Alice Jones: From the heavens to the seven ticket gates of hell, the internet will find you


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The Independent Online

These are dark days for shirkers. The London Underground has installed WiFi, which means that the 21st-century adult equivalent of "the dog ate my homework" – "I had no signal" – will no longer pass muster. Soon there will be no part of the Earth, except perhaps the wireless-free paradise of its molten core, that emails from one's boss cannot reach. We will be expected to attend to the constant ping of our inboxes without delay or respite.

The innovation comes on top of last month's decision by Virgin Atlantic to permit mobile phone calls on long-haul flights. I was on one a fortnight ago, and while most people used the opportunity to call home and shout "I'm on a plane! I know! In the AIR. Gotta go. Costing me a fortune. I know. I know! In the SKY!" ad infinitum, once the novelty wears off, fielding work calls will become routine at 35,000ft above ground.

Now, emails at 80ft below ground are to be the norm, too. King's Cross, Warren Street, Oxford Circus and Green Park were the first to switch on this week. By the end of July, 80 stations will have free WiFi on their escalators and platforms. A further 40 will be added after that, meaning that more than half of the network will be live, buzzing with office memos, tweets and ranty Facebook updates from people stuck on the Circle Line.

On top of giving Londoners more time and bandwidth to indulge their favourite pastime – complaining about the Tube – constant internet will also foster our most unattractive tendencies: namely a self-important reluctance to switch off from work and inveterate lateness. Very few emails are so vital that they need a misspelt "Sent from my iPhone" response within 20 seconds of being received. And now that it's possible to communicate from the underworld, no one ever need be on time for anything ever again. You can send a "Sorry! Stuck on Tube" email when you know very well that you haven't even left your desk yet.

Meanwhile, the Tube, this week flooded with two million litres of water from a leaking pipe, is getting ready to crack up once and for all as a million extra passengers arrive to stand on the wrong side of the escalators for the Olympics. Delays of up to 90 minutes are expected. Meltdown is guaranteed – but at least we'll be able to log on to the service updates from TfL while we wait.

* It's official: toad in the hole is the new rock 'n' roll. Simon Cowell has launched his latest talent show and, having noticed that people are more likely to swoon over cupcakes than crooners these days, he is on the lookout for a star chef. Great idea, which is presumably why hundreds of television producers have thought of it before him.

Masterchef alone has four separate formats on the boil – all reassuringly shouty, albeit with slightly different mixes of contestants and judges.

Food Glorious Food's unique twist will be to add a £20,000 prize, the chance to invent a dish to be sold at Marks and Spencer and a generous dollop of X Factor-style sentimentality into the mix. On what might be called the "Eggs Factor", "every recipe tells a story", say producers. "And every family has a special recipe that tugs at your heart strings, makes you smile, brings back memories and sums up all that's great about food." Cue contestants talking about the "journey" their dead grandmother's pineapple fritter has come on, and excitable judges telling them: "You made that cottage pie your own."

Over in America, meanwhile, Nigella Lawson and the famously acerbic Anthony Bourdain have signed on to present a cooking show "unlike any other" on ABC which offers home cooks, moms and dads and college students to compete a "life-changing opportunity" in food.

Oh, for those simpler, less emotionally draining days when Loyd Grossman deliberating, cogitating and digesting was the only trial amateur cooks had to face.

Twitter: @alicevjones