This week saw the first in a new series of Tube strikes in London, with the local and national press reporting on the ‘misery’ of commuters*. Although some people may have encountered long and uncomfortable commutes in order to get to a workplace where an unsympathetic employer disapproved of their tardiness, it’s a bit of a stretch to refer to that handful of journeys as misery. In fact, many commuters took this as an opportunity to walk for some (or all) of their journey and see a side of London that might usually pass them by. I was one of those people.
On the first day of the strike, I headed to work as usual but was unaware that the station I planned to disembark at was closed. Once I discovered this, I swiftly planned a detour which, to my surprise, ended up being slightly quicker than my usual route. On my way home, I took one look at the crowds outside Oxford Circus station and decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time – walk to Charing Cross to get a mainline train.
Despite the need for a fair bit of tourist dodging in order to keep up a decent pace, I thorougly enjoyed that walk. I went down Carnaby Street and then wandered through Soho, somehow managing to come out at the top of Haymarket and therefore missing out on the ‘joys’ of Piccadilly Circus. The highlight was, of course, wandering through Trafalgar Square in the golden hour – something that not even a terrible street performer dressed as Spiderman could ruin. Overlooked by the National Gallery, Nelson’s Column and the large blue cock which currently stands on the fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square is a great place to take a small step back from the everyday and look at life from a different perspective. I live in a wonderful city with inspirational buildings and an iconic public transport network – from the Tube roundel to the new Routemaster bus (see above), you’ve got to admit that London cuts a dash like no other city does. Although we may be inconvenienced by the occasional strike or the weekend engineering works, public transport in London is pretty damn amazing. It’s nice to be reminded once in a while of just how good some of the things we take for granted really are.
*It wasn’t just the press using wildly inappropriate terms to discribe the recent RMT industrial action though. Our Prime Minister did too. I couldn’t have put it better than Andy Nyman, who tweeted: Cameron says the tube strike is “unacceptable”. It isn’t, it’s inconvenient. What is unacceptable is the Tory’s valuing profit over health.