Sunday, May 04, 2008

Black sabbath

Last night somebody suggested that Spitalfields Market was a good place to go on Sunday morning. Determined that I wouldn't spend the entire weekend indoors, I suggested to the CEO that we should make a visit. The CEO doesn't like going on the Tube any more than she has to and I plain refuse to take the car. You won't be coming back with the drunks, I argued. It's London on a Sunday morning. It'll be fine.

To no avail. Determined not to be faced down, I got up early this morning and said that if nobody was going to come with me I was going to go on my own. Which I did. I took the train and bus to Liverpool Street, wandered around Spitalfields and back through the City into Covent Garden and then got on the tube at Leicester Square, feeling slightly smug that I had gone out to enjoy This Great City Of Ours while my family were still under the duvet.

My smugness was soon punctured. Between Leicester Square and Kings Cross I was targeted by the most active and aggressive loon I have encountered in forty years of using London Transport - and I'm Big City blasé when it comes to the extremes of human behaviour. Presumably off his medication, this bloke wasn't just jabbering to himself. He was jabbering directly at me, loudly and unintelligibly. When I didn't look him in the eye he lunged across the carriage and put his face between me and my book. He was fairly big and a lot younger than me. He wasn't the sort of person you would expect to be carrying a knife but the casualty departments are full of people who are naive in this respect.

He bothered me. He was certainly bothering the six-year-old sitting with his mother a couple of seats away. Had the CEO been there he would have bothered her in a big way and she would never have got on a tube train outside the rush hour ever again. The whole incident probably lasted about three minutes but it felt like ten and it's not easy to shake off its effect. I believe it's known as "lowering one's scene".

I just got home. How did it go, they asked.

Oh, fine.


  1. Anonymous5:56 pm

    Exactly the sort of incident that my own CEO dreads and which makes her reluctant to travel into/around London at all let alone at night.

    Hopefully that's you had your "30-year gust" and you're not too spooked.

  2. Anonymous8:53 pm

    And that's the trouble with telling people to be green, leave your car behind, and take public transport. My parents, both pensioners, would never, ever take public transport precisely because they're convinced that something appalling would happen to them.

    I can't even drive, so I take public transport in London every day. I was mugged at knifepoint on the tube twenty years ago, nothing since, touch wood. It takes a while to get over it. I was nervous on the tube for a long time afterwards.


  3. don't worry boris will have a copper on every carriage and this sort of thing will be a thing of the past.Seriously sorry you had a shit journey

  4. Oh, please don't waste your sympathy on me. I reckon one aggressive loon in forty years is pretty good odds. How many people live in London? The overwhelming majority of them are perfectly civil. I don't see any regime that could be expected to do anything about the odd one who isn't. Mugging's a different thing altogether.

  5. I shared my - usually silent, commuter-filled - journey with a Electric Soup-swilling, ranting, sweating Scotsman the other morning. He wasn't threatening per se, but he did make every muscle tense in that carriage purely because his behaviour was so abnormal in that context. When he started talking about how he'd been in prison for decapitating the man who killed his sister (at a fairground, no less) I mentally applauded his move into hilarious self-parody.

  6. Danny Baker had a recent caller who said he'd been on the tube when a 'hard looking bloke' started to make a roll-up. He finished it, flicked his lighter on & then faced down all the disapproving starers by pulling out a cardboard bog roll cylinder from his pocket, aiming it at them, one by one and making a trigger-pulling motion with his fingers. No-one said anything. When the caller got off, the nut said to him, "didn't fool you mate, did I?".
    Danny asked him why - "cos I'm an ex-boxer" was the answer.