I have been in London this week. Even though I lived here many years ago, I am always astounded by the sheer number of people that there are, and not just in rush hour. Mind you, at those points in the day the city almost stops functioning.
When I was here at the end of last year I stayed with a friend in Balham. In the morning the local underground station put out an announcement as I arrived to say that there was no service on the legendary (not in a good way) Northern Line.
Luckily there is also an overground line at Balham on which I could also use my Oyster Card – a much better way of pre-paying for public transport than we have in the Capital, may I add.
However, on arrival at Victoria station I headed over in order to attempt to venture underground once again. This time the actual gates at the entrance were closed as there were too many people inside.
As the crowds built up, people began to push and shove in their desire to arrive at work on time. It was a tad scary to say the least. I envisaged a great tsunami of commuters tumbling down the steps when the gates reopened with many (me included of course) being trampled underfoot.
On the way home I experienced the same at Oxford Circus at 5pm as the same people were desperate to get home. We all stood outside the station at Britain’s best known shopping street; I needed to catch a plane so holding back wasn’t an option. Apart from me, no-one seemed to be panicking as it was just a normal journey home.
The whole experience did ram home the saying that “London is for the young or the rich”. The former don’t countenance fear and the latter don’t take public transport.
Samuel Johnson said that “when you tire of London you tire of life”, although I reckon it was easier to get around this metropolis 250 years ago by horse and carriage. In the meantime I’m happy to go by Shanks’s Pony in Edinburgh.