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The Circle Line Invasion
The Circle Line Invasion
I've worked over the years with plenty of New Zealanders (affectionately known as Kiwis) so I was vaguely aware of Waitangi Day. This is to all intents and purposes the national day of New Zealand, celebrating the day when a treaty of friendship was signed between the Maoris and the European colonists.
I'd forgotten that it was celebrated on February 4th until I was swamped in Kiwis today.
I took a visiting friend back up to Paddington railway station here in London to get her train home. The journey involved two rides on the London Underground, on the Circle Line (so called, dear reader, because it goes around the centre of the city in a shape almost entirely unlike a circle).
Part way through the outward journey, we noticed crowds of young (and loud) people gathering on the platforms wearing predominantly black clothing adorned with symbols familiar to me from watching the New Zealand rugby team. By the time I was partway through the return journey, the train was being greeted by roaring crowds on the platform (banging on the windows). As the train pulled in, one Kiwi hoard would leave the train to be replaced by another one, each more drunken than the last.
And crowded? It was worse than a mid-week rush hour!
Eventually I had to ask and I was told that this was the Waitangi Day Circle Line Pub Crawl. I was also given beer so it was worth asking!
It seems that the idea is that the Kiwis start at one station with the objective of making their way around the whole line, back to the starting spot ... with an alcoholic drink at a pub near each station. Given 27 stations (i.e., 27 drinks) this is quite optimistic!
The CLPC is an established institution in this fine old city of ours. It's meant to be completed in 12 hours or less (just to make it a little more difficult) but it's also understood that few of the people who start the challenge actually complete it!
What you have to understand, though, is that it's normally small numbers of people who attempt it at any one time. Today it seemed that the whole of the Kiwi population had descended on the Circle Line at once - and London has a large contingent of Kiwis. Thousands. Tens of thousands.
By the time I reached my own stop, my companions were rapidly approaching the falling-down stage. Three young men of dubious sobriety were relieving themselves on the corner of the platform and the others were providing a mutual propping-up service for each other. A variety of remarkably large souvenirs were also being passed above the massed heads including, I noted, six matching metal chairs, a large wooden table and what appeared to be a stuffed alligator.
I couldn't help feeling for the older foreign tourists, especially those who spoke no English, who suddenly and inexplicably found themselves in the middle of all this.
Me, I couldn't help but smile. First of all, the youthful exhuberance was quite infectious (even for an old-timer like me!). Secondly, though, the Kiwis in London have a reputation for being hard drinkers and yet they rarely, if ever, cause trouble. Granted it was still early in the Pub Crawl, but these groups - loud and dominant though they were - seemed entirely good-humoured ... and I have no reason to think that they'd get less so as they got more drunk.
Give all the stories about drunken English yobbos, it makes a refreshing change.
2/6/2006 10:36 am
rather them than me|