Victoria Summerley: Town Life

Chatter among the child-rearing classes at London dinner parties tends to be dominated by three things: property prices, schools and transport. These days, property prices and the battle to find a place at a school have become genuinely terrifying, however, so the transport items tend to come as a bit of light relief.

Horror stories about how long you were stuck on a Northern line train in 40C heat, or how it took you two hours to drive 10 miles thanks to an alien spacecraft trying to do a U-turn on the Highway, in Wapping, or how many times they've dug up Thames Street in the past five years (my guess would be 23,546 times) - all these stress-in-the-city anecdotes are trotted out to an admiring audience.

This usually degenerates into that favourite London pastime of comparing routes. This will enthral the two people involved while the other guests slide into a wine-sodden stupor of boredom until the arrival of (a) the brandy or (b) the minicab. If you haven't experienced one of these conversations, they go something like this:

"Nah, nah," the first person will say (people seem to talk like a cross between a cabbie and Chris Tarrant when discussing routes), "I don't go through the Elephant. I cut down Landor Road, then back-double through Myatt's Fields, then across Camberwell New Road, then back-double to Albany, then straight across the Old Kent and . . ."

See what I mean? You're asleep already, aren't you? Commuters do it too. "Nah, nah," they say, "don't take the Northern line all the way to Goodge Street. Much quicker to change at Stockwell for the Victoria, then you can walk back from Warren Street."

The reason we Londoners are obsessed with these travellers' tales is because we have to endure the daily task of getting around the city. One friend visiting from Edinburgh admitted she'd always thought London Weighting meant London Waiting. She'd never seen it written down. On the other hand, she had just spent hours trying to get a Morden train on the Northern line.

But there are compensations. Particularly if you live in Wimbledon, apparently. I don't know what it is about that particular place - perhaps it's all the sexy tennis stars, or the balmy south-west-London air, or pheromones blowing around on the common, but if you're looking for romance, Wimbledon's public transport systems seem unusually able to provide it.

A former colleague of mine met his future wife on the Wimbledon branch of the District line. They'd noticed each other on the homeward journey each day and then, while stranded at Earl's Court waiting for a Wimbledon train that had been held up, they got chatting. They went for a drink and the rest is history (not to mention three children).

Sometimes, however, you have to be a bit more pro-active. Elaine, a friend of a friend, met her Mr Right on the 8.10 Southern Trains service from Haydons Road station in SW19. She had noticed that this gorgeous guy seemed to take the same train as her each day and desperately tried to think of a way to make contact. Trip him up? No, likely to result in serious injury. Spill coffee over him? No, for the reason given before, with the additional danger of expensive litigation.

So she wrote her e-mail address on a piece of paper, then manoeuvred herself into position close to Mr Eight-Ten just before she boarded the train. He was with three friends but, undeterred, she dropped the paper on the ground. And then she tapped him on the shoulder and said: "I think you dropped this."

Here's the clever bit. Instead of leaving him to pick up the piece of paper, thus running the risk that he might ignore her, or reply that no, it wasn't his, she picked up the precious scrap. She handed it to him then fled, her knees shaking, to a different carriage. That evening, he e-mailed her.

Elaine and Mr Eight-Ten (his real name is Grant) have now bought a flat together. So when they have dinner parties, they'll be able to talk about property prices and transport stories. One of these days they may even start talking about finding the right school.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition