23 Jan
23Jan

Morning

Today I started the London Train and Tube Diary to capture my observations on the train and tube while going to and from work. I will slip in journeys to other places in London too. I’m not sure I’ll keep at it long enough though. I just feel great starting this. You know how great it feels to initiate certain projects that you think has potential and prospect, a product of your own imagination. But like everything in life, I know from this exciting inception, if I’m not consistent with it, nothing will come off it. So, I will try to make it work. It won’t cost me much to just sit, watch, observe and write. Maybe it will cost me not reading the papers occasionally, because I usually feel inclined to grab the Metro and the Evening Standard in the morning and evening, on my way to and from work respectively, either from the bus or the train stations. Or I will miss going through my phone, just scrolling through social media. Most of the time, 90% of the time spent on social media has no value of any form. That is why I have decided that I will only use social media to publicise my work and connect with like-minded platforms and users. That is, I will combine this with my new project for the next two months and see how far I am able to go and what comes of it. I might even publish a weekly article on my website. Now I am trying to make it daily. If it is not feasible because of time constrain, I’ll reduce it to weekly.

As I write this line, the train had just arrived Clapham Junction. This is the correct spelling. When I wrote it on my iPad, I was not sure. Many English words are not spelled the way they are pronounced. It’s a Southwestern Railway train. OK, what can I see?

On my left on the side of the isle I’m seated beside a white woman. She had been typing into an MS Word document, which she had closed and now scrolling through her phone. Beside the empty seat opposite me is a young man of about 22, who had been on a call since he entered the train, speaking a foreign language. On the other isle are seated four people, a pair of couples. The couple seated on the side I was is middle age and not very chatty. They spoke to each other twice for the duration of the journey. The other white couple sitting opposite them are elderly pensioners. I overheard them mentioned the word pension. That is how I knew. They were chatty but like proper English, their conversation was subdued. All their words were wrapped in their lips, crisping at me like bedroom whispers. People started standing up well in advance as the train pulled into Victoria station. The temperature was 9°.

It is 10 am. The platform I am standing in the London Underground is crowded. Among the some hundreds of people, I saw only four blacks, I am the fifth. All the others are white. The train to Wimbledon is packed. There was nothing much to observe as we were standing very close to each other. The only thing we cared about is how to be comfortably compressed and not cause discomfort and inconveniences to the other six people standing right next to you holding the handrail or the pillars. Those seated were more comfortable but they still had to deal with at least four people looking down at them, standing almost on top of their feet. I saw a woman in her forties, white, with eyes like that of a frustrated housewife. She stared up at the standing commuters like you would do to someone invading your privacy. Few minutes later she dozed off, her head resting on the glass that barricades seating passengers from the door. She didn’t sleep last I assumed, or maybe, the cold had drained her of strength, or she hadn’t have her coffee yet. Many things could make one fall asleep on the morning train in London.

Then a white woman hit my left arm holding the rail with her head. She turned, her face all apologetic and said, ‘Sorry,’ with a smile that seems to say, ‘Forgive me. I don’t know why my head hit the hand of a black man.’ I turned to her and smiled back, ‘It’s OK.’ Who cares if your head hit my hand in a crowded train anyways. I remembered when my hand hit a white woman’s head while I was gesticulating during a function. She was a professor in Imperial College London. I won’t dwell on what followed here. The most I can say is that I didn’t feel alright about it for a while. The challenge with dealing with mundane things of life when it involves different races is disproportionate most of the time.

I stepped of the train at the south Kensington station, my usual stop and walked through the underground tunnel that leads to the Victoria and Albert Museum because it was raining and cold above ground. Here close to the V&A museum, I saw two Chinese children driving their briefcase and I smiled – China! I imagine a time when instead of carrying your bag to work, your bag will carry you instead. To buy grocery, you will just drive your bag down to Tesco, no need for a car and a car park. Or I could invent a bag that people could drive to work. it would be cool and radical. This was what I mused on while walking to my office at South Kensington campus of Imperial College where I had to start the day’s work on my doctorate project.


