In the 60s I grew up on the Central line between East Acton and Oxford Circus. We lived in East Acton and I played football with the Charge family who lived on the huge council estate that stretched all the way back to the White City stadium. Luckily for me, Mrs Charge only had 10 sons, so I became a vital addition to the team. I was always the one left over and the two captains would toss for me: “Tails! You lose! You’ve got Rosengard!”.
But to get back on track… the Central Line. I spent my teenage years taking the Tube every Saturday night from East Acton to Oxford Circus, heading for the St Anne’s Club in Shaftesbury Avenue or the Whisky A Go Go discotheque.
Once, I was the only person in the carriage and I had the good luck to sit opposite a skinhead who stared at me. Between White City and Shepherd’s Bush he suddenly shouted: “Oi! You looking at me?”
“Were we at school together?” I asked.
At that moment the train pulled into the station and at the last second I made a dash for the doors. He came after me but he was just too late. They say timing is everything in life: sometimes it is life. I’ll never forget the farewell expression on his face pressed against the glass doors as the train moved off. I could tell he missed me.
I became a life insurance salesman in 1969 and sold my first policy to the guard in the last carriage of an eastbound Central Line tube leaving Oxford Circus. (He never stood a chance – he couldn’t get off.) By the time he signed up we were in Upminister, and I was only going to Holborn.
In recent years I’ve been zooming round town on my red Vespa. But when it comes to getting quickly from the West End to the City, there’s still nothing to beat the Central Line. Often I’ll be finishing my breakfast at Claridge’s and I’ll call a client in the city. “I’m round the corner. I can drop by in five minutes,” I say, throwing my napkin to one side with superhuman strength and sprinting out of the dining room like Usain Bolt.
Thirty seconds later I’m at Bond Street, hurtling towards Bank, and five minutes later I’m with my client. I can honestly say I owe my entire business success to The Central Line.
Last Tuesday around noon I was heading for the City. In a packed carriage full of strap-hanging tourists I was squashed between the doors and a group of four pretty girls in their twenties who were happily chatting away in what sounded to me like Hebrew.
A Goth girl with dyed black hair and nose piercings shouted at them: “Oi, if you want to talk about me, talk about me in my own language.”
“You’re paranoid!” I said to her. “They’re not talking about you. They’re saying how wonderful London is and how friendly everyone is here.”
That shut her up, and I almost got a round of applause from my fellow passengers. I leant towards the group and asked: “Are you from Israel?”
“Yes,” they said.
“Shalom,” I said. “I haven’t a clue what you were saying. For all I know you might have been talking about her or the price of fish.”
Yes, I owe big thank you to London Underground.