo di Caprio through the veil of each otherís spit and bodily juices.
I looked back to check I hadnít left anything on the seat and caught the manís eye. I could feel that my face had frozen into the mask of sour disapproval that is constantly frozen on the faces of many middle-class, middle-aged women.
I looked away, ashamed of my sub-conscious judgement (and jealousy).
Maybe I imagined it, but the train seemed to struggle to get going, but once we were beyond the gravitational pull of the loversí faces we shot off like a rocket.
I have a feeling the man on the platform was about to experience something similar.