Don’t Talk on The Tube!

It is an unwritten, or more precisely, an unspoken rule, known instinctively to all Londoners.

As paramount to survival in the great metropolis as never waiting for the lights to change at a zebra crossing. As infamous as the knowledge that you are never more than 300ft from a Pret A Manger. As dependable as the unsmiling face of the barista who serves you your morning coffee.

You don’t talk on the Tube.

The London Underground is a peculiar environment, the commuter’s sanatorium. Suits and Backpackers metonymically mingle here, on the great equaliser of Public Transport.

The chaos of the station platform billows through the sliding doors and is hushed.

London delights in its ambivalence, its ambiguity, its contradiction. The chaos and the hush.

I am not a native Londoner, but I go in and out of the city enough to know how it works. I obey the rules. I stand on the right of the escalator, and when someone stands on the left when I’m in a rush, I tell them where to go. But one day, when a friendly Northerner sat down next to me and struck up a conversation, I couldn’t give him the cold shoulder. He needed someone to explain the rules to him, someone to bring him into the fold.

Northern Guy: “So, where you going today?”No Talking

Me: “On my way home.”

Northern Guy: “Ah ok. So is it always like this? People don’t talk to each other in London?”

Me: “No mate, people don’t talk on the Tube.”

Northern Guy: “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m from Leeds, ya see.”

Me: “It’s fine, you weren’t to know.”


Of course I did this without making eye contact with him. That’s a rule I’m not willing to compromise on.

There is only one instance in which discussion is acceptable: transport delays. The horror of your train screeching to a halt, then the tell-tale crackle of the speakers…

The echoing muffle of the train attendant through the overhead speakers – incomprehensible to the average human – will drag the quietest of carriages into audible grumbles. This is the signal to look up from your LCD screen or paperback book, emit a murmured curse and make eye contact with another disgruntled commuter.

This announcement is permission, nay, an invitation to make acquaintance with your fellow travellers, through mutual exasperation. Because, although we all abide by the Unspoken Rule, the truth is, many of us wish we could be like the Northern Guy. We wish we could make friends with the people we are sardined in with. But Heaven forfend anyone who causes a delay.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must get to his meeting on time. If Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy were to run up to the closing doors of a Bakerloo Line train at Piccadilly Circus, he would definitely be one of those arrogant wankers who uses their briefcase to keep the doors from closing. And our modern-day Lizzie, already sat demurely in the carriage, would be righteously pointing out his solipsism to her giggling companion, as they shuttled towards Charing Cross.

Of course this is only fiction.

People don’t giggle on the Tube.


En Route to The Big Apple: This is your Captain Speaking…

It was all going swimmingly: luggage within weight limit, ESTA approved, breezed through security without a hitch, arrived at the departure gate, queued, boarded, and then…

“Ladies and gentleman, this is your captain speaking. I’m sorry to announce that we are being held at the gate by air traffic control due to weather conditions. There is a storm in our departure path and we may be held up to 90 minutes. That’s an hour and a half. We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and co-operation.”

A couple of observations: firstly, how all customer announcements include a final comment where-in one’s “patience and co-operation” are a forgone conclusion; secondly, the need to clarify that 90 minutes equals an hour and a half, and that while the mention of the former incurs a low grumble from a small portion of the passengers, the latter is the one that carries the rest into realisation.

About 15 minutes later:

“Blah blah this is your captain blah blah. Just to update you, err… so… we still haven’t heard anything else back from control, so, err… we know as much as you do, so, err… Sorry folks, we’ll keep you posted.”

This is as close to verbatim as I can manage and I assure you I am not exaggerating on the number of “so err’s” that were heard over the tannoy. Hardly a reassuring sound, particularly when coupled with a Southern drawl that really drags out the vowels. So, 90 minutes to waste. What to do… My mp3 – yes, I still use an mp3 – has crapped out on me and the Kindle is without sufficient reading material. Technology has failed me, back to the basics: pen and paper. Time to write a blog!

This is my first solo journey outside of the UK. Well, I say solo, but I’m staying with my uncle in New York. Well, I say uncle, but he’s really an oversized man-child with a bank account. Anyway, essentially my first solo trip and the first time I’ve had to actually organize myself and there is really a lot of administration involved in this holiday business. Firstly, book the flights, scour discount websites, debate seating options etc. Then acquire an ESTA so I can legally enter the country. Then there’s travel insurance, gadget insurance, travel-gadget insurance. Flight itinerary, e-receipt, passport, insurance policy – I need a lever-arch just for my travel documents!

And packing is a palaver too. Only 100ml bottles and only 850ml in total. No aerosols, exotic fruits or fireworks – bit excessive really. Make sure all your electrical devices are charged so they can check they aren’t bomb timers or porn hubs. And what counts as a sharp object these days? Will the plug on my laptop charger upset the x-ray scanners? My notebook has a metal ring binder that could potentially be fashioned into a weapon. Security restrictions suddenly make me paranoid about every item with the slightest hint of mental in my luggage and on my person. It turns out that, of course, I was worrying for no reason and came through security unscathed and unfondled. This may have something to do with being white, female, English and distinctly middle class. But then perhaps I’m being cynical.

