Tunnel vision

Posted by admin | June 26, 2009 0

In ancient Rome when the mob was getting anxious the nervous Emperor in his great palace on the Palatine Hill would lay on “Bread and Circuses” to placate the mob and stave off riots which might threaten his throne. So free food would be given out to the poor and bloody gladiatorial gore-fests would be staged at the Coliseum to entertain the restless mob. By the end of the Empire there was no substance left just Bread and Circuses. So what are we to make of the latest initiative on the London Underground against a background where line closures are beginning to bite hard? Want to go by Tube to the O2 this weekend? Forget it the Jubilee Line is COMPLETELY closed. Want to go to Heathrow Airport on the Piccadilly Line? You guessed it, it’s not a flyer! Want to go round the Circle Line? Sorry it’s not the Full Circle this weekend! Want to go to Amersham, Chesham or Watford on the Metropolitan Line? Forget it it’s better by bus, but not a disabled friendly bus as who takes phase 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act (since October 2006) seriously?

Heathrow is cut off this weekend

Against this background of widespread disruption and loss of service the London Evening Standard reports that drivers on the Piccadilly line are to operate on a higher plane by adding doses of philosophy to their daily announcements. Instead of simply apologising for delays while the service is regularised, operators can draw on the wisdom of Greek philosophers and political thinkers and the bon mots of Shakespeare to add variety to the day. All have been compiled by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in a passport-sized book which has been distributed to all the drivers and staff on the route. Well I wasted good money once going to see the Turner Prize so I wouldn’t take the fact that Jeremy Deller has won it as a positive reference!


They range from the uplifting (“Nothing is worth more than this day” from Johann von Goethe, the German writer) to the sobering (“Man is in a strict sense entirely animal” — French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal). The title of booklet is taken from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “What is the City but the People?”

Mr Deller said: “I often wish announcements were more personal and reflected the realities and absurdities of living and working in a big city. I think the travelling public will enjoy some humour and unexpected insight during their journey.” London Underground hopes that by encouraging Tube staff to talk directly to customers with appropriate wit and wisdom, they will lift the moods of travellers.

Ja, Time is a variable on ze Tube

Transport for London is also handing over disused shop display cases at Piccadilly Circus for more art, including a bust of Jennifer Lopez, a floating starfish and a display of album covers.

How this entertainment on the Tube goes down with its Controller, that great classicist, The Emperor Boris is not known as he doesn’t appear to be a fan of public transport in practice? Boris Johnson’s image as a bicycling, penny-pinching Mayor took a blow as it emerged that he had spent more than £4,500 of public money on taxis – with one bill alone topping £237. Indeed the difficulty of the approach of concentrating on Bread and Circuses and not substance was wonderfully illustrated last Monday week for an “Art on the Underground” special to celebrate 30 years of the Jubilee Line (the one which opened the year after the “Jubilee” and is closed this weekend) where free posters were being given out to customers as they experienced disrupted service on the err, eeerr, Jubilee Line!

Maybe the Emperor Boris needs to avert his gaze from his taxi receipts and stop the decline of his Empire?

Tunnel droppings – Here are some of the sayings which will either cheer you up or drive you insane on the Piccadilly Line. We apologise for this delay to your service, but to live is to dream…

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences: Robert G. Ingersoll.

Beauty will save the world: Fydor Dostoevsky.

Hell is other people: Jean-Paul Sartre.

To live is to dream: Friedrich Schiller.

Life is one long process of getting tired: Samuel Butler.

Without music, life would be a mistake: Friedrich Nietzsche.

The only man who can change his mind is a man who’s got one: Seneca.

An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory: Friedrich Engels.

The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit for doing them: Benjamin Jowett


And to show how ingrained The Tube is in the heart of the Nation the former paper of record, The Times, published the following today in its Leader column, no less!

Underground wisdom

Some suggestions for tags from philosophers on the London Tube announcements.

“All cha-a-ange at Earls Court for Southfields –

We are merely the stars’ tennis balls, stuck and bandied which way please them: John Webster.”

“Mi-i-i-nd the gap – …

Through me lies the way to the Ninth Circle Line: through me the way to eternal grief: Abandon all hope, you who enter the Underground: Dante.”

“Escalator work is taking place at Bank …

Facilis descensus Averno: but to make your way out again to the upper air, that’s the sweat: Virgil.”

“This train will not stop at Archway …

Hell is other people: Jean-Paul Sartre.”

“This is the Mornington Crescent train …

There is more to life than increasing its speed: Mahatma Gandhi.”

“Ickenham, Hillingdon, UXBRIDGE …

To travel hopefully is better than to arrive: Robert Louis Stevenson.”

“Move right down the train …

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made: Kant”

“Let the passengers off first …

Travel teaches toleration: Disraeli.”

“The northern exit at Notting Hill is closed until May 2020 for essential renovation work …

What people travel for is a mystery: Thomas Babington Macaulay.”

“This train is now relocating from a Wimbledon to an Ealing Broadway train …

The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and, instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are: Dr Johnson.”

Crackle. Bang. SCREECH. Such words of the sages will be wasted on the foetid Underground air unless they improve the deafening and inaudible Victorian communication equipment.

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