on trains/

I spent 4 months of 2020 not taking public transport at all. No trains; although I saw them from my windows. And felt and heard them, lying in my bed.

It feels bizarre that a year ago, standing inches from a stranger, while another breathed into your neck was normal. It’s a thing that’s always blown my mind about London; how you can be in this crush of humans, and be so isolated simultaneously. A weird duality in our alien(ating) city.

The Tube / trains / public transport is generally is a good place to daydream (and I excel) or just be an observer (and I excel at this also).

One of my favourite Tube journeys is the Jubilee line section between Kilburn (where I lived 10 years ago) and Wembley Park. Looking left side out travelling North, I love seeing the blue, red and white reflection of the train snaking across the back windows of houses. Like an articulated toy snake, making its way through living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms uninvited.

Travelling in the opposite direction, one of my favourite views from the Jubilee line is the double “Man” tag on a red brick building just beyond Kilburn. It ends up reading “Man Man”, the name of one of my favourite bands when I still lived around there. The lyrics from Van Helsing Boombox always come into my head, passing that spot: “Only time will tell if I’ll allow / The scenery around to eat me alive”. I often thought the city would eat me alive when I first moved here. And somehow I’m still here.

In July I started to make the occasional journeys again; fatigued with the scenery around here. Worried that the sameness of months stuck in this particular corner of Zone 4 might eat me alive. (It might yet!) I still have to psych myself up for masked journeys, but it’s mostly been worthwhile. Escaping for half days into different corners of the city, and walking around streets I never have done with the camera. I probably spent more time seeing new things in London in the last few months, than in the last 5 years, because travelling out wasn’t an option. That’s not a bad thing.

I’m sure I’ve lost weeks of my life waiting for trains, and I loathe them for it, but I’ll hail them in 2020 as a means to escape. /

instrumental cover of Van Helsing Boombox by a friend

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