The Thin Green Line

When I lived in London I knew the Tube map – or parts of it – like the back of my hand. I could recite all the stops from Hounslow West up to St Pancras; I knew where to change for Wimbledon and the nearest stop to Clapham. I knew which areas were well-served (North and Central London) and which were not (South London.) I could almost have done the ‘knowledge’ like an underground taxi driver if needed; and had Mornington Crescent existed back then, I’d have been a master player.

But this knowledge did not avail me much as I had no-one to share it with. It was an alienating experience living in London and I was often lonely. I like to be part of a community; to know my neighbours; to walk down the street and meet people, to chat to staff in the shops; to walk into a pub and nod to the locals. But until I left London I had no idea there were places where people would talk to you at the bus stop instead of edging away as if you were a dangerous lunatic. I had no idea there were communities where people knew each other and popped in and out of each other’s houses. If I wanted to visit a friend I had to make arrangements ahead of time, then get on a bus or tube and travel. After I left school I had no friends in Hounslow at all; they were scattered over a wide area.

The effect of all this is to give the individual little or no context. You can be one person at work, another in the pub, another with your boating friends in Richmond and a completely different person at home. True, there can be something exciting in being who you want to be but ultimately it’s wearing. We all need to be known – and after I left school and church I lost that context.

While I was at school though, a local artist (who turned out to be a friend of my boyfriend’s mother) painted a picture of the pupils. He chose to do an abstract called ‘The Thin Green Line’ and whilst I was excited to be part of an art work, I found the abstractness disappointing. But I daresay, were I to see it again, I might find more in it to appreciate.

I don’t think I can say the same of London. But never say never…

Kirk out

6 thoughts on “The Thin Green Line

  1. I was going to say it was like the Knowledge but then you took the words off my digits. I’m left with the impression that the canvas had a single thin streak of green paint on it. Maybe I’m wrong. Also reminds me of Green Line Buses and is it the District Line which is green? I sometimes find it quite intimidating that you’re a bona fide Londoner, and it’s easy to forget. I kept my friends from school for quite a while, and in a couple of cases up to the present day, so I’m lucky perhaps. Sometimes people just drop you though.

    Graeme Garden once said that Mornington Crescent was easier to play in Chaucer’s time because, London being smaller, the tube stations were closer together, so by its internal history it did exist in the ’60s.

    1. LOL. Yes, the District line was green and they had different trains, larger and with a sort of skirt at the bottom. It was odd how different lines had different styles of train; the ones on the Piccadilly were quite low and rounded and usually silver. On the district line they could be green or maroon.
      As for the painting I think there was more to it than just a green line but maybe not much more. I did keep my schoolfriends for a while, especially Susan (who I later fell out with and became some sort of courtesan in Dubai) and Jen who you’ve met

  2. You’d be good for the challenge where you’re required to travel the entire system in as short a time as possible. Someone wrote a book about doing it, which I have read but can’t remember the author’s name.

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