Monday, January 30, 2006

Crouching Tiger - Hidden Thanet

He joined the late train from Victoria at Herne Bay, a young man in his twenties, in a paint-stained black bomber jacket, dark rings under his eyes. Sitting down two seats across from me, he produced a bottle of vodka from his pocket and filled a plastic cup with the contents, drinking it down in large satisfied gulps. Feeling better for it, he rolled a cigarette on his knee and then after fiddling with it for a while, looking around for any sign of the conductor, he produced a Bic lighter and started to smoke, unpertubed by the "No Smoking" signs on the windows of the carriage. The two of us left the train when it arrived in Westgate, very different journeys home to the same small town.

I had a rather surreal experience at Westminster yesterday afternoon inside Portcullis House, where the MPs live. I’m assuming there was a meeting taking place between an Islamic interest group and Members of Parliament, because at 5’O’clock, the corridor filled with the faithful, prostrating themselves in the direction of Mecca and causing me to negotiate a suitably respectful path around them on the way to the meeting I was chairing. This was interrupted, not by the call to prayer but by the division bell, causing me to lose the MPs I had present as they ran-off towards the House to vote on some obscure new government legislation such as the Regulation of Ruminants Act.

Earlier, with an hour to spare between appointments on the way from Holborn, I had dropped-in to the British Museum, which I haven’t visited since I was a child. Architecturally, it’s an even more impressive building today and I took a few camera photos of the exhibits. The Roman Britain gallery was closed and I asked the curator if anyone had told the Romans. He laughed. One can imagine Julius Caesar landing his army on the beach at Dover in 55BC, only to be told, “Sorry mate, were’ closed. Come back in 47 AD will you and bring the Emperor Claudius and some Elephants with you.”

The curious thing, I thought, about the British Museum today was that it was packed with Chinese tourists, all moving around in excited, shoving groups of never less than thirty. I commented on this new phenomenon in my weblog over a year ago; how the once quiet Nile cruise ships are now packed with the first generation of mainland Chinese ever to leave that country as tourists with a degree of economic freedom. By the end of the decade, it’s predicted that the Chinese will be the single largest tourist group visiting Europe and the UK. Among them in the museum, were half a dozen or so of what I can only guess were circus gymnasts, delicate-looking teenage girls in bright green tracksuits who were chasing each other around the grounds taking photos, almost floating over obstacles outside the museum, such as statues in a display of grace and agility that you only see in films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

The Monday Evening Standard produced a map showing the London Underground stations where one is most likely to be stabbed or robbed or both. South Croydon and Clapham come top and most Londoners should be able to guess the top five, which must be comforting for anyone commuting home in that direction.

A quick look at the statistics for this website shows me that visits have soared over the last seven days and even Sunday, which is normally quiet, very nearly set a new record on its own. I’m delighted to see so many people becoming involved in the comment threads, if it’s to express disagreement with what I might write. Let me just add that if I’m not more than a little provocative, then nobody will visit ThanetLife, so you should always consider anything you see here as written with a mildly ‘Tongue in cheek’ style to test the waters of public opinion on different subjects, whether it be the argument over the future of the Turner Contemporary or the equally emotive subject of Political Correctness.


James Maskell said...

The vast majority of people I have seen on the train have been fine and no trouble at all. One train journey last year found me rather confused on a platform unsure of which train to get on and when it would arrive (honestly, it was one of those moments where you're caught out). Thankfully someone was getting on the same train as me and helped me out. It wasnt a particularly big thing to do but without that persons help I could have ben stranded at Dover Priory at 11 at night... If this person is reading this now (they got off at Birchington), cheers.

Anonymous said...

I wish:
I could afford to use the train
The trains were more reliable
The trains were safer
The trains were cleaner
The trains were faster
The trains weren't vandalised
The trains didn't have drunks
Kids bought tickets
Kids didn't fill up 1st class
People didn't put their dirty shoes up on seats
The stations were safer places

Just a few reasons why I drive, even though that's not fun or cheap anymore.

Still its a good way to meet Iris Johnston these long as you do have a ticket.

Cllr David Green said...

Wasnt Charlie Young was it James? He's rarely confused by train journeys ! :-)

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for not challenging the anti-social vodka drinking smoker. I'm a smoker but rules are rules and if the good guys don't challenge poor behaviour then we cannot really complain!

DrMoores said...

Believe me I thought about it all the way from Herne Bay to Westgate. But I ask you, it's late at night, Your'e smartly dressed and alone with a chap half your age tanked-up with vodka in a railway carriage .. Would it be sensible to confront him and what would it achieve?

James Maskell said...

It wasnt Charlie Young thats for sure. Also Charlie Young drives a car so he has no real need to take the train.