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Underground Culture

Febbraio 2014
Sarà la famosissima mappa colorata, saranno i nomi delle fermate, o la sua lunga storia, o tutte queste cose insieme. Certo è che la metropolitana di Londra affascina un po’ tutti. E ogni tanto ispira imprese addirittura maniacali, come fotografare tutte le 270 stazioni con l’iPhone, passare da tutte le fermate in tempo da record o ... metterle in musica! Vi presentiamo tre ‘tube geeks’ geniali.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

Geoff Marshall
Geoff Marshall
Jay Foreman and Mike Strevens
Jay Foreman and Mike Strevens

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Michael, or Mike, Strevens has photographed all 270 London Underground stations on his i-Phone. His project was followed with enthusiasm by a community on Instagram, and there was great celebration when he finally completed the task. Mike admits that it’s a fairly “geeky” thing to do, but he isn’t alone. The London Underground seems to inspire all sorts of unusual activities. We asked Mike for some examples:

Mike Strevens (Standard British accent)

Some of the kind of more light-hearted things are the sort of various pub crawls you can do; the Circle Line pub crawl, which is you stop off at every station on the Circle Line and have a drink at the nearest pub and that can end up quite messy! There’s a supper club as well, I think. I’ve seen pictures of people having dinner on the Tube, setting up tables and chairs and having a meal, so lots of weird things going on!


Jay Foreman, on the other hand, has co-written – with Jon Gracey – and performed a song that names all 270 London Underground stations in just three minutes. If Mike Strevens found glory on Instagram, then YouTube did the trick for Jay Foreman. So far the video of his hilarious  “Every Tube Station Song,” which was filmed on the Underground, has had over 80,000 hits, which has been useful in his career as a stand-up comedian. We asked him about the relationship between geeks and the Underground:

Jay Foreman (Standard British accent)

There’s something about the Tube that lends itself really well to geeks: because it has such a fascinating history, because it’s so old, it makes the journey so much more enjoyable if you know about the stations, if you know which one came first, and why does it look like that and why is this one different from that one, and so, because there is such a wealth of knowledge about the Tube, it lends itself really well to geeks, and that’s why you can be geeky about the London Tube system, but you can’t be as geeky about, let’s say, the bus routes of mid-Wales. It’s not as interesting. Well, it might be, I don’t know, I’ve not tried getting a... a song about the bus stops in mid-Wales! Maybe that’s our next project, who knows?


Yet the real king of the Tube geeks is Geoff Marshall, the cameraman who filmed the “Every Tube Station Song.” His encyclopaedic knowledge is such that he has created an app called Station Master, which gives you information about every station, including advice on which door of which carriage to sit near, if you want to change trains quickly during the rush hour. When Geoff lived in the United States he visited and photographed towns in every state that had the name of a London Underground station. His greatest achievement was, however, appearing in Guinness World Records for having travelled through every station in the fastest possible time; in his case, 16 hours 20 minutes and 27 seconds. We asked him the same question that journalists put to Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953 when he became the first man to climb Mount Everest: why did he do it?

Geoff Marshall (Standard British accent)

I guess I kind of knew about it as a child growing up, maybe I read it in the Evening Standard one day, and I first started commuting, but actually there was a book called Tunnel Vision which is about a guy that attempts to do it the day before his wedding, and I read this, having recently broken up with a girlfriend, whilst on a plane travelling, and I suddenly realised that I was free to do what I want, and I had a long plane journey to idle away a lot of time, and I happened to have a Tube map on me, and so I spent that plane journey going, “How hard could this be?” and so it germinated from there and (it) turned out it was lot harder than I thought, and it’s not just sitting on trains ‘cause you have to make sort of on-street connections, which involves running, but it grew from there. I read this book, I remember reading about other people doing it, and I just thought I’d have a crack. And I guess it kind of got a little bit addictive, and after I did it once, and we missed out on three stations because the Richmond branch was closed that night ‘cause it was broken, I thought, “Well, I’ve got to do it again!”

Geoff was successful on his seventh attempt:

Geoff Marshall

You have to contact Guinness and tell them that you’re going to do this, Guinness World Records, and they send you the rule sheet and they just require a photo with a time stamp, so you can sit on a train and just pass through it, but, again, it’s not just sitting on trains, ‘cause you have to take photos and you have to write down the time you were there, you have a stopwatch, you have a time, once an hour you have to get an independent witness, which means you literally have to get some random person to sign your log book and say that they saw you at a certain place and time, so that there’s proof that you’re not just making it up!

Clearly, the London Underground is a great institution. For the final word we went back to Mike Strevens:

Mike Strevens

It’s almost like a parallel London, really, I think, so many odd little things, quirks, and it’s a kind of London that all of us experience but actually many of us don’t pay attention to very often, because we’re kind of just drifting through the spaces that we’re kind of... we’re often very busy or thinking about something else, we just kind of don’t really pay much attention to them, but when we do we notice that there’s a whole exciting sort of world down there, really, beautiful architecture, and London wouldn’t be London without its Tube, I don’t think. I think people who visit London see it as (being) as fascinating as Trafalgar Square or Buckingham Palace, I think, you know, so it’s very much part of London’s identity.


For more about Michael Strevens’ Tube270 project on Instagram go to: http://instagram.com/tube270 or search for @tube270. He publishes his other London photography as @mike_n5.

For more about Jay Foreman and his songs, go to: www.youtube.com/user/jayforeman51 Or: www.jayforeman.co.uk  Twitter: @jayforeman

For more about Geoff Marshall and his apps, go to: www.geofftech.co.uk/tube Twitter: @geofftech www.stationmasterapp.com


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Geek, geeky. Mentre la parola nerd è entrata nella lingua italiana, la parola geek (che è più attuale) non è ancora così usata. Un geek è una persona (solitamente maschio) che ha una grande capacità tecnologica oppure un hobby un po’ ossessivo, ma che è meno abile nei rapporti sociali. Ovviamente i nostri simpatici intervistati non sono veramente geek: li abbiamo chiamati così per scherzo.  

Circle Line pub crawl. Il giro dei pub sulla Circle Line. Il pub crawl è un giro dei pub ed è un’attività tipicamente britannica: si comincia in un pub, si beve una birra, e poi si passa ad un altro pub. Il verbo to crawl significa letteralmente camminare a quattro zampe, ma anche andare molto lentamente. Il concetto è che in un pub crawl, dopo la quinta birra, si tende a strisciare. Crawl è anche lo stile libero del nuoto.

That can end up quite messy.
Può finire male. Mess significa disordine, “casino” mentre l’aggettivo è messy. Si dice anche messy divorce per un divorzio complicato che fa male a tutti gli interessati. Qui Mike Strevens intende dire che alcuni dei pub crawlers finiscono per vomitare nella metropolitana!

The Tube. Il Tubo: è un termine slang, ma ormai quasi ufficiale, per indicare la metropolitana londinese. Non si usa per quelle delle altre città del mondo.