Beyond security, however, lies a magical land. A glittering sign greets me as I enter departures: World Duty Free. The fluorescents sparkle just a little brighter here and the air is filled with the scent of discount eau de toilette. From my experience, there are two items you will find in abundance in any duty free zone: perfume and Toblerone. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because the mark-up on these items is the most ridiculous. After all, how much can it really cost to produce aromatic water and prism shaped chocolate? International and tax-free, I am nowhere and everywhere, just on the cusp of adventure. (I may be romanticising the situation slightly.)

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Silliness with a Hint of Genius

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: a month wherein an entire city is transformed into a performer’s playground.  Any and every free space in which an audience can be squeezed, will be squeezed. Magic, performance art, circus acts, dance, music, theatre, comedy… basically, much like Rule 34, if something exists, there will be somewhere to see it in Edinburgh.

Besides being the biggest arts festival in the world, it is also the festival of needless accessories, vibrant hairstyles and one too many piercings. If you’ve ever tried to spot an arts student on a university campus, you’ll know the kind of fashion choices I mean. It’s the kind of fashion choice that screams “I’m quirky, deal with it! And I don’t care that my interesting accessory is by all counts more of a hindrance to everyday life than it is visually appealing!” (NB: I am in no way exempting myself from this. I love a good hat.) The Fringe represents the height of individualism, collected and concentrated into a few hundred square miles of incredibly uneven ground. Seriously, there are hills everywhere and, by the end of the Fringe, your calves will be toned to perfection.

However, a word of advice: the Fringe is not a holiday, it is an expedition into virgin territory.

  • More often than not, it’s an uphill struggle.playfair sun(These are the Playfair Steps, but I assure you, they do not.)
  • You’ll experience every weather condition known to man.

playfair snow

  • It has its own cuisine and music.
  • It has its own social rules
  • …and wildlife.edfringe blog 1_2 Don’t expect to get time for yourself at the Ed Fringe either. Do expect complete strangers – I might even say “weirdoes” – to wonder up to you and wave a flyer in your face. Everyone needs to rustle up an audience, and you could be it. You will be flyered.  There is no No-Flyer Zone. Don’t resist it, embrace it. Flyerers embody the spirit of the Fringe as much as the performers. And don’t even try to avoid us, or oppose us, for we are many. The methods with which you will be harassed are multifarious, all of them geared in the hope of persuading you to take a flyer:
  1. The Flirt
    • A classic approach for sales and advertising – sex sells. The flirty flyerer will casually sidle up to you as you walk along, act cool and confident and will wait up to 5 minutes before revealing their true intentions.
  2. Hit them with Happy
    • My personal approach to flyering is most akin to this: attempting to be each individual’s Joy Bringer.  This might involve offering a free hug, a compliment, a little song and dance and generally making a fool of yourself as long as it brings a smile to someone’s face.  Some even offer free sweets to seal the deal.
  3. The Pretentious Poser
    • Take an acoustic guitar, a flamboyant costume and strike an excessively sincere pose – a flyer in one hand, your wrinkled brow in the other. This method seemed to gain popularity in the early days of the Fringe, I speculate because it is an approach that appeals to the pretentious, the posy and the lazy (three prominent characteristics of the arts community).
  4. The Nutter (ultimate confidence required)
    • For those who don’t give a flyering fringe… Definitely trying too hard with that pun.
  5. Lost the Will to Leaflet
    • Already been stood out on the Royal Mile every day for over a week, trying to palm off the same bloody pile of flyers that doesn’t seem to get any smaller?  Then this is the method for you. Be lack-lustre, dull, uninspiring and don’t you dare think about picking up a thesaurus.
  6. The Onomatopoeic Opener
    • This is my personal favourite, and a method that successfully captured my attention. Simply present your flyer and, as you do so, make a whimsical yet intriguing noise.  Silliness with a hint of genius – which should be the tagline for the festival.

Talking of taglines:

“Unboring. That’s the word you’ll find splashed over the front cover of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe programme … It’s not actually a word at all, of course. You’ll find it in the Urban Dictionary – ‘a word used by people with no vocabulary’ … Unboring is unsightly, ungrammatical and uninspiring; utterly unworthy of the Edinburgh Fringe.” (Matt Trueman, The Stage, June 26th 2014)

Unboring? No. Exhilarating, yes. Exhausting, yes. Exaggerated? Certainly not.

You should go.

Ps.  Go see my production – A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Two Tired! Shakespeare plus Scooby Doors equals an hour of hilarity you won’t want to miss!

Get tickets by clicking HERE!

Or here…

…. Once a flyerer, always a flyerer.