It was wet and soggy in London. My sister and I had spent the morning in Harrods, ignoring the insolent weather, refusing to let the drippy drizzle ruin our city break buzz.
It’s so easy to get lost in the lap of luxury. We’d frolicked through the footwear, and admired the sparkles on the buttocks of the Juicy Couture track pants, the ones them footballers wives like to strut about in. We ogled the goodies in the food hall and purchased fridge magnets and teddy bears, as one is expected to do.
There was great excitement when we found the Jo Malone candles. Pulling the fragrant air deeply through each nostril, I had high hopes that the perfect balance of lime, basil and mandarin would linger somewhere deep within my hippocampus, so that I might somehow store it there, and extract it when we got back home.
We took multiple trips up and down in the elevator. We had to wait for the real shoppers to get out of the way so we could pose for photographs under the chandelier.
Lunch was planned in Covent Garden, just a few tube stops up the Piccadilly line. I didn't even need to get my little map out. "Easy-peasy!" I told my sister. I swaggered down the steps, full of confidence. For four days our Oyster cards had pinged us through to the London Underworld and we'd platform hopped and zipped between stations without a jot of difficulty.
“Due to an unidentified object on the track, the Piccadilly line is currently suspended, in both directions.”
I had been lulled into a false sense of tube-security, and where we actually ended up, was in metro-line limbo. Right where we did not want to be.
Now whatever you decide in this situation, it is not a time for dilly dallying or deliberation. By the time my sister and I had shared confused looks and said,
“What do you reckon? Shall we give it a few minutes?,” it was too late. The clever folk were long gone. The minute the world ‘suspended,’ crackled through the loudspeakers, they’d hotfooted it back up above, and probably into Harrods, were I imagined them enjoying a glass of champers at the oyster bar, while we tourist types were still scratching our heads and unfolding our small rectangles into larger rectangles and asking each other questions like,
“What colour line are we on again?” and “are you sure you’re not holding it upside down?”
All the while, there was a muddle of mid-day commuters, quite unaware of the object on the tracks, still shuffling onto the platform as if there was room for them. Which quite obviously there wasn’t. And there’s always that moment when the direction of the commuter squash moves you closer to the line you've been firmly advised to stay behind. My heart beat a little quicker as I contemplated exactly what I would do if I end up as the object on the tracks. Would my sister haul me back up the concrete edge in time? - or would my last memory of London be the advertising poster offering men a chance at reversing their male pattern baldness?
I surveyed the crowd of crushed commuters. I could tell the folks who’d come from the streets. Their damp rain coats steamed in the hot press of bodies, and I found the simmering smell of layered up locals fast erased my Jo Malone memories. I was thrust, instead, back to my school days, a melodious scent formulated from over ripe fruit, sweaty socks, and just the slightest hint of toilet disinfectant.
The next announcement suggested the object on the tracks wasn’t going anywhere fast. The soulless voice used the word indefinite, and so we gave up on our game of sardine sandwiches, and utilising a sort of shuffle / elbow type action, we managed to break free from the squeeze.
We emerged from our underground grotto, and marvelled at the damp pavement and the swish of tyres through puddles as big red buses trundled past. As it turns out, we were quite happy to walk, to take in the city, with its rain speckled windows and damp pigeons. We ducked into a news agents for blue umbrella's emblazoned with a London logo, in case we forget where we were.
Not possible... we were right where we wanted to be!