Poems on the Underground? I’ll give you poems on the Underground.

By Chris Worth

Remember the days when the Tube sort of worked?

OK, so it lurched and it trundled – its quirks
Included strange stops where in tunnels you lurked.
The lack of a breeze when your clothes stuck together,
The tunnels at Bank that just went on forever.
But in times not far gone, from Mill Hill to the Junction,
The Underground Lines still basically functioned.

Now, every brief journey needs planning and prep.
Locked doors and grilled staircases bar every step.
What used to be just a few minutes of clatter
Now needs hard actions, a check, or a natter.
“Closed for maintaining”, “Not open today”,
And then they’ve the cheek to bump up what you pay.

TFL website and daily text message,
Completely essential to making your passage.
Plotting your movements with numbing precision,
Sweat beading brow as you reach a decision.
And if you try winging it, web and texts skipped,
Well, write off two hours. Or cancel your trip.

The days are long gone when the lines all connected –
Some summer Saturdays, eight are affected!
Trying to get to the Market on Sat?
Covent or Camden, just talk through your hat.
Truth dawns as you realise a closure’s expected –
You withdraw forlornly, your ticket rejected.

At least you could once have a laugh at a poster,
With movies and shows advertised on the roster.
But now London culture’s no more than a rumour –
The walls now talk violence, lacking in humour.
The biggest percentage of ads, in procession,
Just theaten to put you in jail for aggression.

“Engineering works” – well, sometimes it does.
For commuters it just means more time on the bus.
Jolted and bashed as it brakes and it swerves,
(It’s only a quid, but still gets on your nerves.)
From Jubilee platform to red double deck,
By 7pm you’re a physical wreck.

So then there’s the hell of a Rail Replacement.
Packed with foul hoodies escaped from the basement.
The crush of dead Tizer cans dropped by some yob,
The tinnitus screams of an over-amped ‘Pod.
Not one of these buses could outpace a snail –
Please, Mr Johnson, fix underground rail?

What did the Victorians do that we’re not?
They built drains and tunnels (and they built a lot)
With only the strength of a man and his shovel,
Yet our wondrous power tools just give us rubble.
A hundred years later their work remains strong –
What, in hell’s name, are we doing so wrong?

Of course we all value the engineer’s job.
Repairing, updating, to care for the mob.
But why should a line built just ten years ago
Be closed for a year of weekends, sun or snow?
Old Ken never worried; he dodged and he ducked,
But troubles have mounted, and now it’s all f-

Echoing announcements listing lines down,
Stanmore to Stratford and right round the town.
Let’s think out the box. Go lateral, oo-er.
It’s time to start looking elsewhere: to the sewer?
Maybe we’re missing a trick: use our brains –
Could we make a Tube train that runs through the drains?

(Hey, it’d be cleaner.)

But now the economy’s been ripped asunder,
It might take our minds off the Tube going under.
It wasn’t our fault, all the guilty ones said –
Now here’s a idea: turn it round in your head.
If they’d closed City stations for the last ten years
Would we still be a half trillion pounds in arrears?

Think of it. Bankers with nowhere to land…
… Bank can’t be banked on, stranded near Strand.
Brewing lattes at Starbucks, instead of a bonus,
And doing less damage (still thinking they own us.)
The cloud is, the slump has caused further delay,
And Crossrail’s crossed out, at least for today.

Britain was once a great country, some said.
But now all our houses are worth less than sheds.
Boris says it’ll be done by 0’twelve,
But Surrey Canal? And more? Plans have been shelved.
Our Tube once shone brightly: there was nothing finer
But the size of this gap is much bigger than Mind The.

Without nearby transport my costs are obscene,
Indebted, preparing for decades of lean.
Despairing, frustrated mind body and soul –
Like riders on Tube trains, we’re all in a hole.
Now run by a sequence of halfwits and boobs,
These trains, like the UK… have gone down the tubes.


* The author thanks in advance those who wish to point out that Clapham Junction’s not on the Tube. But Willesden just didn’t have the same ring to it.

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