Ghosts on the Underground
These days I find, somewhat to my surprise, I have a deep connection with London, and particularly the Tube. It features both love and hate, a suck me in yet spit me out tension, but because I travel on it so infrequently these days, I am more aware of the memories that haunt its subterranean tunnels and chambers. It’s a place where the old and the new, the dead and the living, the fleet and the sloth, are shaken together in an overwhelming sense overload.
It’s a place where chasms open up under your feet ready to swallow you whole; where you can be pulled asunder by fellow man if you founder on rocks between the torrents raging in opposite directions. Keep left, stay right, flow up, flood down…
In the hallowed passenger halls I see apparitions of savage men in bowler hats: tap, tap, tap on the new butter cream tiles. They have room to move and leap and whirl before swinging their briefcases round in a final self-satisfied pas de deux, and boarding the train home to leaden-footed suburban wives in aprons.
Swivelling, they vanish and I am trampled underfoot by consumers travelling home from the decked emporia that ejaculate premature West End festive commerce over the face of the city. The bowler hats need to keep moving, like sharks, and the shoppers are Munchian Workers Returning Home.
Work as death and shopping as work.
There’s a link here to a photographic exhibition from the summer, marking the Underground’s 150th anniversary. The artist is Yangchen Lin. It’s good stuff – I have an idea of my own that I will get around to some day…