We just don’t cope very well. In snow, and in summer. Only I am now a Londoner, and tolerance is my middle name. With a smile, rather fixed at times, but nonetheless.
Five am this morning as I stumble out of bed, the sun is high, and you have to know, for me to say that, the idea of early euphoria comes to mind. Out of my kitchen window, the world is moving fast, at this hour. It’s Wimbledon tennis time. Security guards stand ready and hopefuls line up for the day’s … tennis. A huge difference from my view on a dark winter’s morning when tis me and a solo, hard arsed jogger passing by on the pavement.
By the time I am out and ready to walk to the tube, the stream of humanity is against me. Six am and life is pumping here. I am the lemming, not the tourist as I make my way through the throngs to get to the tube. All good, good mood and music in my ears.
Fast forward to five o’clock and trying to get a train to Waterloo. The tracks are suffering in the heat and the trains are stagnant, cancelled and wilting in the heat. We are such pussies when it comes to extremes and the collective, six deep crowd, sighs, and wait as one train after the other is cancelled, due to stress on the tracks. Meeting a friend at Waterloo for dinner, running late, sending the text and tucking the Evening Standard firmly under the arm as I hustle for a seat. We are sweating, but we are seated.
Waterloo on any given evening is an erupted anthill. More people than I can imagine at a rugby game in Newlands, only this is a daily event. Under the clock, like all other minions, waiting for the announcement and the jostling for the train. This is when I can hear them saying;’ why on earth live in London? Oh my God, the masses, the bumping and grinding of ‘sorry’ and ‘pardon’ as you bag takes flight from a passerby. Not the place for space perfectionists, and yet, I am standing in awe of function. London moves nearly two million people a day. Think about it.
My friend has it wrong and does not arrive. The trek to Waterloo has been for naught and I must make my way home, but this is summer, it is Wimbledon and it is stifling hot. The train moves like a glacier to my end stop. Now the choice: by bus home, past the tennis courts which is such a bad idea. So I chose the tube, which is such a bad idea. Instead of three minutes to Wimbledon Park road station and another three to Southfields, we stand, stranded and thirty minutes later at Wimbledon Park, told to go back to Wimbledon and take anything you can. I see the cabbies wringing their hands in delight of a fare, but for me, the bus. All two thousand of us on the bus.
Thirty degrees and commuting hell. Says the lady next to me: at least the whiskey is going to be cold. At last, after four hours going absolutely nowhere, I arrive home, the wine in my backpack, the ice in the fridge.
Sitting on my little balcony, the crowds get thinner but are still out there, hyped up from a day in their tennis heaven. It is just the time, it is the best time, to see happy people who have saved, travelled from far and enjoying the annual feast of tennis that I take for granted, living a goose egg away from it all.
This is when we have to bow to the tourists. We need them, we welcome them and if our daily lives are disrupted for two weeks, so it goes. And if summer means stagnant, stifled commuting, I am up for it because I realised tonight, that I don’t just say: ‘Ah Wimbledon’, I live it.
So public transport got to me today. For the rest, it is the most efficient system in the world and my Oyster is at the ready for tomorrow.