It's funny how the timing of some TV scheduling works to bring two very different Tube views just days apart. On Saturday night I saw the dark sillhouette of a jug eared character who after a few seconds was recognisable as Gary Linekar. Thinking it was going to be yet another plug for the World Cup, I was about to tune out, then he started talking about Tube lines and the screen burst into colour & turned into a trailer for the new Underground Ernie series which starts on BBC2 children's TV at 9.00am and CBeebies at 4.30pm today.
Last night I watched a fascinating programme on Channel 4 called Me, My Dad & Moorgate. Laurence Marks is a BAFTA award winning sitcom writer whose work includes Goodnight Sweetheart, The New Statesman and Birds of a Feather. His father was one of the 43 people who were killed on 28th February 1975 when a train crashed into a dead end at Moorgate, making it the worst train crash in London Underground's history.
Marks was 26 at the time and admitted that he didn't have the greatest relationship with his father, who was old enough to be his grandfather. In fact the last time he had seen him was seven days before the crash and they had argued. Laurence Marks was a Fleet Street journalist at the time, and ironically had to report on the crash and the investagation into its cause.
It was quite moving to see him in this film meeting one of the firefighters who was responsible for getting the dead and injured from the train. The firefighter, with some difficulty, described the scenes as if it were yesterday and remembered Marks' father (a former policeman) as a distinguished "City Gent", who even in death sat bolt upright with a military air about him.
At the time it was believed that the driver of the train had some illness which prevented him from letting go of the dead man's handle as the train overshot the platform and ploughed into the tunnel's dead end. However, Marks' investigations questioned this. Alcohol was found in the driver's bloodstream and only the week before he had overshot another platform. It appears that suicide was a more likely scenario but because a note was never found the coroner's verdict was accidental death.
However, the programme wasn't all doom and gloom as Marks' father's death, led to Laurence Marks somehow feeling that he could be free from his father's stern behaviour and disapproval of his long hair! He moved into comedy writing and the programme showed how, perhaps unconsciously, his father appeared in some of his sit coms - most notably the dim policeman PC Deadman (spot the irony) in Goodnight Sweetheart.
Now onto the brighter topic of Underground Ernie. It seems ages ago when I first blogged about the London Underground version of Thomas the Tank Engine (although it was only October - twice! - me childishly looking forward to it? Never!). Now finally it reaches the screens. Many of you greeted Ernie's arrival with a lot of enthusiasm so I get the impression that a number of adults will be taping it, or if you have kids around, find an excuse to watch with them tomorrow afternoon.
You can find out on the BBC's site how Gary Linekar felt about playing "an underground supervisor who is dedicated to his work and always ready to go the extra mile to make sure his passengers reach their destinations safely and on time." I'm sure we know lots of them!
Doubtless there'll be a number of people who pick holes in the "set", story & design of the trains saying "Oooh Jubilee Line 95TS stock would never just have four carriages", or "Why's the Victoria Line train red? That's not very up to date". I'd be interested to see what you think of it. But let's try not to analyse it too much though. Remember it's a kids programme, it's fictional, tube trains don't talk, they're not "fast & efficient" and not all station supervisors sound as cheerful as Gary Linekar!