Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lightening strikes twice

Amazing. Twice in just over a week. I'm a few days late posting this, but my pulse is still racing. Unbelievably, following my exhilarating dash across North London, via Warren Street, last week, I was forced to tempt fate again this week by attempting to beat the system once more. I have to say it didn't give me the same buzz as last time, simply because this time around it was too close for comfort. This time around I didn't just push my luck - I gave it a real shove. And amazingly, it stretched.

It was Tuesday afternoon. The Wife works a half-day on a Tuesday, and so where possible I like to get away from work promptly so that I can be home in time to share a few quality moments with her before Holby City starts. So at 6pm I rose from my desk, grabbed by things, bid a cheery farewell to my colleagues and hastened out the door into the early evening Soho bustle. Making my way to the bus stop, I joined the back of a longish queue of people and waited for the number 73 to arrive. And then I waited a bit more. For some reason which did ont become clear, the bus was runinng a bit late, and it didn't actually turn up until gone five past - not much of a delay by public transport standards, but on such slim marigns, as I have observed before, are trains caught and missed.

Already running a few minutes late, I was concerned when the first two sets of traffic lights on the way down Tottenham Court Road proved to be against us. Then we stopped outside Goodge Street and for some reason people took ages getting on - fumbling for Oyster cards and passes, asking the driver where the bus was going to, all that sort of thing. All the time the second hand on my watch continued it's methodical march, the minute hand trailing slowly, reluctantly, but inexorably behind it.

It got to ten past - less than fifteen minutes before my train and still we hadn't got to the end of Tottenham Court Road. I knew, with gloomy certainty, that we'd get held up by the lights at Euston, and the memory of that occasion a few weeks back when I'd had to dash across Kings Cross, unwittingly causing a lady to spill her coffee as I sped past, only to see the train pull away from the platform in front of me, flashed before my mind's eye. I made another of those split-second decisions. I got off the bus, and made for Warren Street tube station.

Now here's a wierd thing. I know it's not a long way from that bus stop to the station, but somehow on this occasion it seemed much further than usual. Bobbing and weaving between people, I reached the top of the escalators and plunged downwards into the bowels of city. A glance at the watch confirmed that I probably still had time to make it up and out of the Underground station at Kings Cross and get the train, so I made my way to the end of the platform where I thought the rear of the train would be, and waited. A minute later than the electronic board said it would be (but I'm experienced enough to expect that), the train arrived but somehow I'd got my bearings mixed up, and it turned out I was at the front! It was also packed - I might have been able to get on, but my bag would have had to remain at Warren Street. Not an option. With a growing sense of foreboding, I hurried down to the other end of ther platform to await the next train. It turned up fairly rapidly, and mercifully thre was just enough space for both bag and body. Checking the watch again, I realised that the hike across Kings Cross was now out of the question, and then it struck me that if I was going all the way to Finsbury Park I was in completely the wrong part of the train. With the exit at Finsbury halfway along the platform I was bound to get stuck at the back of the queue. Nothnig I could do about it now. I would just have to be ready to sprint up the stairs, three at a time.

When we got to Kings Cross, I briefly considered getting off and making a run for it, with the exit right in front of me when the doors opened, but the watch told me that there were only four minutes before my train left, and weighing up my featherlight chances, I realised that the scales were still just about tipped in favour of the Finsbury Park option. I put my bag down, closed my eyes, and started a few rudimentary stretching exercises to prepare my limbs for the dash.

Eventually, we reached Finsbury. I leapt from the train, slung my bag over one shoulder and sped along the inside of the platform, perilously close to the edge (the yellow line may as well have been a distant horizon). Reaching the spiral staircase, I bounded up the stairs, squeezing between a couple of ladies with a shouted apology, and on to the platform where the train from Kings Cross was just pulling in. My brow glistening with perspiration and my heart racing, I hurled myself through the doors just as the alarm signalled that they ready to close and slumped against the partition, thinking to myself "I've got to stop doing this. I'm getting too old for it."

Then I remembered that life bigins at thirty.

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