Monday 6 October 2008

Feels like home

Two years ago – remember that long hot summer we had? – I cursed the Metropolitan line. The weather was blistering and, because the tracks were melting, the trains had to go at snail’s pace through the boiling suburbs. The only ‘air-con’ on those creaking old carriages are the pull-down windows. If I was lucky and the train got up a bit of ‘lick’ a breath of air might just puff through the throng of passengers. But now – good news – Mayor Boris is going to gift us Metroland folk with brand new air-conditioned trains. And I’m feeling a little bit put-out.
Born and bred in Harrow and commuting for twenty-three (count them) years, I have a love-hate relationship with the Tube. Missing a train by seconds due to signal/points malfunction has me spitting with rage, but sometimes, seeing that familiar silver-grey train rumbling in to the platform exactly in synch with my travel plans, it’s like greeting a long lost friend.
The pleasingly retro maroon livery and the high-backed seats get me all misty-eyed; they are trapped in another era. Think between the wars, Brief Encounter and Betjeman. I love the way I can start my journey on the Met Line in the deepest rural Chilterns, stay on all the way to Liverpool Street and emerge where the city meets the East End and plunge straight down Petticoat Lane. Whether chugging through leafy Bucks, past the semis and back gardens of Harrow or over the high Kilburn viaduct where it seems the whole of London is laid before me, I feel comforted. I’m either on my way somewhere exciting (well, most often work, but then again my work is in London, the finest city in the world) or I am on my way home.
Thing is, I feel at home on the Metropolitan Line. Air-con comfort or not, I fear Boris’s new carriages will change all that.

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