I’m late. I’m on my way to podcamp uk in Birmingham but forgot that the Victoria line is subject to many and various improvements. This was my first mistake of the day. I think. Maybe I made some others before that, but if I did, their consequences haven’t come home to me yet.
So I waited patiently for the replacement bus service. Watching the thin clouds roll by over Pimlico Tube Station and being patient. The woman next to me suddenly shrieked at the man over the road “Is the bus coming today then?” He smiled, “To Victoria? Yes.” “Not tomorrow then” she muttered. By the time it arrived there were five or six of us. Two hipsters who had probably been up all night assumed their place at the front of the queue, just behind the shrieking woman. A west-end cosmetics sales girl joined me in silent acceptance, and I went upstairs.
I thought as we made our way up Belgrave Road that at least the bus wouldn’t be stopping at every stop along the way, that perhaps the bus would be quicker than the tube with not having to go up and down escalators. I gave inner thanks when the grumblers grumbled their way down the stairs while the driver took a convoluted way into Victoria bus station and pulled out my phone to twitter:
“Late already on my way to podcampuk, forgot that victoria line is down. Oh well, sun is shining & i’m on the bus :)”
Considering while I did so whether to make that #podcampuk or whether it should start #podcampuk or whether that was the right tag to use anyway. Then I realised that I’d made my second mistake of the day almost immediately after coming to terms with my first. I had assumed that the bus would be covering the whole of the Victoria Line but it turned out that only Brixton to Victoria was down and so the bus was shuttling between. I asked out loud but no-one on the upper deck seemed to understand English except a kind German, possibly Austrian or Czech guy who said “No, we go now to Brixton” as we whistled down Vauxhall Bridge Road. So…when…was.. he going to…. turn off… to Pimlico? Err… at the junction with Grosvenor Road? At which point all the folk who had secretly been glad that we’d missed out a station started getting shouty. “WTF! I’m already late” announced one particularly loud African behind me and all I could do was laugh. We were going back almost exactly to where I had started. A return to Pimlico station wasn’t good enough, we were going to get there by going past my front door. The driver, clearly lost, turned into A. Street and, realising his mistake, started to reverse back onto Grosvenor Road and retraced his route. Rumbling and grumbling came from upstairs. The one-way system around Pimlico tube meant that he had to go all the way up to Warwick Way (he put his foot down) while the Polish builders and early-bird travellers of many other nationalities shouted at him that he didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing. They’d tell him the way, they said. He tried to explain that the signs were not in place, and that the route was always changing, but quickly settled down to: “Yes, I know, I’m wrong, I made a mistake, I apologise” The best form of defence is surrender. I hopped off when we arrived at Pimlico and dashed across the road to get on the next one going back to Victoria. We went straight up Belgrave Road. The NAO clock said 07.05 and my train had just left Euston at 07.00
At Victoria I approached a pair of men in Underground vests marked “Happy to Help” – happy perhaps but sadly unable to help in English. I realised that actually I just wanted to talk to someone to explain what had just happened to me, perhaps admit my mistake, have a laugh about it. But no, I just got advice that the No. 73 goes to Euston. I could have made myself later by insisting on having the conversation I wanted but perhaps it was best to just go downstairs and get on a train.
Finally sitting on a tube, I watched a crowd of 19-year-olds (eek! maybe younger!) wandering in a substance-related haze, shouting at each other trying to find the way out. Times have changed. When I were a lad none of us would have been anywhere near as chatty – our drugs were depressants. We had just as late nights, but not nearly such noisy mornings.
Euston at 07.28 – next train to Birmingham at 08.17 so time for an overpriced Americano in Caffe Ritazza (where I wrote the bulk of this) before squeezing into a second class seat (where I wrote the rest) with handy access to screaming toddlers, tutting pensioners, a lady knitting a lilac cardi sleeve and chatty sub-sloane gels with their arses hanging out of their jeans.