Of Lines, Trains, and Rats

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there are things that my motherland should be envious with the island of Kings and Queens and Castles (aka the United Kingdom), it is their network of the London Underground – a mark of industrialization in the capital.

TFL map

I was lucky to be able to roam around to this country across the seas and for the first seven days of my stay in UK for training, I spent GBP20 for this and to familiarize myself with the different colors and routes in the map – hell yeah, I used to abuse use their so-called-oyster card (etymology of the name oyster? I still have no idea).


With that, the PA’s announcement of Mind the Gap, Stand Clear of the Doors, Mind your head and whatnot seemed music to my ears, whenever I spend my weekends roaming around the city – go to libraries, museums, galleries, music halls, and shopping districts.

“This is Picadilly Circus. This is the Central Line Train to Ealing Broadway.”
“This is Liverpool Street. This is the Circle Line Train to Hammersmith.”

The bitter truth in us Filipinos, is we have no connecting rail transits that are as close proximity as it was in the tubes. We have to cross bridges, go in and out of malls, before we see the connecting rail. In the tube, I became fascinated that there are more than two trains that connect a station. One perfect example is the Bank station, where once you get out of London underground, you see the historical bank of England, together with its gothic government offices.

This is Bank. This is the Central Line Train to Ealing Broadway.
This is Bank. This is the Northern Line Train to Morden
This is Bank. This is the District Line Train to Hammersmith.
This is Bank. This is the Circle Line Train to Edgeware Road.
This is Bank. This is the last station of the DLR.

Change the word Bank to Hammersmith and you get a different yet altogether fascinating network of lines. Hammersmith station, meanwhile, caters Hammersmith, Circle, District, and Picadilly lines.

If you are an Englishman reading this review, you will feel bored most probably and you will think to yourself that the trains are old and grew cold, the lights flicker on and off through the tubes, and it was an endless sea of people especially after office hours.

But you don’t see the magic when you ride it with people. You don’t get it. In my short stay in your nation, I was able to ride it in the first minute the Tower Hill station opened (on a weekend). And I was able to ride it in the last minute the station closed at Edgeware Road (on a Wednesday night).

And both gave me the creeps.

While the train was fully lit – I can do cartwheel inside; since I am the only passenger in one of the coaches. But when it flickers on and off – that’s when the dream king’s imagination put into work. And that’s when the images of Door and Mayhew lingered – mixed with the memories of solitude in the London underground.

That is why if I have the means to invest in this kind of infrastructure (or be an instrument, or one of the policy writers, or one of the ODA financial planners, or a simple accountant appealing to my government to invest in this stuff), I will remember Neil Gaiman’s craft, and encourage my friends who are writers and artists to do this kind of urban legend. Or even to surpass it, making it more unreal.

PS: Oh, you people are so lucky to even saw the Blackfriars station. With all its lights off, and the train suddenly stopped. Just because.

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