I was a really good neighbour over the holidays and took my kids out LOADS to give next door a break from all the SCREAMING AND INCREDIBLY LOUD SHOUTING. One of those places, was London.
London. Growing up on the Isle of Wight in the 1980′s I always had a big fear of London. It was a long way away, and was full of IRA terrorists wanting to blow us up, according to my mum. The two words become synonymous. London = IRA.
“Mum! School want to take us on a trip! To L-”
“Oh God! Not London! The IRA are in London!”
“No, to Lake Beach on a geography field trip”.
It was a very, very rare thing to go to London if you lived in our house. A car trip, a ferry, a train ride, LONDON AND THE IRA and then the train ride, a ferry and a car trip home. To safety. No IRA on the Isle of Wight. Just regular nutjobs and murderers.
And still to this day, London makes me a bit scared. It’s overwhelming and my DNA is screaming at me to AVOID ALL SUSPICIOUS PACKAGES AND SUSPICIOUS MEN WITH ACCENTS (which is tricky in multicultural London).
But by far my biggest fear of London is the tube.
(FYI - I am fully aware that I don’t come off well in this post at all. And by “not coming off well” I mean, “seemingly not healthy in the head”.)
This post is about urges on the underground. “They” (*whispers and looks from side to side* referring to ”The Government”) may harbour concerns over people protesting about about HS2 (and we really should – it goes super near my house…in fact the 2nd proposed route goes through my house) but they should really be worried about the underground. A lot of nutters on the tube. And I should know. I mean, yes, the underground train system is a marvellous and incredible example of industrial architecture and planning (yadda yadda yadda), yes it gets people from their hiked up prices and over inflated homes in the commuter belt to gigs in terrifying Camden (Camden Town always makes me feel like I have stepped in to the opening credits of “The Lost Boys” where that lady kisses a rat).
I don’t care if every seat has 30 different kinds of sperm on it, and that someone with the norovirus fell against the holding pole in an exhausted, vomitty delirium (shocked that me, germ freak, doesn’t care about this infection cocktail spurted over a hurtling tin can in a tunnel? Oh, it’s because I don’t touch anything. I have the thigh muscles of a cart horse and the balance of a circus freak on the tube). What terrifies me is the seemingly normal looking people. Like myself. Those who seem rational but actually aren’t.
I panic about death on the underground. I get “the urge” whilst waiting for the tube. I get the urge, to you know, throw myself under it.
CALM DOWN. I don’t mean I am actually going to throw myself under a train (I never will. I have a deep memory of being told at school about how you fry on the lines before a train gets you and you poo yourself. Embarrassing). But it’s the urge, the question bubbling away in my brain of
“Oooooh, what would happen if?”
It’s the same urge that I used to get in school assemblies when the headmaster was talking, of wanting to stand up and shout really, really loudly
and I had to actually physically force my body down. You know? Or like at weddings when I just get an overwhelming urge to stand up and start show-tune singing loudly during the religious speaky bits.
“PLEASE DON’T MARRY THIS TOSSSSS-EEEEER! HE’S A MEAN LITTLE PRIIIIIIIIICCCCK!”
Or sing the Grease Medley.
I am not going to do these things, OBVIOUSLY (please invite me to your weddings and social functions), but it is there, in my head, egging me on.
I was talking to a friend recently, about the trials and tribulations of commuting in to London - the sweltering heat and suppressing humidity on the trains, the stinky sweaty armpits of strangers in your face, the miserable bastarding faces trying not to stare at you… and I brought up how I can barely cope with bi-quarterly trips in to the city because of, you know, ”the urge” and how did he manage to control “the urge” on a daily basis.
He looked at me like I was insane.
“You want to throw yourself on the train lines?! You want to throw yourself under a speeding train?!”
I guess he doesn’t ever have “the urge” then…
“No of course not! I just get the urge to do it”
“You get the urge to kill yourself on the underground?!”
Ugh. Why wasn’t he listening to what I was saying?
“No, it’s like when you want to stand up at a wedding and swear”
“You want to ruin someone’s wedding?!”
Yeah. I may be losing a friend here…
And so I try to claw back his respect but just end up digging my hole deeper;
“But it gets worse! I mean, do other people get this urge? What if someone as mental as me also gets the urge to push someone on to the tracks?!”
And then suddenly the kids’ football coach blew his whistle and it was time to go and my friend ran away, his car tyres screeching as he exited the carpark.
Huh. I know I am not alone, drunken conversations with one friend revealed to me he stands with one foot at an angle to his other in case someone pushes him from behind. Should this happen he may stumble a step but he would survive, and not fall to a sizzling, body popping, bowel-leaking death.
The next week, at football, I caught up with the friend who had been horrified when I told him about my urges. He had a slightly manic looks in his eyes and he seemed on edge.
“I’ve caught “The Urge!” he said ”It’s all I could think about every day on the underground this week! I stood at the back by the wall! For ages! I kept missing trains! But all I could think about was how the platform was essentially a “Penny Shuffle” machine in an arcade. A gentle shove at the back shuffles the people forward until one plops over the edge. It’s like a game! A sick game!”.
He may have been in distress but I was thrilled! I was not the craziest person anymore. Together, we decided that this would be an excellent name for a serial killer – The Penny Shuffler. And attributed him a theme song – “Everyday I’m shuffling” by LMFAO. Not that we condone serial killers. OBVIOUSLY. They are terrible and need dealing with.