I think, and I concede it is a minority view, that the reason London recovered so quickly from the atrocities on the Underground in July 2005 was not merely because London had taken everything the Luftwaffe could throw at it during the Second World War, but also because the beleaguered London commuters have survived everything the London and suburban transport systems have dished out to them over the past 150 years and still come back for more.
We, who have lived through generations of signal failure, broken rails, malfunctioning rolling stock, overcrowding, inexplicable delays, people throwing themselves under trains, swans, cows and the wrong sort of leaves on the line, are made of strong stuff. Not for nothing does the blood of the fighting Britons/Saxons/Celts/Vikings/Normans/Romans flow in our veins – we are genetically programmed to cope with all the commuting crap we have to face every day.
This is my diary of commuting through a year on the London and suburban transport system. All life is out there, and pretty bloody grim it is too.
I would like however to pay tribute to the sterling employees of the Underground, the men and women who man the Underground and drive the trains, salt of the earth, all of them. Their caustic humour, their unique hard-bitten world-weariness, their sense of duty to the herds of sheep who daily descend on them, and their unmitigated combination of unrelenting toughness with just a touch of kindness, is one of the finest things about London Town and has cheered up many an intolerable journey for me. There are no others like them. This account is dedicated to them.