Tag Archives: the Tube

The Seventh

I am not supposed to be here.

That’s almost all I can think as I run as fast as I can away from Tavistock Square. It is 7 July 2005. I am not supposed to be here.

I am supposed to be at work. I never come this way. Why am I here today?

What if I’m running straight into another explosion?

Context: 7 July 2005 has been weird from the very moment I stepped out of my front door. The Tube station was shut, I had to get a bus to another, unfamiliar one and try all manner of complicated routes to find myself at Warren Street being told the line is now closed and I have to get off the Tube.

I am a worrier by nature. I hate to be late and I hate to be hot and I hate to be bothered and today I am all three and if these are the biggest worries I will have all day then things can only get better. Or so I think.

And so I get on a bus on Euston Road. It is the 73. It will eventually take me to my office on Essex Road, but the traffic in front is so heavy; I’ve never seen anything like it before. I look at my watch. I am so horrifically late.

I turn my head that way and this, craning my neck as if staring at the traffic will magically move it out of the way. My telekinesis failing miserably, I give up. A number 30 bus turns off to the right ahead of me.

When things like this happen – weirdly heavy traffic, the Tube system disintegrating before your eyes – you don’t think something big is afoot somewhere, that it’s affecting other people.

Instead you become a newborn baby, at the centre of your own universe and furious that this is happening to you right now, right here. It is all about you. Nobody has ever been inconvenienced as much as you. This is the last day I will ever think like this. Continue reading The Seventh


10 tests every potential boyfriend must pass before you commit

So you’ve been on a couple of dates and it’s going well, but is he boyfriend material?

Stop right there and climb no further on the commitment ladder until you’ve got him through the following ten challenges:

1. Make him chew gum
Mouth open? Drooling? Really inexplicably loud? Bubbles?! Ditch him.

2. Watch him go through a self-checkout machine
More than three unexpected items in the bagging area and he has to go.

3. Take a train or Tube with him
You will see how he reacts to standing etiquette/giving up seats etc but more crucially whether he tries to press the button to open the doors before it is illuminated. If he does, or presses the button on the Tube door, when he knows it’s automatic and is merely there for decoration, he’s a dolt and you should send him whence he came.

4. Sit opposite him during spaghetti for an exclusive preview of what oral sex will be like. Continue reading 10 tests every potential boyfriend must pass before you commit

Manspreading: Why we do it and why we need to stop

I learned quite early on there was a wrong way and a right way for a man to sit. As with most harsh lessons, it came from a bully. The dickhead of the week currently enjoying the school bus’s dazzling spotlight pointed out to everyone how I was sitting.

“You sit like a girl. Poof. Is it because you’ve got a small dick?”

I looked down at my knees and immediately felt even more prim and proper than usual. My default sitting position was with my legs crossed at the knee or bolt-up straight with my legs pushed together, usually a book balanced upon them so I could have free hands while I ate toast or a Pot Noodle or whatever I was pretending to be into at the time. I had assumed it was perfectly normal.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the people pointing out to me that I sat like a woman – like that’s a bad thing – weren’t the kind of people who would ever need to balance a book on their knees.

But of course I didn’t wear a skirt and wouldn’t have to endure boys trying to catch sight of my knickers or put their hand up there, so why would I close my legs? Bonjour patriarchy.

Obviously, I fell into line and did an admirable impression of having rickets just so I could fit in. But I never felt right.

As soon as I left my pea-brained hometown, I gave up sitting like I had a gross-weight of aubergines down my Y-fronts, but the manspreading phenomenon seems to be getting worse. We are almost at the stage where a man needs to have his thighs winched apart just to he can have the optimum angle for taking up more than one bus or Tube seat.

Forever reluctant to come into contact with a manspreader, I have come to dread boarding a bus and seeing no single seats available. I quickly scan my fellow passengers and make a beeline for a woman, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll have to perch on the edge of the seat while her legs point to opposite sides of the bus. As I do this, I can sometimes sense the woman cringe, no doubt mistaking me for a man who sits like a dick-scratching gorilla and worrying her entire journey will be spent pressed up against the bus window thanks to a pair of cantilever thighs.

I suspect the reason men do this is very simple: we think we should. Sitting with knees together and legs in tight is a sign of weakness or homosexuality – both social death, of course. So with this overbearing sense of self-consciousness, we have somehow decided that ‘legs akimbo’ is the norm.

We live in a confusing world, a world of Dapper Laughs and Julien Blanc, who I bet sit with their legs ten miles apart at all times. A man should slouch on a bus, like the world is his E-Z chair. He got to the seat first, and he’s sitting the way that makes him feel comfy – if you don’t like it, you should either stand or just perch in the room available to you, right? Wrong.

