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Friday, 22 January 2010

My Morning as a Time Traveller

The District Line into South Kensington was cancelled this morning because of a powercut, so I was wondering how on earth I was going to get into work. I had to go to Waterloo and take the Jubilee line and change to the Circle line at Westminster - I've never been to Westminster station or taken the Jubilee line before but oh my GOD this morning was a weird experience - London tubes are pretty much identical - kinda grubby tunnels with billboards plastered on the opposite side of the tracks with grubby white tiles going up the passenger side of the wall and across half the ceiling with some more posters and maybe a tube map or something up there too. Rows of identical looking people lined up, crowded along the platform all pushing to get on first.

The jubilee line was almost deserted. It is a maze of connecting tunnels that are lined floor to ceiling with grey things that look like speakers/subwoofers. They're all identical, bright strip lighting overhead and then you pop out into these big open spaces with aluminium tread plate underfoot and Huge metal pipes running overhead. Some long tunnels have travellators, again, it's all silver/grey and glass with strange lighting, and then the platforms themselves you have a sheet of glass blocking off the tracks from the platform with sliding doors which hiss open when the train arrives and you have to step down into the train, which I've never had to do before. Then out at Westminster and it seems to never end. I had to get up onto the Westbound circle/district line platform and there were all these people dressed in black marching past me like I'd been catapaulted through a time portal into some surrel futuristic ant colony or something and I seemed to be the only person who didn't know where I was going and looking around taking it all in - going up about four silver and glass escalators with little portals of light coming through the sides, again massive tunnels and tubes suspended from the ceiling... it was like walking into a Zamyatin novel or the set of Metropolis or something.

Dave Cole sums it up far more succinctly than me in his blog:

'Westminster tube is, for my money, the least human station on the underground.
The exposed steel and concrete, marked in places by damp and leaks, gives you
the feeling, if you go down its great maw towards the Jubilee line platforms in
the early morning, of the human race having become troglodytes after the surface
was rendered uninhabitable. It feels like a post-apocalyptic industrial complex
built for an army of workers that are turning to dust somewhere. Clearly, it is
designed to handle a large throughput of passengers but its open galleries,
sheer drops and inhumanly large scale mean that, except during the busiest
periods, you feel as if you’re on a Ridley Scott movie set. It is a vertiginous,
agoraphobia-inducing and ugly building that makes us feel like ants in a giant
formicarium and not people.'

At least I can't complain that my commute in was boring this morning.

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