Friday, September 02, 2005

Bugger Yossarian; Ernie lives!

Bit of an odd post today.

When I was at the sticky age of thirteen, I used to travel on the Northern Line everyday to school. Or the Misery Line as it was called by most people.

There was a serial scribbler who for several years periodically dotted the tubes with schoolboy wit and alterations, often changing the maps on the tubes, or adding in stations and comments on places and areas. He signed most things ‘Ernie Crabb’, and had quite distinctive handwriting. I and my best friend Marcus used to try and spot as many as we could, in the hot baking days of the summers of our youth (can you hear the violins? can you? don’t bother. I wouldn’t go back to being that age again for all the gold in Elton John’s gaff).

I have no idea who Ernie was, or what happened to him. For all I know he could have been a mildly rebellious middle-aged woman. He was certainly very funny (although typically I can’t remember much of it now).

The reason I have been thinking about ‘him’ again lately is this. Everyday on my way to work I have been walking past a site where they are constructing a new set of flats. (It should be noted that I walk this way to avoid the Northern Line entirely, and use the Victoria Line instead). For ages that had big wooden chipboard fences up painted blue, to protect the site as construction went on.

For a few weeks, every few days someone would come along in the night and, quite neatly, write the same name repeated across the boards, along with something odd or funny. The names would be usually of famous people, like Diana Ross, Lulu or obscure 70s bands, for no apparent reason. Inevitably it would be cleaned off, to be neatly replaced almost within 24 hours with something new. It was totally inoffensive, very endearing, and made me chuckle at 8am – which former flatmates will tell you is no mean feat.

Is Ernie alive and well in South London??

Things in New Orleans sound almost apocalyptic. We’re all just a hairs width away from chaos. But such proselytising does nothing for the people there who right now need a lot of very fast, practical help (and perhaps a president who is less of a knob).

No comments: