24 hour London Tube: the cocktail of characters on the great leveller underground

We spend so much time on the Tube that for most of us it’s a second, rather crowded living room, filled with guests you would not usually invite over

Share
Related Topics

Boris Johnson described the Tube as the “throbbing cardiovascular system of the greatest city on Earth”.

And now this great visceral pulse of London is going to beat throughout the night, with weekend workers, revellers, the tired and the emotional piling onto the underground 24 hours a day, from Friday to Monday.

Boris can be as bombastic about the Tube as he likes but for most Londoners it’s a rattling wagon of necessity.

We spend so much time on the Tube that for most of us it’s a second, rather crowded living room, filled with guests you would not usually invite over.  And either through boredom or sheer wilfulness, most London commuters try and pretend they aren't on the Tube at all.

There’s the businessman who is trying to complete complicated accounts with a PalmPilot and a rustle of papers, despite having less room than a mouse mat. Next to him a girl is showering her fellow passengers with nail dust ash as she files her manicure. There’s the woman with the impossibly large hardback, that needs fitting with wheels and an extending handle. 

There’s the short teenager with the giant backpack who you don’t notice until they whack you round the middle. There’s the irritating tourists travelling at commuter times despite the fact you know they can lie in. Then there’s the commuters who believe themselves ‘natural leaders’, trying to hustle everyone down the carriage (but there’s no space...someone tell them there’s no space!).

The seat competers mount the Tube with shrewd glinting eyes, waiting to slide into the first seat available. They think they’re clever, but they are usually new to London.

In their combative panic, they tend to plonk down as soon as possible, meaning if you are behind them you miss out on any seats further down the carriage.

In the morning, it’s fun spotting people who just weren’t ready to leave the house yet, those yawning souls with great globules of hair gel stuck on their neck, toothpaste crusted round their mouth, or with their eyelashes glued together.

Now these underground Cannulas are going to jolt and judder all weekend, carrying a different kind of cargo. A younger underground perhaps, filled with people who want to stay out past one, but don’t want to pay for a cab home. It’s a great idea, as long as the stations are properly staffed. What is sad is that the atmosphere of the first Tube will be lost and with it that melting magic of day and night. On that first train you get the early workers, the builders and the bankers, sitting next to the glitter of the girls still in party dresses falling asleep on the boys ready to go back to bed.

Yet the news of the Tube being open all night is something that all Londoners can rejoice in. It might be underground, but it’s still the capital's greatest leveller.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there