Coming from Hampshire where the getting home late options were drive and don’t drink, stay at a friend’s or get a taxi for more than the cost of the rest of the night out – the network of night buses in London were a revelation. I used to walk to my corner of Trafalgar Square where the night buses to South East London departed and had my pick of about 3 or 4 that would all take me within a short walk of my front door, all for about 70p. This was amazing.
This was all good and well when I lived in Zone 2. I had my pick of night buses. When I moved out to the outer suburbs to Zone 6, commuting took on its own magical powers. I learned where to stand on the platform to guarantee myself a seat during rush hour for the 55 minute commute home. I worked out when the trains left that started at my station and would guarantee a seat into town. Sometimes I would sniff the air and cup my hand around my ear straining my hearing for the familiar toot of a tube train as I approached my station and run to catch it at the last minute.
Having lived in Zone 2 for eight years in South East and then West London, when I moved to Zone 6 I was definitely not in Kansas any more and Toto was nowhere to help me either.
Plus, to add insult to injury, my part of Zone 6, unlike many others, isn’t strictly speaking, part of Greater London, despite having a few tube stations, London buses and – oh joy of joys I was so pleased when this was confirmed as we moved in – a London 0208 phone number. Where I live, is Essex, not just by postcode or post town, which can at best bear a passing resemblance to county borders, but I mean properly Essex, as in I pay my council tax and have my bins collected by an Essex council. This, as such, meant that the night buses that did run towards my neck of the woods ended where Greater London ended and became Essex. Woodford or thereabouts. This being a good 5 miles or so from me.
We got a night bus there and then a taxi and it was like a British version of that film with John Candy – Trains, Planes and Automobiles. It took about 2hours door to door from central London to get home. As you can imagine, this meant we didn’t do it again.
Since then the departure time of last train from Oxford Circus on Friday and Saturday nights was ingrained in my mind. 00.33 in case you’re interested. I needed to be on the platform at Oxford Circus ready to catch this last train, or face a 100 quid cab fair home. As you can imagine, this somewhat put a bit of a dampener on nights out in town. I’d get to quarter to midnight and become twitchy. I’d start working out how far from a tube station I was and how many stops that would be to Oxford Circus, and inevitably left quite soon.
In short, London wasn’t such a 24 hour city as it claimed to be!
This has all changed with the coming of the Night Tube. This comprises the Central Line (my line) running from White City in the west, to Loughton in the east. Plus the whole of the Victoria Line from Brixton to Walthamstow Central.
I went to central London last weekend to visit a friend and we ate, drank and hung out, eventually ending up at his friend’s flat in Elephant and Castle. It was so freeing not to have to check the time and plan an escape route to get me to the magical 00.33 train from Oxford Circus.
We spent a lovely evening together and when he admitted how tired he was, he walked me to a night bus stop going into central London. From there I got on the tube at Holborn at 01.40 which whisked me all the way to Loughton, arriving at 02.25 which was walkable to home.
I didn’t walk home because 1) I was alone and 2) the streets from the station to home aren’t lit – penny pinching local council, but more of that’s not for here, 3) I’d promised Himself I would get a cab and be safe.
So I joined a taxi queue and announced my destination to a man who ruled the taxi rank and our queue with a clipboard and pen of steel. Six middle aged men and women were going my way too, so they said I could share their taxi. We chatted about the revelation of not having to rush for the last Tube home and how our nights had been. They refused money from me and suggested I do the same next time someone wanted to share a cab with me. I agreed I would, arriving home at 02.35, 1hour 10mins door to door from leaving my friend’s flat. That’s only about 15mins longer than it would have taken during the day with the Tube.
Will I be going out every Friday and Saturday night partying until 05.00? Doubtful.
Will this mean I can have another drink, dance, or laugh with friends without having to calculate my exit strategy at quarter to midnight? Absolutely. And I welcome that.
The Night Tube was filled with kissing couples, sleeping people and laughing groups. It was much more jovial than a normal commuter time Tube train.
You can start the series at any point including book three, but of course you may want to start right at the beginning with Book One. Here's some blurbs and reviews of the series.
Liam Livings xx