There isn’t enough time in my life – and probably the world – to run through these incredibly stupid rules we set for ourselves, that we should do something just because it’s what our peers tell us or that we should have these deranged ideas of masculinity and femininity. I can’t even go into the other reason why I try to sit next to women on the bus – that I’m frightened a man will sense my homosexuality and think I have selected his seat because I fancy him, that he will see the way I am sitting and think I am a great big gaylord.

Every bus is the school bus. Even now.

What you are doing when you spread your legs on the bus seat is asserting your dominance, taking your throne. Sadly, for you, your subjects don’t appreciate or respect you. So snap ‘em shut, bae. You’re making people feel uncomfortable, and unsafe. And nobody should aspire to that.

But we can change. You can change. People can help us change. Sitting down is a bit like listening – but rather than put your lips together an blow, you put your legs together and breathe in. Your cock and balls aren’t fascinating and nobody is going to hand you a bottle of poppers just because you sit with your knees knocking. (Don’t cross your legs though – according to my best friend’s formidable Russian mum, it gives you varicose veins.)

Women, and non-manspreading men, don’t stand while King Splay airs his nutsack to the entire train. Say “excuse me” and sit in the seat, and spread your very own legs as far as you can within the confines of the seat. Like invading ivy spreading too fast it needs a prune, and it needs it regularly.

As most things in life, the rules are simple: don’t be a dick, don’t let others think you’re a dick. You’re not the most important person on the bus. Your legs are not weapons and don’t impress anybody the wider apart they are.

Exert your power elsewhere, in areas you can change, but keep your thighs together, for all our sakes. Be a man – just don’t sit like one.

The five sexiest people you’ll ever see on public transport

I have a love-hate relationship with travelling on the Tube, London’s dog-breathed series of arteries which carries us all safely around the place, while we moan about how long it takes to get anywhere and how far away everyone lives.

Buses can go fuck themselves, frankly; dull as they are with their stench of fast food and myriad teenagers playing generic hip-hop through tinny speakers. Buses are unsociable and unsexy – everyone facing forward like they’re at the world’s worst cinema.

In the sexiness stakes, there’s no getting away from the Tube’s dominance. Everyone’s facing each other across those dirty aisles and pretending not to look. But you’re looking. We’re all looking. And here are the five sexiest people you’ll meet on the Tube.

The staring man
Staring man breaks the first rule of ‘no eye contact’ within seconds, appraising you like you’re a prize heifer at a country show. He drinks you in and in further and further, until you can taste him behind your eyes. He thinks the quickest way to make you fall in love with him is simply by keeping his peepers trained on you until you say: “OK, I give in. Take me back to yours and possess me for ever”. I guess it must work sometimes.

The man with dirty fingernails playing on his iPad
This man purposefully sits next to you with his handy screen of nothingness and dramatically swipes his filthy claws across it until you can’t help but look at what he’s doing. He will either be playing a shoot ’em up, trying to get the next level of a ridiculous game for pre-school infants or, worst of all, watching Top Gear and tapping his rank talons against the screen with pleasure every time Jeremy Clarkson tells a ‘joke’.

The arranger
This guy gets on the Tube in full conversational flow on his mobile phone. Decibels and social appropriateness mean nothing to him, so he’s bellowing down it confidently, satisfyingly smoothing down his Lacoste polo which hugs his bench-pressed chest like a toddler clinging to its mother’s leg on the first day at nursery. He is loud, probably has whichever accent you find the most distasteful and, to put the icing on your cherry cake of misery, is arranging a weekend which sounds like it’s going to be much more fun than yours. With people hotter than you.

The politeness refusenik
This beautiful beast won’t give up his seat for an elderly person, will pretend that he’s not sure whether that pregnant woman standing in front of him is “just fat” and will tut and moan if you so much as graze his adorable knee with your bag/suitcase/coat. Because the Tube is only for people who travel without any luggage and are going somewhere very important and need a sit down. If you want a guaranteed seat, get a cab, right? Ugh.

The drunk
They smell like pub. They talk like pub. They sway like pub. They annoy you like not being able to go to a pub. And they always sit next to you when you’re feeling at your most irritable and unforgiving (aka every single day).

So there you are, five of the best, hottest guys (or gals) you’re ever likely to meet. And yet somehow I manage to fall in and out of love with total strangers every day on the Tube. I suppose it’s best not to think too hard about what they’re thinking of you. I’m sure it’s all very complimentary. Right? Oh.