insights, outtakes and observations from our sabbatical year in England
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Friday evening on the tube and the canal...
I finally mastered texting! Well... not quite mastered, but at least I can find where the 'create message' button is. This is something of an achievement, recently honed in the fires of desperation! Let me back up. After last Friday's explosion of adventures (both the bee sting, and our trip to the Museum to learn about the Burgess Shale), we decided to meet Steve downtown, and then head off somewhere for dinner.
Now, when you look at the map of London, and measure out the distance between the Natural History Museum, and Steve's workplace at Cerner, it doesn't look too bad. Just a little skip across Hyde Park! Google maps suggested that if I took the Tube, then (walking time included) the Circle Line should get me there in 18 minutes. Indeed, walking the whole distance would only be 34 minutes! While I had planned to walk the kids there, we stayed a bit too long at the museum, so I decided to save time and take the tube!
Now I should say that, for the most part, our experience of the Tube has been seamless! The Northern Line has been easy, and we have never had to wait more than a minute or so. Admittedly, you can't always get a seat right away, but it has not been too bad, since the kids and I are nearly always travelling in offpeak hours. Steve has had a few more complaints than us about the crowding in his daily commute, but we are able to brush those off with sympathic smiles. But I forgot that 'not all tube lines are created equal'. Or rather, 'not all tube lines are equally under construction in anticipation of the upcoming Olympic Games'. Flipping through the paper (while riding the tube), I have read the frustrated comments and complaints of Londoners about tube closures. And certainly, the PA system is constantly sending out streams of assuring messages about lines that are moving well. Commuters are directed to the section on TFL website ("Transport for London"), which tells you about scheduled "closures" so you can readjust your travel plans. Of course, I have never yet looked there!
But had I clicked on that section earlier in the day, I would have known that taking the Circle Line (the yellow one) from South Kennsington to Paddington, even though it was only 5 stops away (ie. less than 10 minutes away) was an impossibility: it is currently closed between the High Street Kennsington and Paddington Stations. Oh.
When I finally came to that realization (that is, when I heard the announcement AFTER we were already on the train), we were only 25 minutes from our scheduled meeting time with Steve. I hopped back off the train, and a helpful TFL employee directed me to switch first to the Picadilly Line, head 5 stops west, leave the station, cross the street, and take the Hammersmith Line back another 8 stops to get to Picadilly. The web says that this route should take me 35 minutes. But the reality was longer....if one accounts for the 10 minute wait on the Hammercity platform. In the end, it would have been MUCH quicker to just walk there!
But in many ways, I don't mind at all. After all, each trip means we get to see more of the city. And in fact, until you arrive at Paddington station, most of the Hammercity & City line is actually above ground. So... it was all interesting. And there is nothing like the experiece of 'real' city life. But it was a bit stressful for me to be trying to meeting someone in the middle of a city this big when the plans had not firmed up more than "meet you at Paddington station" (ie. WHERE in Paddington?!) And thus back to the beginning! The real excitement was that all 4 of us had our cheap pay-as-you-go phones in hand. ... it was a chance for me to finally get the hang of texting! So... although we were more than 30 minutes late for our meeting with Steve, we had great text conversations along the way. (ie. i m hr, wr r u?; r u lst? huh? wht th hek? etc)
We finally found Steve, and then wandered along the canal behind his workplace, admiring the canal boats lined up against the edge, idly talking about the possibility of taking a tour of the country side on one of those things.In the end, having skimmed through a ton of menus along the canal, we opted to head for something closer to home (that is, another 40 minutes on the tube!), where where knew there was a 2 meals for 8 pounds deal at the Irish Pub near home. And so we ended up with Steve and Alex, each with their Steak and Guiness Pie in front of them, and Duncan with his bangers and mash (and his discovery of the 'games' section on his cell phone). Perfect end to a perfectly exhausting day!