It was over a year ago that as a new resident to the city of London, as yet untouched by the entrenched cynicism of this fair city, that I sat on a train on the way to work, amid the throng of sour-faced commuters and disorientated tourists. It was at a time when I was still riding high on a wave of excitement at having moved to the capital city, and I scoffed at the evident bitterness and misery which painted itself over each passenger’s face as they made their way to work. As my train approached London Bridge, where I was due to change for the last leg of my journey, it began to slow down until it reached a screeching halt, and a bored and sombre voice came over the tannoy announcing, “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is the train from Sydenham to London Bridge, calling at Forest Hill, Brockley, New Cross Gate and London Bridge. This train will be temporarily held at a red signal due to an unforseen fatality on the line”.
I couldn’t believe the off-handed manner with which the driver explained the delay, unemotionally and dispassionately spitting out the facts as if to curse the deceased’s selfish act of suicide. The news barely registered amongst my fellow travellers, unable to rench their eyes from the celebrity drivel between the pages of their free morning paper. This was clearly something the people of London were used to. And ‘unforseen’, some of them seemed to be tutting. Bloody hell, TFL need to sort their act out don’t they? Why didn’t they predict that someone would throw themselves in front of the train? Honestly.
Anyway it stuck with me. That selfish bastard throwing himself on the tracks, before any of the good people on the train could even have their morning coffee. I soon caught on and realised that it must just be a trait of being a Londoner to display dislike and annoyance towards anyone else but yourself.
Now, sometimes I have to resist the pull at my ankle as London tries to drag me down to similar levels of cynicism and callous disinterest (because at times you can find yourself sliding), but there seems to be no standard, comparison or scale of compassion that makes sense. I must have my values upside down, because it was while travelling south on the Northern Line this week that my train was once again halted by the familiar announcement of ‘this train will be temporarily held at the station…’, only this time it was followed by the tearful lament ‘due to an injured fox on the line at Goodge Street’. The carriage was in uproar. There were cries of “Oh nooo!” as passengers glanced over at each other to give one another emotional support. Who cares how late you are for work at a time like this! Has Boris Johnson been informed? One lady sitting opposite me seemed close to tears and I half expected her to raise her fists up to the sky (well the ceiling of our encased metal shuttle) and shout “WHY!!!!!!”. God can’t hear you now woman. There’s nothing left in this world. We’re doomed.
Maybe I’ve missed the point. Or maybe London has adopted a new code of conduct with a new heartfelt benevolent attitude to all living things. But I mean come off it! After all we are Londoners! Aren’t we supposed to stand screaming and jeering at the windows, egging the driver on so he drives faster before the injured animal gets a chance to crawl off the tracks?
Clearly I have missed the point.
But one question remains. How did a fox get down to the tracks without an oyster card anyway? At a time like this when security is paramount. Perhaps the fox had had enough of it all as well.
Its a hard city to live in even for a fox.