It all began so well; such promise. London is a vibrant, energetic city and it was drawing its last warming breaths before the onset of winter on a glorious, balmy, late summer evening as I walked across St James Park.
I mean blimey; it is the middle of October, and before you ask I reiterate, I am not following the GoSober edict.
I wander up onto Piccadilly, and climb into the XK120, picture of Margaret (Thatcher) on the dashboard and I gun it towards Green Park, reaching 140mph before a gentleman in a high–visibility jacket steps into the middle of the highway to wave me over.
Autograph hunters are everywhere these days and now, I’m going to be late to get to BAFTA.
Not happy with a signature, I have to walk along an imaginary line in the yellow brick road, dissatisfied; he asks me to cross his palm with silver and then makes me blow into a bag. The last thing I want is for this sample to turn up on ebay. My genes are a rare and precious thing and I’ve been saving myself for Maggie, well I was; until that night with entire Kardashian family. Since then it has been a never ending spiral into debauchery; me the Third Duke of Wimbourn, alone at 3 am in the Victoria Secret shop on Bond Street, with my reputation for Lycra!
Clearly that was after Peter Bradshaw, after Alan Clarke.
Anyway I put that in to inject a little heroine, I mean humour into the piece.
I was going to BAFTA for dinner and a film. The evening was hosted by Rankin the fashion photographer. BAFTA has a large cinema tucked away at the back of Piccadilly. Rankin gave a very touching speech before the film, and we settled down to watch Cinema Paradiso. It is a lovely, sentimental film, a snapshot of life in Sicily, one of my favourites as it seemed to be for nearly everyone else there.
This was followed by an Italian themed dinner produced by Anton the marvellous BAFTA chef.
The tables were a free for all and by chance I sat next to a cycling dentist from Pimlico. No, he doesn’t tie a length of string to a loose tooth and cycle away. London is such a small city. We chatted for ages about bicycles; he also took part in the Prudential ride, and he too has eventually dried out.
Dinner ended with a Limoncello…….. Shouldn’t it always?
Clearly the night was young, so Dr T and I wandered to share a glass of wine with Vash. He really is such a great host. The wine flowed and then hen party in one of the alcoves started an impromptu karaoke……
I took this as a sign to leave and try to an order a taxi. Addison Lee, no joy; Uber, surge pricing; Black cabs, nowhere to be seen. The decision was made, could we make the last tube? We head for Leicester Square, it’s now 00.30, and the last train is imminent. Down the escalator to the platform, fingers crossed; the sign says Cockfosters 3 minutes.
Those of you who regularly use the tube late at night will know the dread of reading this. Will you, or will you not fall asleep and wake at Cockfosters. I remember a friend telling me that he had fallen asleep, drunk on the tube home one night only to be woken by someone rhythmically and violently kicking him in the shins.
He woke with a jolt to see, not Vinnie Jones, but his wife standing over him, berating him about the embarrassment of finding him in this state in front of a group of total strangers. I think a better revenge would have been to tie his shoelaces together and light the blue touch paper.
Sorry, this is turning into a bit of a shaggy dog story, and with our mayor looking as he does; he now enters stage right. Boris steps out from behind the curtain; dressed as Ulysees, Dave Cameron’s Ghost of Christmas Future and he’s in bed with Bob Crachit and the turkey!
BJ has muted the fact that the tube should run 24 hours, in order that we will no longer wake up in Cockfosters or Epping, Upminster or Uxbridge and not be able to catch the next tube home.
Last night we alighted at Caledonian Road, where there is a lift to take us to the surface.
About 15 of us formed an orderly queue, and we entered the lift with a member of TFL staff who was clearing the platform of stragglers, and so began the slow ascent to the summit.
After a few moments the vertical motion stopped in a way that made you think, that this is not a pause created by Harold ………..Pinter.
The poor chap from TFL, was this his worst nightmare? He knew the lift was going nowhere, and slowly one by one we turned and looked at him.
Armed with a walkie-talkie, he began to contact Houston. Well OK, not Houston, someone upstairs, no not that far upstairs, we hadn’t got violent; yet!
Houston replied that there was a problem with the power and engineers would need to be called.
Step by step, we all became aware that we were going to be here for a very long time.
It was now 00.45. There was no mobile signal unless you stood right next to the door, turned around three times, stood on tiptoe and held you phone as high as possible in the top left hand corner. See photo below.
The lift engineers were summoned, from who knows where? We had no ETA, and the temperature began to rise, thoughts of the movie ‘Devil’ started to enter everyone’s mind.
Fortunately we were a jolly bunch, no-one seemed to be suffering from claustrophobia, there was only one poor guy who had done too much whatever, and was sitting rocking gently in a corner.
We kept expecting Boris to make a famous Zip Line entrance, but as time progressed and we got to know each other, it became clear that everyone was quite normal, apart from me. There was a whip round to see what supplies we had between us. A bottle of beer, a bottle of wine, a couple of bottles of water, a large of slice of plum cake, e-cigarette and a jar of Nutella!
This was likely to only last about 10 minutes.
I was beginning to hallucinate that I was Steve Tyler, and we were headed for Love in an Elevator, “Good Morning Mr Tyler, going down?” and that was my kind of elevator music.
Now an hour in and the mood was good. Houston still couldn’t tell us when engineers from the International Space Station would arrive to assist in our teleportation from our predicament, and to this point nobody had mentioned football. The Nutella had done the rounds, but it was only a small jar.
One of the guys had managed to get a tweet out, and thankfully nothing worse than that. It was now really hot and the ventilation was failing.
Just as the topic of conversation turned to football, someone with a large handle started to crank the lift down. It took a while but we reached the bottom of the shaft, however we were not free yet. No sooner had we touched bottom than we slowly started to rise once again, as if on some slow motion bungee chord. Would there be enough spring on it to get us back to the top?
Slowly out of the window in the lift, I thought I could see earth, the continents, oceans, cloud systems, the door burst open and we were confronted by TFL staff, engineers, firemen and paramedics.
We had been trapped for 1hour 47 minutes; longer than some, not as long as others, psychologically unaffected by the experience.
So my word of warning to Boris is, sort the systems out.
This was an appallingly slow reaction to a situation, which although not an emergency and didn’t involve injury or a large degree of stress, was unpleasant and poorly handled.
24 hour tube service? Only if it works 24 hours.
On a lighter note, Jake will be Elfing himself this Christmas, will you? Get the App.