The tube celebrated 150 years in January 2013. And much has been and will be said about it. Andrew Martin has a lovely book– Underground, Overground: A Passenger's History of the Tube. And here's one person's personal tribute to the Underground: 150 great things about the Underground (from design to objects to sights and sounds; it is pretty much all in there). (Edit: John Lanchester Rides the Underground– the comments are worth reading too.)It's impossible to imagine London without the Underground. In fact, the trains make the city accessible, not just by making it possible to travel anywhere without dealing with traffic jams, but also because a train carriage is a microcosm of London itself. The city comes together on the trains; people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and nationalities share the same carriage. And if one travels long enough one can see much of London life played out between the stations.* Or come upon something as fragile and rare as "a smile's costless revelry".**
For me personally, the Tube is about more than getting from point A to B. Mostly about simple pleasures like noting what people are reading, though due to most reading being done on e-readers now, this will soon become a lost pleasure– however, it was a moment to remember when nearly half the people in the carriage were reading the last Harry Potter book. The 'public' signage and the station announcements can sometimes say more about the 'Tube experience' than any article or book.
And the unexpected pleasure of being greeted by a new Poem on the Underground. Yesterday, I had that pleasure twice.
|*Stations by Connie Bensley|
|**Barter by Nii Ayikwei Parkes|