Evening 

I had finished work this evening at about 16:45 and watched a couple of the African cup of nation’s highlight. I have not been very interested in football, but the disgraceful defeat Ghana suffered yesterday has created some funny comments and entertainments online. One of my mentors even went as far as texting,

‘I think the Ghanian goalkeeper was planted there to orchestrate the defeat. See, his name is Ofori. It’s only people from the Niger Delta in Nigeria that bear that name.’

We had a good laugh. I watched the highlight of the match. Both sides played alright, but Ghana lost to Mozambique. At times, in football as in life, it’s not by skill alone. Chances also play the game of football. And then when your village people are against you, no matter how hard you play, you will lose. That is superstition and conspiracy theory explaining Ghana’s defeat. They have sacked their coach. I still do not understand the over addiction, attachments to and dependence on foreign coaches by African countries. That is one of the reasons I presume an African country may not win the world cup soon.

I walked to T.K Max at 18:00 in Kensington High Street and bought myself a nice pair of Polo slip-on casual leather swede shoe and one cartoon of tea. I walked to H & M, looked at an ash pant and walked to M & S food court, which is a floor below the ground, where I bought a second carton of tea and four cross buns. I ate the buns while I waited for my train at the Kensington High Street station all the while thinking that I did not know if I had to cook or bake them before eating. I still do not know how to eat many English food.

The train I met on the platform was packed. Its doors were closing while I arrived. That was the end of the peak period. I waited for the next train for 10 minutes while eating my cross buns. It arrived and departed at 19:30. It was not half full. I don’t like the inconveniences of the peak hours. We rode without incident or anything out of the ordinary until Victoria station while I ate the remaining buns. The only things that stirred my mind was a tiny piece of tissue paper sleeping where it does not belong and a woman looking man that was born like that or in his early transitioning stage. She lacks the grace, flexibility and suppleness that belong to genuine and real women. London trains are quite clean, and they carry people of different identities, orientation, and ideologies.

When I stepped out of the train at Victoria station, a crowd was going out and coming in to their next platforms. Among them was a young white woman, just graduating from her teenage years into adulthood. She wore a black mini skirt, a white jacket over a body-hugging dress, and that was it. She walked briskly with her boyfriend to the next platform. Her eye lashes marinated and massaged into stand still with mascara. She casually caught my attention, the kind of attention you pay to an outlier that won’t alter the variables of your situation. You see, in London, when it is cold, a couple of ladies in addition to dressing warm, also dress elegantly, with their trench coats fitted to their bodies, a low-cut skirt and hose tight for trousers. You see their legs, but they are wrapped in those black tights.

In the summer and milder weather, they prefer colourless ones, that preserve their complexion. In winter, the need to conserve thermal energy pushes them to black colours. Among the more than one hundred people I saw on the platform, that lady was the only one with bare legs. Some ladies do defy the elements, no matter the cost to preserve their sexiness. The other day I saw a group of more than ten young ladies in skimpy clothes that exposed more 80% of their body including half of their breasts, hiding only the nipples in the unforgiving cold evening of winter for a party. The madness of peer pressure and social conformity knows no bound.

I walked across the station. It was 19:40, the crowd had thinned out. The screen said the next train was 19:46. I walked into the train and went into a carriage, got a section with a table. I love those. It appears first class tickets these days no longer hold much power as Oyster card holders could pay for a month ahead. Most of the time. At this section, I saw a woman eating a wrap. As I was making myself comfortable, she busied herself frantically clearing the table of the items she had spread over it. Maybe she did that to keep others away, I can’t tell. ‘It’s alright. Maybe I should have some’. I joked to her. ‘No. I have spat all over it.’ She said with a giggle. I laughed back and we sat silent for the remainder of the journey until I got to my last station.

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