The Guardian has published a series of articles to mark the 150th anniversary of the first services running on the tube. One of their reporters, the intrepid Stephen Moss, undertook to travel the entire length of the Central Line. He gets points for starting at Ongar and taking the privately run train to North Weald and then bus to the terminus at Epping. And more points for treating the branch to Ealing as of lesser importance than the bit that goes out to our part of the country. He "felt the lure of West Ruislip at the end of the line" and went on (and all this is going in into our dossier, you know) " What is it about Ruislip that makes it a national joke?" and then the inevitable reference to Leslie Thomas' Tropic of Ruislip. [A comic novel published in 1974: Ed] He made it safely to West Ruislip and this seems to have caused him no little distress and bewilderment. He emerged, in the dark, onto the flyover that crosses the mainline that continues up to High Wycombe and beyond, and saw nothing of note. He asked someone if there was a town there and was, quite wrongly and perhaps maliciously, pointed toward Ickenham. He then concluded, unbelievably, that despite having three stations named after it, Ruislip did not exist and ended his journey in a pub not far from the station. He didn't even make it into central Ickenham where he might have admired the well and the fish bar.
Oh dear. Where to start. [Control yourself. Take one of your pills: Ed] I'm sorry Mr. Moss went the wrong way and entirely missed Ruislip. I'm not impressed that he did not twig that the two Metropolitan line stations (that he does not mention) might just possibly be where Ruislip town is centred. I'm even less impressed that he did not bother to look at a map which should have shown him, in no uncertain terms, that Ruislip does indeed have a town centre and it is anchored on its medieval roots with the ancient church, almshouses, 16th century pubs and the Great Barn, built in the 13th century and one of the finest examples of its kind in Middlesex.
So do come back Mossy. Take the real railway, the Met, next time. Emerge at the classic late-Victorian station of Ruislip (not West, not South, just unadorned Ruislip). Stroll up the High Street. Enjoy a drink or meal in one of the many bars, pubs, cafes, bistros and restaurants that line it. Wander round the Manor Farm estate, where there is a real village green and pond, a Norman motte-and-bailey mound and the meadows through which the River Pinn runs on its timeless course to the sea [er, junction with the Colne actually: Ed]
Oh and the sex-obsessed suburban couples that Mr. Thomas chose to populate his book? They're here all right, nudge nudge, know what I mean squire? please excuse shaky typing, arf arf.