Monday, June 13, 2005

Summer approaches

It's feeling a tad more like summer now, a beautiful clear blue sky this morning and a little warmth in the air. Regular commuters judge the onset of the holiday season not by the portents of sunshine and cloud but by the availability of seats on the morning trains. LU don't change their schedules for the summer, so as soon as the kids stop going to school (whether for exams, holidays or just bunking off) and their parents start taking more time off, the trains empty out.
You might have thought that, given that the holiday season runs over three months or so and that most people would not take off more than two weeks at a time, that the numbers using the Underground would diminish by no more than 10% maximum in any one week. And tourists would more than make up the difference anyway. But it doesn't seem to work like that. This morning, although all seats were taken by the time we got to Acton Town, my train was not overcrowded and I stepped out at Baron's Court without the need to thrust through the massed ranks of strap-hangers that normally block the doors. And the schools are not even out yet, so the full holiday season has not begun.
A uncrowded train, moving at normal speed, is surprisingly restful. Without the mental stress of people leaning against your arms, and others tripping over your legs as they fight for breathing room, and with the reasonable expectation the journey will be completed on time, one can relax, enjoy the scenery and flick through the morning papers. I actually did two of the clues in the Guardian cryptic crossword. Don't sneer, this is an intellectual achievement that demands respect. Most days I fail to solve a single clue.
The rebuilding of my home station, Ruislip Manor, continues. Much of the eastbound platform has been rebuilt but the covered section where the steps lead down to the street is still a shell, and all the safety fencing, lights and cables need fixing in place. Ominously, the TFL website just says that the platform is out of action "until further notice". Who knows when it will be complete?

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