BUGGER me sideways with an impulse purchase from the Innovations catalogue.
Those were the surprising and very, very, very slightly disconcerting words that assailed my lugs when I announced at the last Eclectic Boogaloo AGM (held in the Beckton Ramada Inn, Beckton) that I was poised - delicately, mind - to embark on another Lunchtime Jailbreak.
Why the surprise? Well, for one thing the people of Beckton are easily jazzed by weblog-related announcements. They don't happen often out there. For another thing it has been a while since I did a Lunchtime Jailbreak.
"Lunchtime Jailbreak? You're 'avin' a larf intcha guvnor? Strike a light on the Lambeth Walk I should cocoa," I hear my Cockney readership exclaim in between snacking on fun-sized pots of jellied eels and embarking on pie & mash-fuelled reminiscences about the blitz and grand nights out at Walthamstow Stadium dog track with Pearly Kings and Queens and Pete Beale. Well, sweet Cockneys, it is all true.
A typical Eclectic Boogaloo AGM occurrence
What is Lunchtime Jailbreak?
It's really very simple to understand, unless you only speak Dutch, in which case it will be very difficult to understand. But forgive me if I continue anyway, Holland-based readers. Know this: I will always love you, no matter how baffling I find your country, people and culture.
As I was saying, the point of the game. Using the speedy, efficient and remarkably comfortable service provide by the good folks at London Underground Limited (I'm being ironic here) Jailbreakers have to get as far away from their places of work as possible and back within one hour, or however long they are prescribed for their lunch (or "luncheon" as the agreeably-dead, toilet-faced fascist Nancy Mitford would have it).
The jailbreaker has to use more than one tube line and also has to get out at the station he, she or it reaches and buy something to prove they were there, or perhaps take a photograph. Actually, taking a photograph would be better now that I think of it, what with this being the digital age and so on. Why didn't I consider this during the frankly rather protracted genesis of Lunchtime Jailbreak? I don't know. It doesn't matter. Just let it pass and move on.
Past jailbreaks, all of which are chronicled elsewhere in this supposedly august publication, have taken me to such pancreas-arousing metropolitan hotspots as Finchley Road, Ruislip Gardens, Putney, Kennington and Camden. It's like Whicker's World, but without the fancy dan foreign locations, Alan Whicker and television production crew.
Speaking of Alan Whicker, my excursions throughout London's warm underbelly have provided me with the added benefit of bringing me into contact with a variety of celebrities, some good, others Su Pollard. If you don't believe me, sit down, set your pacemaker to 'celebrity-related shock expected in next few seconds' and let me casually lob a few names at you.
Ken out of Fame Idol.
Now make like Franz List and compose yourself. What all this waffle means is that Lunchtime Jailbreak is a wholesome enterprise that not only expands the player's knowledge of London but also teaches them valuable capital shortcuts, the most famous of which is "live in Padstow". It should be in the Olympics.
Lunchtime Jailbreak #7: Shepherd's Bush to Richmond.
Distance: 6.143751 miles.
Pointlessness rating: 3/10. Unlike previous Jailbreak locations such as Dollis Hill, Richmond has green open spaces, a big river filled with water, women called Kitty who wear rugby shirts and pearl necklaces, beefy blokes all of whom are called Giles and a pub you can get marooned in.
Additionally, Norr Stokube from Norway's premier eco/death metal band, Recycling Boxes are Collected on A Monday in Hell, is a resident. In general it is quite a pleasant place. Rock on.
10.00am. Shepherd's Bush (Central Line)
It's always a gas to be in Shepherd's Bush, with its carnival atmosphere, happy-go-lucky residents, Keynsian attitude towards street cleansing and sole London outlet of 'Jumbucks', a shop that sells pies purported to be an Australian delicacy but which seem suspiciously like regular everyday pies, which have been a staple of the UK diet since they were imported from the Piedmont region of pre-unification Italy in 1717. Ignoring the dwarf who is attempting to sell me a 'brand new' laptop outside the station for £300, I race graciously down to the eastbound platform of the Central Line. It's really quite exciting. After a very brief wait, the train arrives and I'm off. the words 'Woo' and 'hoo' form inside my head and I type them out.
10.07am Notting Hill Gate (Circle Line)
Casually elbowing my way past a group of 14,000 holidaying Spaniards, all of whom are smoking tabs and awaiting the inquisition, I make my way to the Circle Line, pausing only to contribute 14p to a woman collecting money for the Campaign to End Cultural Stereotyping.
10.09am High Street Kensington
This station used to have a roof.
Other notable facts about HSK station:
1. I once saw Michael Portillo (former Tory MP) there, being called a 'batty boy' by some young teenagers. Most amusing.
2. Over a period of four years, the woman who hands out leaflets for a hairdresser near the station unsuccessfully attempted to give me a flier approximately 4,709 times. This was in spite of the fact that I make a point of walking around with a placard that reads 'Say No To Hairdressing'. A statue of the woman has been erected nearby by PERM, the hairdressers' union, in honour of her borderline psychopathic persistence.
3. The station kiosk, High Treat Kensington, was officially opened by Anita Dobson and the Roly Polys in 1987. It also once featured in a video for a song by sideburn afficianado Midge Ure. It is also cited as one of Michael Winner's favourite places to buy Monster Munch in the capital. Gwyneth Paltrow tried to buy out the kiosk and turn it into 'Alfalfaville', a one-stop shop for alfalfa-craving vegans, in 2000. The ensuing armed siege scuppered her plans.
