Saturday, 13 November 2010

Euston Platforms & Big Issue Salesman


I have never become sick of commuting by train from my home to London. I complain about the cost whenever it comes to renewing my season ticket, but I don't really feel that I should gripe too much as it's effectively my choice to spend almost three hours just travelling to and from work. That season ticket has literally been my passport to London's wonders for the best part of a decade and, though expensive, it feels like money well spent. It's really only when power lines fail or someone tops themselves on the line (always at Harrow and Wealdstone) that I moan about commuting.

But there is one aspect which is starting to grate, and that's the terrible layout of platforms 8 to 11 at Euston, specifically platforms 10 and 11 for a period of two minutes after my train pulls in.

The 06.34 train from Milton Keynes Central generally arrives, nice and prompt, into platform 11 at 07.20. I'll then join my fellow passengers in racing to the ticket barriers as quick as possible, because, at around 07.21 a London Overground train will arrive at platform 10, decanting its cargo of passengers onto the already-full platform. Most days the gap between the trains is sufficient enough for me to already be at the barriers when the squeal of the Overground train's brakes gets louder and I'll be well up the incline to the main concourse as the doors are opening. However, just lately my train and the Overground train have arrived at precisely the same time, the effect being several hundred extra commuters hitting the platform together, thus ensuring complete gridlock, pushing, crushing and an unnecessarily unpleasant start to the day as the throng of people tries to squeeze through a tiny bottleneck into the barriers.

Still, it's an annoyance that will be alleviated by the redevelopment work being undertaking to widen the exit, and mercifully it usually only lasts two minutes, after which I'm forced out of the crowd and through the exit barrier like a cork from a champagne bottle. And it's an irritation quickly forgotten when I head past Eduardo Paolozzi's lumpen Piscator sculpture and down the path leading to Euston Road. For somewhere between that sculpture and Euston Square Underground station, rain or shine, wind or frost, will be a person who cheers me up without fail each and every morning.

He sells the Big Issue and is probably the single most upbeat individual you're ever likely to see that early in the morning; animated and unfeasibly effervescent, engaging enthusiastically with the hordes of focussed commuters trudging past him, encouraging them to part with the £1.75 that a copy of the Issue costs these days.

He's rarely without a smile, never tetchy when people blank him and gushingly grateful when you buy a copy from him.

His welcome infiltration of my morning introspection is another reason why I'll never tire of commuting to London.

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