Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tube analysis

Thought my London readers might enjoy this passage from David Mitchell's excellent Ghostwritten, which I finished at the weekend. So here it is.

As the fine denizens of London town know, each tube line has a distinct personality and range of mood swings. The Victoria Line, for example, breezy and reliable. The Jubilee Line, the young disappointment of the family, branching out to the suburbs, eternally having extensions planned, twisting round to Greenwich, and back under the river out east somewhere. The District and Circle Line, well, even Death would rather fork out for a taxi if he’s in a hurry. Crammed with commuters for King’s Cross or Paddington, and crammed with museum-bound tourists who don’t know the craftier short-cuts, it's as bad as how I remember Tokyo. I had a professor once who asked us to prove that the Circle Line really does go in a circle. Nobody could. I was dead impressed at the time. Now what impresses me is that he'd persuaded someone to pay him to come up with that sort of tosh. Docklands Light Railway, the noveau riche neighbour, with its Prince Regent, West India Quay and its Gallions Reach and its Royal Albert. Stentorian Piccadilly wouldn’t approve of such artyfartyness, and nor would his twin uncle, Bakerloo. Central, the middle-aged cousin, matter-of-fact, direct, no forking off or going the long way round. That's about it for the main lines, except the Metropolitan which is too boring to mention, except that it’s a nice fuschia colour and you take it to visit the dying.

11 comments:

Phu said...

Surely the Northern line deserves a mention? Not sure where it fits into the family tree, but I know it can be a bit gloomy. I've often heard it berated as the worst line.

Personally, I think that accolade goes to the Central, bloody hate it. It's always absolutely rammed when I get it from Stratford to Tottenham Court Road.

Will said...

Actually, he does go on to mention it, but I thought that would make the post too long, so I didn't bother. I'll comment in the quote for you later Phu...

Will said...

"The Northern Line is black on the maps. It's the deepest. It has the most suicides, you're most likely to get mugged on it, and its art students are most likely to be future Bond Girls. There's something doom laden about the Northern Line. Its station names: Morden, Brent Cross, Goodge Street, Archway, Elephant and Castle, the resurrected Mornington Crescent. It was closed for years, I remember imagining I was on a probe peering into the Titanic as the train passed through. Yep, the Northern Line is the psycho of the family. Those bare-walled stations south of the Thames that can't attract advertisers. Not even stair-lift manufacturers will advertise in Kennington Tube Station. I've never been to Kennington but if I did I bet there'd be nothing but run-down fifties housing blocks, closed-down bingo halls and a used-car place where tatty plastic banners fluppetty-flup in the homeless wind. The sort of place where bets-forgotten films starring British rock stars as working-class anti-heroes are set. There but for the grace of my credit cards go I.

"London is a language. I guess all places are."

Phu said...

LOL - thanks Will.

The attack on Kennington was a bit unfair.

Poor old South London, we get a bad rep.

jpt said...

While we're on a tube line theme, I was set 2 problems yesterday that I thought you might enjoy... (without cheating):

There is only one tube station whose name does not contain any of the letters in the word 'Mackerel'. Which is it?

Second, which is the only London tube station to also be the name of a metro station in Paris?

If it takes you more than 20 minutes, you've been taking too many cabs...

Will said...

I have no idea about either, however, one more:

Which tube station's name contains all five vowels?

Phu said...

five vowels - south ealing

the mackerel one - no idea

Phu said...

I just finished Cloud Atlas as it goes, really good.

Will said...

He's the best new writer around. So inventive. Try #9Dream, it's awesome. And then Ghostwritten. The new one, Black Swan Green, I can see getting on this year's Booker shortlist, as it's very good - though I doubt it'll win as it's not as showy as Atlas (unlike all the others, it pretty much sticks to one genre and style).

PS Nice one with South Ealing. I actually thought Mansion House was the only one...

jpt said...

The mackerel answer is St. John's Wood.

The London/Paris one is Temple.

Phu said...

I'm gonna pass the second hand book shop in a mintue, where they always seem to have really good titles, it's where I got Atlas. I'll have to pop in and have a gander for the others.