Tranquillity in the midst of chaos?

Tube strikes are a perennial hazard of London life. They’ve blighted my commute sporadically ever since I began travelling into town age 11 and coincided with some very important events – like my graduation. As with many aspects of London life, you develop ways of dealing with the frustration and overcoming the obstacles. (Though it would help if someone formalised my theory on bus queue ethics.)

Today’s strike barely bothered me at all.
Partly thanks to a pre-arranged ‘out of the office’ day on the South Bank (meaning I didn’t have to mission it to Baker Street) and great luck with the weather, I ‘endured’ just over an hour’s walk along the Thames Path to my office-for-the-day at the National Theatre (excellent source of free wi-fi and sockets). I love walking along the river, the sun was shining, Radio 1 was amusing, it was excellent exercise and I didn’t have to cram myself into a sardine can – what’s not to enjoy?

Coming home was similarly peaceful – a little bit of shopping in Covent Garden before catching the lovely RV1 that originates there [the key to catching buses on strike days is to get as close to the start of the route as possible] and travelling back along the river before getting off at Tower Bridge and walking the rest of the way home. All in all, I walked 6 miles today (4 this morning, 2 this afternoon) – I almost wish I had the time to do that every day!

I didn’t observe a huge amount of transport chaos. In South London stocks of Boris Bikes seemed to be plentiful (including a full rack behind Tate Modern) and buses didn’t appear to be inordinately full. [Although, much of the southern part of the city relies upon trains rather than the tube usually anyway, so that might explain it.] The media has the usual stories, but actually, if you read the comments on the Guardian, most people seem to have taken in in their stride.

Which also seemed to be the case 38 years ago – when London Transport was brought to a standstill by an unofficial strike. The wonderful Pathé film below shows commuters using a whole range of transport options (personal favourites are the roller skates and bowler hat wearing jogger) as well as illustrating the wonderful gender divide of the early 60’s – two women are filmed climbing out of a car boot and are described as “second class passengers”. Thank goodness times have moved on.

If the strikes scheduled for October and November materialise, I reckon I’ll give up the idea of working from home (or from my South Bank ‘office’) and invest in a horse…

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