Sunday, March 18, 2007
Waiting For The 7:18
Oh, sweet wonderful BBC Four, sanctuary from the rest of the coarse, unkempt televisual world. Tonight my favourite channel in the whole wide world (yes, even more than Men and Motors or Babecast) has been dedicated to the Tube. There's something about the London Underground that affects you deep down, especially if you've ever lived in London. For me it's a world that can be an almost daily frustration, but also something I hold a deep personal affection for. My first memories of London were on the tatty seats and wooden escalators of the Jubilee line as a kid. Tonight's Arena special is a real treat. If they repeat it, and you've got posh UK telly, do try and catch it.
But the best bit for me is a reshowing of Sir John Betjeman's Metro-land programme from 1973. The poet laureate of the day follows the Metropolitan line from Baker Street out into the suburbia where I myself grew up. It's utterly sublime Sunday night viewing, a nostalgic look back to the start of the twentieth century via the 1970's, which of course now itself sits as a nostalgic signpost in our collective memory. And John Betjeman is quite the most wonderful host. I feel like I really want to go and have a nice cup of tea with him in a cafe in Croxley Green, to discuss the continuing sprawl of the city through leafy suburbs along the banks of the burgundy line. And ask him how he felt about being sampled on that Jamie T track. And revel in his wry sense of humour and delicious self deprecation. But I can't. Cos he's dead. Which is a shame. He's seems like a genuinely lovely bloke.
It's fascinating hearing his recollections of the history of the region, most noteably the birth of Wembley Stadium. It occurs to me, as it often does, how eventually I will be the one doing the recollecting to most probably disinterested youngsters. I went to the original Wembley stadium, son. There wasn't an arch then, but twin towers. Who knows how much will have changed between then and now. It seems strange to imagine how we'll look back on the trials and tribulations of today in the same way that old people today recall the world wars or the cold war.
It's things like this that occupy my mind on the trips back from Watford into London. Wondering how it is to get old, feel that life is no longer something in front of you, but something that has gone, to be remembered. A melancoly train of thought for sure, but it's a Sunday afternoon. And a life well lived is one worth looking back on.
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