Here in ffinch-Whistler Towers we are hard at work preparing most earnestly for Her Maj’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee. This might sound like something of a contradiction to those of you who know me well. You are probably aware that I am firmly in favour of the country unshackling itself from the self-imposed prison of an entitled over-class and should instead become an anarcho-syndicalist collective, but such views do not go down well at the Golf Club Bar, and besides I love a bit of bunting. The pragmatic, realist side of me recognises that we are unlikely to see the wholesale reconstruction of British society while Queen Elizabeth the Second is on the throne, so we might as well ask Mrs Flittersnoop to produce a significant quantity of Coronation Chicken and get cutting the crusts off the sliced bread with gusto.
It is perhaps serendipitous that as a result of the delays, over-runs, extensions, needs for re-engineering, postponements and hold-ups, London’s new underground railway is due to be opened within a matter of days of the Jubilee, almost as if this was the plan all along. My biggest concern about the whole project, apart from the fact that the concourse at Ealing Broadways still appears to be unfinished and is marred by hideous pedestrian fences, is of course the name of the thing.
Firstly, it has been decided that the new purple signs should say ‘Elizabeth Line’. This is despite the fact that the word ‘Line’ is redundant on a London Transport sign. The Piccadilly, Central, Northern, Bakerloo, District (I could go on) go without the word on their signs, the Line is implied. Does this mean that the Elizabeth Line is, in fact the Elizabeth Line Line?
Secondly, most of the London Underground Lines have shortened, colloquial or compressed versions of their original names. The Bakerloo was named for the Baker Street to Waterloo Railway. The Piccadilly was originally the Brompton and Piccadilly Circus Railway. The Northern has had perhaps the most tortuous gestation, name-wise, being made up of the City & South London Railway and the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway. While the Northern Line in no way adequately describes this stretch of the network, it could have been much worse. I am of the opinion that the Elizabeth Line Line will itself be shortened, perhaps to the Lizzie Line Line, and since that is a bit of a mouthful, waggish Londoners will start to call it the Li Lay Lay for even more short.
As a demonstration of how this sort of shorthand can develop almost without one being aware of it, My Man and I have been engaged in another of our extensive Lego Projects, this time constructing our own representation of the Lizzie Line Line in the flat. We have, bien sûr started referring to the Lego Lizzie Line Line as the le li lay lay and it has developed its own little tune, which readers will immediately recognise as being from the chorus to the song The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkle. I recall that this little earworm used to go li lay lay, le-go li lay lay, for quite a while towards the end of that track and if the tape got caught up in the moebius loop of the Eight-Track cartridge player in Father’s Mercedes in the just right way, would repeat ad infinitum. While we did all enjoy Simon and Garfunkle, more than one copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water ended up being flung into the scenery, to be replaced with Tubular Bells, which while it never got stuck in a loop, always sounded as if it was.
While I have yet to experience the newly-opened underground stretches of the Li Lay Lay, here in West London we are already accustomed to the purple trains themselves, as they have been shuttling backwards and forwards through Ealing to places as exotic as Reading and Paddington. The new trains are very long and have those wide inter-carriage corridor connection arrangements, the better for passengers to distribute themselves along the length of the train like toothpaste in a tube or water in a hose. However, this does mean that the passenger requiring some space and privacy while riding on the Li Lay Lay must go to extraordinary lengths, and faithful reader, I am that passenger. I have taken the advice of our former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion and have, obviously and ostentatiously, taken to reading poetry on the train, the better to dissuade other travellers from sharing my personal space. I only came across this piece of advice when I came across the same sage wisdom in the wonderful poem by Wendy Cope, From Strugnell’s Sonnetts. Seek it out if you value a double-seat on your next journey.
My chief excuse for not yet having experienced the Li Lay Lay is that on the opening day I was preparing for another enticing Pitshanger Poets Workshop. Doig Simmonds was asked to begin proceedings and responded with a heartfelt observation of an addict in the street, with Doig wondering what circumstances brought him so low. Owen Gallagher errs on the side of realism in his poetry and brought us a warm reflection on his own parents who were loving if taciturn. Rithika Nadipalli on the other hand has written an amusing, if somewhat fantastical story of a young woman fallen head-over-heels for Batman, The Batman, if you prefer. John Hurley found himself writing this weeks poem at the same time as he was coming down from a dose of local anaesthetic. John recently had a routine procedure, and we wish him a speedy recovery, however, he felt his poem was perhaps a little distracted and unhinged. Martin Choules surprised us all this week by revealing that he is not fond of the ‘Martin’ part of his name. His piece made the case for other such benighted offspring to feel free to change their names later in life. You will understand that it has never crossed my mind to change my name, but then, for a chap in my profession a name is as substantial as a hat or a silk dressing-gown, ready to be cast off in favour of another one, when the moment demands.
To round off the evening, James Day is thinking not so much of names, as of anthropomorphism, this week imagining that the village vicar is a fish (not that Fish) and that there is a fisherman out to get him. Michael Harris brought one of his excellent condensed works, this one following two brothers who followed different lives, but with a similar outcome. Nick Barth visited Rome and followed a priest (not a fish, or even that Fish, do you follow?) into a confessional for a momentary exposure to a taste of spirituality he instantly regretted. Finally, David Hovatter brought another of his lockdown poems, this one following the fates of three lives, one a snail.
While I am not-so-secretly hoping for the wholesale destruction and rebirth of British society, I do hope the jubilee goes off well. I have found a suitable excuse to escape the capital, the rest of you will have to muddle through as usual. If you have been, thank you for reading.