Justin here. You know, from time to time one does feel the need to rub shoulders on a more day-to-day basis with one’s flock; one’s parishioners so to speak, here in the Great Wen. So often, my meeting with people is overlaid with ceremony and my not inconsiderable duties of office involve riding about in long cars, some sporting (the young man with the wire in his ear tells me) bullet proof glass. Until the arrival at the Palace of the aforementioned protector, with his bulging jacket and strange ear appendage, it was relatively easy for me to evade detection and join the hurly burly of London Life. I could nip out, as ‘twere, down the back stairs and over the orangery wall to exchange cheery “Gor Blimeys” with all and sundry.
Not so these days, I can tell you. It took me nigh on two hours to persuade the young man with the wire in his ear to allow me, in his company, to savour once more the manifold delights of our wonderful city. I determined to take the nearest tube (the young man with the wire in his ear says “Chube”) train, almost incognito wearing only casual slacks, sandals, a cheerful summer shirt, a light jacket, an old straw boater and my dog collar. The young man with the wire in his ear said, colourfully, “Archie, you look like a bleedin’ vicar!” Good enough for me, thought I. It has been quite some time, years in fact, since I have afforded myself such freedom so you might imagine, dear reader, my excitement.
Oh, how soon hopes, both great and small are dashed. The tube station in question seemed now to be almost completely automated. A subterranean cavern of beeps and flashing lights where computerised machines eat your tickets and steel barriers refuse you entry; where bored and glassy-eyed railway employees sigh, tut, and admit you by waving their neck cards at something or other. When once the descent into the depths was exciting, not so now. I was staggered by the seething mass of bad-mannered humanity. No-one said “Excuse me”. No-one said “Thank you.” Disembodied voices informed; “The escalator facility at Euston is not available.” The young man with the wire in his ear explained that at the Gateway to the North, “the stairs is bust.”
When, after two or three stops – actually I can’t recall exactly how many because yet another disembodied voice announcing stations was drowned out by the screeching of the train as it sped through the foetid air – the young man with the wire in his ear bundled me out on to the hopelessly crowded platform, one hand in his jacket and the other in the small of my back, I admit to huge relief.
By this time, all ten toes were seriously bruised, my straw boater had been swept from my head by a large fellow carrying what appeared to be a double bass, and I was longing for fresh air and real God- given daylight. Unannounced, the escalator had joined its brothers at Euston, and so began a long slow climb up stone steps to the surface.
After becoming stuck once again in the exit machinery which ate my ticket and refused to regurgitate – thankfully, the young man with the wire in his ear showed some sort of card to the attendant and we were ushered through a gate marked “No Entry” – we eventually emerged on to the street.
Sadly, I have to report that the awfulness of underground travel was replicated above ground. No cheery “Gor Blimeys!” there, I’m afraid. Just a seething mass of humanity, most of which had wires in its ears. Failing that, every other person was speaking loudly into a mobile telephone, or flickering their thumbs over over unseen keyboards, whilst elbowing and barging their ways to what must have been personal crisis.
Guiltily, I admit that I allowed the young man with the wire in his ear to hail a black cab to take us home. After enquiring whether I had “been in a fight, Grandad?” the driver sped us Palacewards, this after another showing of the young man with the wire in his ear’s mysterious card.
So now I sit, in guilt, wondering how Jesus would have coped, and failing to find the answer. Never again will I eschew a long car with Police outriders.