Things I like part two - the Metro

Once upon a time - in what now seems like a different life - I lived in London. For five years, in fact. Considering I've now been in Spain for six, the actual time I spent in the wicked city seems so disproportionate to the importance I put on it, and the way I still look at it as one of the defining periods of my life.

I arrived thinking I'd discovered the centre of the universe. It was a big fat "hooray" with a side helping of "yippee". I couldn't imagine living anywhere else, ever. Yet five years later I crawled away on my hands and knees.

One of the many things I was pleased to see the back of was the Tube. Something which seemed so cool and sophisticated when I first staggered off the train from Durham - "Wow, it runs every two minutes?" - but soon started to turn into the annoying friend who you think has got your back, but is actually - via a series of clever put downs - slowly eroding your self confidence.

It's zombie central in the morning. You try to avoid eye contact, and keep your face out of dangerously close armpits. If it's rush hour you're packed in like sardines, and it's so small you can almost feel the rounded walls closing in on you. Is that guy deliberately brushing up against you? should you say something and risk getting stabbed?

If you do manage to fight your way to one of the scratchy, carpeted seats - you have trouble trying not to think about the story which details what was found by a group of scientists when they took one of the seats away to be analyzed.

The blood of 10 different people, urine of as many, ditto sperm. Oh and two dead rats. It might be an urban myth, but it's something nice to think about when you accidentally touch the carpet.

Oh yeah, and that's not counting the nutters, the alkies, the flashers you might be lucky enough to meet, either on the trains themselves or in a semi-deserted station near the end of the line. and don't even get me started on the people who try to get on the train as soon as the doors open, before you've even got off. Is it any wonder you want to kill that posh bird who tells you to "please mind the gap between the station and the platform"?

So what's different about the Metro, you may ask. Surely the Metro has the potential for all of the above things. (Apart from the carpet filth, that is - the seats are made of plastic.)

And yes, perhaps it does. Perhaps I'm just lucky that I don't travel at rush hour. And maybe I've just been lucky in avoiding the gropers and nutters. But I genuinely like the Madrid metro. Would even, at the risk of being called a saddo, admit to being a bit proud of it.

It's so spacious and clean. No dust. No litter. impossible to play 'spot the rat' here. Not even the sniff of a mouse (though i did once see a boy with a hamster on his head). Yes there are beggars and buskers, but they're not in your face. Some play the pan pipes, one old guy even sells his poems.

And it's so cheap. 46 Euros for an abono - your monthly travelcard. I have no idea how much they are in London these days, but I'm guessing they're not that cheap (even with this new fangled Oyster card thing).

Far from busying themselves looking at the floor, people on the Metro openly stare at each other. It's something you'll soon find yourself joining in with. Whatever my obsession of the moment is, i find myself checking it out on other people. If i hate my toenails, i'll check out other people's manicures. I'm thinking of changing my hairstyle, so i'l look at all the other barnets in the carriage, and give them marks out of ten. I'll look over people's shoulders and read their book with them, their revision notes, the minutes from their meeting. Everything is public property on the metro, as far as the eyes are concerned.

The thieves would take it further, though - to them, your possessions are also up for grabs. And in fact i've had my wallet lifted, but not even that put me off. In fact, the security guards saw the theft happen and apprehended the robbing little cabron before he could leave the station. I got my wallet and all its contents returned to me. When does that ever happen?

But really, why do I like the Metro so much? Perhaps if i really sit and think about it, it has much to do with where it takes me. In the morning it delivers me to a job I love. In the evenings it drops me off to a home where I am genuinely happy or to see my friends, always so full of fun. Could it be the contented thoughts have just filtered back in a pavlovian way?


  1. I pay £30.20 a WEEK to use the tube. A week! It's £4 a single, I think. Give me the metro any day of the week. (Though Juan's week has been ruined by the huelga..!) Love Al xxx

  2. I want your life, Kath!

  3. T That is fantastic!! The Metro in Rome is not that nice. It's actually a little frightening. I have accidentally smelled many an armpit. I always am shifting my head and eyes looking for those little thieves.

    The metro in Los Angeles is very nice. Very clean and never very crowded. I have never been packed like a tin of sardines. There is some colorful graffiti, but I don't understand it so I pretend that I am in a fast moving modern museum.

    Ciao Seamus

  4. I have never been on the Madrid metro.. I have been however on the Newcastle Metro. I never go on the underground anymore, we were discussing this yesterday, I prefer to cab it or walk.. I am terrified of being trapped below ground and after the July bombings it is something I prefer to miss xx

  5. Al, that's outrageous!

    Seamus - I didn't know LA had a metro? Obvious really though, i guess most big cities in the US have one.

    Liz - all you have to do is move to Spain!

    Wildernesschic - I've been on the newcastle metro too! About 115 years ago though. we are talking about newcastle, Northern England, aren't we? x

  6. Yes Geordie land .. this was my second home from about 17 -22 my best friend lived in Whitley bay :0

  7. I was in Clapham last week on the overground and on a very packed train. I had to hold onto one of those straps that hang from the ceiling (yuck). I aways carry that hand wash stuff in my bag so as soon as I got off the train I pour some on my grubby mitts. I swear I could hear it fizzing as it was killing the germs on my hands.

  8. I lived in London for a year and loved it. I now take the subway here in NYC and I always wear my classic Wayfarer Ray Ban sunglasses while riding even at night.
    They allow me to fix my gaze unnoticed on anyone or anything I like, they also hide fear which is easily read through the eyes.
    I once saw a man eat a stick of butter on the subway, he peeled the wrapping back and ate it like a banana. Yes, I wear sunglasses underground..
    X David, NYC

  9. David - a stick of butter? that's wild! welcome to my blog btw, and thanks for commenting.