Sue and I found ourselves at Edgware Road tube station, wanting to get a Circle or District line train to Kensington High Street. We were competely ‘huh?ed’. There were no clear signs at all. A train came in, saying Wimbledon. Regardless of the fact that it looked to be facing the wrong way, we got on. “All change” came the announcement. “Huh?” we said again. A few minutes later, a man got on the train and positioned himself leaning on the door. We went to ask him. He explained that this station is the end of the District line, so that trains turn and go back from there, and that any train might arrive at any platform at any time – the trick is to watch the notice board and belt to the platform where a desired train is arriving.
He was a lovely bloke. He was about to start a new job and had an appointment with his new boss, whom he hadn’t yet met, at 11 o’clock. He said he had (though not recently) used this station for five years and it was the most entertaining, because the most bewildering, one he knew. After a few minutes, we understood. I’ve not seen so many puzzled passengers for a long time. He cheerfully explained the rules to a young American and a young *provincial Englander* (we were middle-aged rusticarian Englanders). I said we would follow him wherever he led. Until we arrived at Ken Hi St, of course.
Our meeting was fine, though the questions at the end were dullness personified and, after a bit of growling, we left a few minutes earlier than we actually needed to.
On the way back, there was one spare seat. Sue offered it to me, I insisted she took it. She sat down and then offered to take my bag. As I passed it to her, the lovely man next to her (god i feel old) stood up and offered me his seat. Yes, on the London Underground, a 40-something (young face, greying hair, I’m assuming) man offered an able-bodied if middle-aged woman his seat. I politely demurred, he politely assured me his was the next stop and I sat down. Sue and I agreed that we love men. Men are so delightful.
And how can anyone say that Londoners don’t have time to be friendly? They are always charming to me.