Wednesday, 23 March 2011

It's a London Thing No.28: The Good Guys Who Work on the London Underground

It’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.

This week we’re returning to the London Underground – a subject that we first covered a few months ago (you can catch up with that piece HERE.)

We’re hailing the people that keep our Underground stations going – the non-driving staff of the Underground. In particular, we’re saluting the good folk at East Finchley Station (although the sentiment applies right across the network). Here’s East Finchley station’s most famous detail…

And here’s MooMoo…

MooMoo is the principal character in our story – a melodrama, with a happy ending, in which we prove that both London and the blogosphere needn't be such angry places after all.

MooMoo is the favourite toy of Isobella, the three-year-old daughter of London Walks guides Karen and Adam. MooMoo goes everywhere with Isobella. As you can plainly see…

Isobella without MooMoo is like Pie with no Mash. Elephant sans Castle. Wills with no Kate. Unthinkable.

Last Sunday, however, on the return journey from seeing mummy do her Royal Wedding Walk, Isobella left MooMoo on the train…

(If Isobella could interject, she would probably pick this point to do so. And she would point out that it was in fact her idiot father who was responsible for this atrocity and that both Isobella and MooMoo remain unimpeachable in this catalogue of neglect and near-disaster.)

It was only as the doors closed, leaving us on the platform, that we noticed that MooMoo was heading toward the wilds of High Barnet. Alone.

Tears ensued. Tears the size of flashbulbs.

Isobella was crying, too.

As we approached the station staff to see if anything could be done, my cynical Londoner’s inner voice kicked in. It’s futile. They’re busy people. They won’t want to know.

How wrong I was.

The station supervisor Derek sprang into action. We followed him to the office. “What carriage were you in?” he asked. We told him we were in the front carriage.

In the office, he called ahead to Finchley Central. But as he did, a light on his computer screen went from red to green.

“Ah!” he exclaimed in exasperation. “See that?”

He pointed to the green light on his screen.

“That’s a green signal at Finchley Central. The train’s on the move. We’re too late.”

Our hearts sank. Hitchcock couldn’t even aspire to such dramatic tension.

Derek made another call, this time to West Finchley, where he informed the station of MooMoo’s plight.

“Well try to get MooMoo at West Finchley,” he informed Isobella.

The wait was an anxious one – although my mood was lightened by the fact that Derek was now calling MooMoo by her first name.

When the phone finally rang, it was Peter at West Finchley station. MooMoo was saved and waiting for us in the safety of the ticket office! A short trip to West Finchley station and an emotional platform scene to rival anything out of Brief Encounter – and our melodrama was over.

We’ll never forget the day that we lost MooMoo.

And I doubt that this one tiny vignette was a one-off that day.

I’m willing to bet that if Derek’s computer screen had an animated diagram of the similar small acts of kindness that took place all over the network, then it would have been flashing like the sky on Guy Fawkes night.

Okay, there are grumpy and intransigent LU staff, too, of course there are. All Londoners have got a tale to tell on that front. But the good grace with which the Good Guys perform their everyday tasks shouldn’t go unnoticed just because of the growly ones.

Big thanks to Derek and Peter and all the great folk we met that day on the Northern Line. London’s finest and no mistake.

(P.S. My Open Letter to the Drivers on the Northern Line covers a similar topic – you can read that HERE.)


A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you! I had a similar experience with my daughter and her soft toy dog, Humphrey, but here on the streets of the Isle of Man. He was rescued for me, and when I went on the local radio appealing for help I was contacted and Becky and Humphrey ecstatically reunited. Nice to know the world is full of such good and kind people who understand how important a MooMoo or a Humphrey can be to someone small.