The Spaces Underneath

For the last few days I’ve been holed up in the house, curtains drawn against the heat, or skulking around the shadier parts of Bloomsbury, where I work.  I did venture out to BBC Broadcasting House with some workmates on Thursday, to see a recording of The Now Show, but scuttled home as soon as possible.  Even that’s an endurance test in itself, with the Central Line’s temperatures at the moment.

Listen to me.  I sound like a Victorian lady, all prostrate and languishing.  It’s not helped by the fact that I suffer from chronic period pains which are only alleviated by the application of a hot water bottle.  In the 32 degrees Celsius, I feel a bit like Manny from Black Books, with his Heat-Be-Gone Booties.

Oh, The Now Show was very funny, by the way.  I recommend it – and not just if you’re high on painkillers and Chardonnay, like me.  Anyway, while there, I discovered something disturbing.  I had been admiring the Art Deco-esque frieze that ran around the walls of the theatre at about thigh-height, when my eye came to a recess in the wall and a sign that said EXIT.  At thigh height.  It dawned on me that the raked floor and the stage had actually been built halfway up the auditorium.  We were sitting above a space at least the same height as the one we were in.

For some reason I found this very unnerving.  What’s underneath?  Our shadow selves, silently mimicking everything we do?  A crack team of BBC specialists, monitoring our every move?

Quick, seat 23 just shifted onto his left buttock.  I think he’s about to shout something inappropriate.

Seat 50’s fallen asleep.  Deploy the cattle prod.

In that spirit, I’m posting this.  I wrote it a while back, after waiting for the last train at Holborn station.

The Holborn Mice

If you stand very still on the platform, they’ll come to you; two charcoal-grey creatures – one with a cut-off half-tail – moving so fast you think they’re on wheels.  They keep to edges at first, but, bolder, start to follow the grooves in the platform’s paving.  Their eyes are just darker than their coats.  They are like architects or town planners, marking out the roads of the city they will build.  But they have their Underground too.  Before we can hear it, they have flipped off the edge to the cavity below the rails which start singing the train’s approach and already the mice are into the holes in the crust of cement.  An underground underneath!  What could it be like?

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