I have always loved disruption to travel in London. The reason is simple: I adore proving that one can get into work when everyone else fails to do so.
I remember some highlights. There was the time, it must have been in the early eighties, when I had a brief at Snaresbrook Crown Court. There were blizzards. All the trains had ground to a halt. The wireless kept telling us to stay at home. Driving would be too dangerous. I set off in my Fiat 500 at the crack of dawn. I slithered my way across London. I got to Snaresbrook at least half an hour before the start of business. Sadly, I couldn’t find my client (he had obviously paid attention to the BBC – I am sure he was not just putting off the evil day). Practically no one else was there. Then there was a tannoy announcement: “would any barrister on the Scotland Yard list come to the prosecutors’ office”. I was on the Yard list (that meant I was approved by Scotland Yard to prosecute). I made my way to the office. The clerk there asked me if I could take over the prosecution of R v X. I said I would be happy to do so, except X was my missing client. She understood. She then asked me if I would do R v Y. Of course. But Y had also failed to get to court, and his barrister was missing as well. We went through several others, but either defendants or defence counsel had not turned up. I finally left Snaresbrook, and slithered back to Fulham, without having performed any advocacy at all. But at least I had proved it was possible to get to court.
Then there was that famous hurricane in October 1987. I awoke, quite early I suppose, to the deafening sound of wind, rain and falling trees. I remember saying to myself “I bet the BBC won’t report this.” I turned on the wireless. That was when we discovered we had no electricity. I eventually found a battery operated wireless. The BBC actually was reporting the weather. Yet again, we were told we should all stay at home. Red rag to bull. There was no particular need for me to go to work. I wasn’t due in court. I was just going to do some paperwork in my chambers. But I knew I had to battle through. By then I had changed the Fiat for a rather larger car (there was no public transport operating). I worked out that, though the Fiat might have coped, the Rover wouldn’t. So I walked to my chambers. Not all that far (Fulham to the Temple is only about three miles), but it was an almost surreal journey. There were trees across every road. There were no moving vehicles. There were practically no other pedestrians. But I ploughed on. And I made it, only to discover, of course, that no one else was there and there was no electricity. But I had made my point.
The tube and bus strike that I loved the most (I can’t remember the year but it must also have been in the eighties) was one which led to a river bus service from Putney to Westminster and the Temple. Every morning I walked to Putney Bridge and boarded my vessel. It was wonderful. I ordered toast and coffee at the bar. I took them up on deck (it was a warm summer). We chugged our way up (actually that should probably be “down”) the Thames. I disembarked at the Temple and wandered up to my chambers. In the evening I got the boat back to Putney, sipping my gin and tonic on the deck. I really did long for that strike to go on for ever. Sadly, it ended.
But what about today? I would have loved to go into work today. It would have been so easy. The tubes were in chaos. Queues for buses were gigantic. But the District Line was working fine, though not stopping at most central London stations. Our own station, Southfields, was open. Trains were running regularly but, as my wife later confirmed, were almost empty. It was the usual stopping service as far as Earl’s Court, but it then became an express to St James’s Park (my wife’s station) and the Temple (which would have been mine).
How awful it was to be stuck at home during a tube strike. The trouble was that the doctors wanted to see me again. I had to go to St George’s Hospital at about midday. Maybe, in my younger days, I would have risen to the challenge presented by a tube strike and gone into work before immediately turning back to get to the hospital. But age is catching up with me. I took the easy way out, hung around at home and then got the strike unaffected 493 bus from Southfields to St George’s.
The only interesting thing was that I wasn’t seeing a urologist or nephrologist (the usual suspects). This time it was the endocronologists (don’t ask). It was diverting to have to cope with a different area of expertise.