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The Smell Of The Crowd

June 1, 2011

Living as I do near one of London’s less functional tube lines, I’m always suspicious when it’s open at a weekend. It’s usually for a good reason – huge event at Wembley Stadium – and this past weekend was no exception.

For us locals further up the line, it also spells abject misery; crowds of badly behaved and inconsiderate parkers, drunks (hopefully only after parking) and assorted louts and weirdoes invade our quiet neighbourhood before setting off for whatever they intend to see.

Actually, it’s only the drunks that really irritate me. Before this weekend, that was down to observing how local elderly people were intimidated by the chanting and the level of vandalism;  and also at the disrespect shown towards the local community and our facilities in general. The streaks of ‘processed liquids’ on pavements, walls, alleys and tube platforms are disgusting. The football clubs should be billed for the clean up, I’d say – and I’m now quite sangine about the revenge rip off parking charges by a clever opportunist in a local office car park too… Still, though, it’s all actually got me as worried as a Daily Mail features editor about just how alcohol addicted the UK has become.

To explain: on bank holiday Monday I needed to make a dash to a local shopping area. The quickest (and cheapest) way is by tube, with an interchange at Wembley Park (nearest station to the Stadium). Go early, avoid the football crowd, no problems. And there was where it got interesting.

Making the change at WembleyPark to the Metropolitan Line, I was amused to note how many football fans must have followed a previous blog entry about always finding most space in the rear carriage. While the rest of the train was empty as it passed me pulling in to the station, that rear carriage was packed solid with fans, and fans alone.

My first amusement came as the train doors opened. A huge roaring cheer came from the packed carriage. Now, as a commuter, I know that we all sometimes feel like doing that when our train actually makes it as far as Wembley Park… and I guess a few were celebrating they could leave the ‘new fangled electrical railway thingy’ safely… anyway…

I let them out and then had the pleasure of a totally empty carriage for my own journey. All good, except the oddity… even at 10.50am, that carriage stank like a brewery. Not a spilled can anywhere, though, just the stench from consumption…

I’m old enough to remember when alcohol was really expensive – a bottle of spirits was treasured and ‘duty free’ an enviable perk. I also used to subscribe to the idea that it’s better for our own supermarkets to charge less than to give the tax income to the French as ‘booze cruisers’ crossed the channel to save cash in the early 1990s.

Now, I just don’t know any more. This blog often jokes about Mr P’s alcohol habit (Mr P is a fictional character, in fact, the real one doesn’t drink anything like as heavily – so he says) but the reality is that alcohol without control is something that needs another look.

Suddenly that ‘nanny state’ thinking which I hate so much doesn’t seem quite so stupid in the longer term. They say a conservative is just a mugged liberal. Occasionally, I’m now wondering if they may be right… and am I finally getting old???!!!


P.S. On a more positive note, inform me that the interview I did with them last year about my book is now the third most downloaded episode ever! Thanks to all who did so, and to those who have yet to, it’s still there, so feel free.

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