4. On exiting the station, it takes a fraction longer to get on to the street itself if one takes a short cut through Marks & Spencer as one emerges from the mouth of the station. However, the redeeming feature of this shortcut is the brief exposure it affords one to well-made if slightly unexciting clothing.
5. "The street is called Kensington High Street. Yet the station is called High Street Kensington. Why?" I hear you whine, like a spoilt child with buck teeth and no friends. "Because," I reply sternly, "a 1940 Act of Parliament decreed that no tube station could share the same name as the street it stood on, in order to confuse the Nazis if they invaded Britain then tried to take over London using public transport rather than, say, tanks." This reply is followed by a sharp elbow jab to the temple.
I execute a textbook forward roll and find myself on a District Line train to Earl's Court.
Unfortunately I was distracted by the sight of behind-the-times Mancunian comic Eddie Large haggling over the price of a packet of Nice 'n' Spicy Nik Naks at the kiosk. Consequently I have ended up in Olympia by accident (it could happen people, it could happen).
Olympia, as everyone with a functioning brain stem and the wherewithal to turn physical experience and sensation into thought knows, is where the Olympics were invented in 1948. Some of the events that took place in that very first Olympics make for mildly amusing reading now. For example, those first games included events such as Crying, Squirrel Understanding and Pop Music of the 1970s Predicting (the latter event of course making a star of competitor Giles Totenhosen, who correctly anticipated the entire career of Mud. Tragically, he did not receive recognition or a gold medal until after Mud had become successful, by which time Totenhosen was dead.
That's not neat, not neat, not neat, to paraphrase a Mud song).
However, for all its fascinating sporting history, Olympia nowadays is not what one would term a barrel of amusing possibility. Illustrating my point beautifully, like a hand-woven piece of macrame depicting a hydrogen bomb being dropped on Bourton-on-the-Water, the Olympia exhibition centre is currently playing host to The Ideal Holmes Show, sponsored by the Evening Standard. This consists of 159,000 stands displaying the manifold ways that the TV presenter Eamonn Holmes could be made better (answers on an email if you have any ideas).
A resident of Olympia experiences
'The Eamonn Holmes effect'
Consequently, there is a lot of Eamonn Holmes-related action around the hall, which is more often than not grotesque and upsetting. I spend a nail-biting few moments waiting for the tube to Earl's Court. It comes. I get on it. It leaves. I am free. And easy. And cheap. But not that easy. Or cheap. You're a bit previous, aren't you? Get out of my way.
10.12am Earls Court (District Line)
Q: How many Australian backpackers does it take to change a lightbulb?
1 to change the lightbulb
149,996 to have a massive celebratory Sunday avo piss-up in the nearest Walkabout
3 to work behind the bar at said piss-up.
Just kidding. I love Aussies. This is handy, because SW5 has more of our Antipodean cousins per square millimetre than the DVD box set of The Thorn Birds. However, like Gloria Hunniford, Earl's Court tube station is mildly aggravating and I am in a hurry. It is time to leave my beer-swilling, much better looking, fitter, happier friends from Down Under behind. In spite of the antiquated (and rather sweetly quaint, if truth be told) destination boards at Earl's Court, I manage to brilliantly decipher which train is for Richmond and jump triumphantly on to it. I am making good time. "This is a fucking cinch," I think to myself, rudely.
10.14am West Brompton
I am on the wrong branch of the District Line.
10.17am Earl's Court
A bunch of Aussies who have been reading Eclectic Boogaloo at a free internet outlet on the concourse identify me by my spandex 'Eclectic Boogaloo' merkin, Bad news. They harangue me for 14 seconds then beat me senseless with their surfboards, stuffed wombats and Home & Away pencil cases. Then they kill me.
10.19am Earl's Court
Not really. I was just pretending to be dead so that when they resumed reading the weblog at the free internet thing they would think I was dead. In reality I am alive and heading for Richmond. Chew on that, you spunky Aussie dills, or something.
10.27am Chiswick Park
I am on the wrong branch of the District Line, or the "Fucking District Line" as I am hoping LUL will agree to rename it once I have launched my petition campaign. I cross over to the other platform at Chiswick Park, a station which conspicuously lacks a park.
10.29am Turnham Green
There is a dry cleaners in Turnham Green called 'Turn 'Em Clean'. This is A Good Thing. I am on my way to Richmond. Oh yes.
I am definitely on the correct branch to Richmond. I look around the carriage. It is full of people who are so obviously on their way to Kew and Richmond that it is painful. I ask one of them the time. He looks me up and down and says "We don't do that kind of thing in Surrey, you tit." Nearly there.
Hallelujah, as they say in the bible. I run out and take a photograph of a typical Richmond scene (see below), just to prove that I was there.
Die Toten Hosen relax with a dip in the
Thames after a Richmond gig
Then I sprint - literally - back to the tube and attempt to make my way back to Shepherd's Bush in record time. The excitement mounts, it's a genuinely thrilling moment - it has been months since I attempted this game and the return leg always proves to be the climax, unless the journey there is more exciting, in which case it is the climax. You see? Can I make my way back to Shepherd's Bush in just 24 minutes? Do I have what it takes? Is it possible?
11.29am Shepherd's Bush (Central Line)