44. The platforms at Ickenham

Country-spiedMetro-land is not quite a thing of the past.

That vast sales pitch-cum-sunlit upland of the early 20th century hasn’t completely disappeared into the margins of a Betjeman anthology or the back room of a transport museum. If you look for it with keen eyes, or listen hard enough, you’ll find the traces.

All along the farthest western reaches of the Metropolitan line the conceit still lingers. Someone threw an idea across Middlesex so profound as to resonate over a 100 years later.

It’s there in the rustle of leaves, the sigh of a sash window, the creak of a set of points, the song of a bird whose location you can’t quite place… All common sensations, but all somehow elevated by virtue of geography to become both part-mundane and part-magical.

The entrance to Ickenham station can make you shudder with despair:

*shudder*But its platforms can make you shiver with delight:

The joy of MiddlesexHere is where Metro-land can, if you so desire, be wished back into all-consuming existence.

Sit by these trees and imagine yourself surrounded by roads bordered with the softest of soft suburban grass, patronised by neatly turned-out vehicles peopled by neatly turned-out passengers, and lined with the most stylish of provincial amenities: a world that, if it ever really existed, fired just as many useful imaginations as it did useless realities.

This, at least, is realDon’t linger too long, however, for the fantasy can only ever be a fleeting one – especially if you’re heading westbound and the next station is the grisly Hillingdon.

Metro-land was once promoted seriously if rather loftily as “a country with elastic borders that each visitor can draw for himself”. That country might have long passed from the lexicon of poets and advertisers alike, but its borders can still be drawn, even though – like anything this old and worn – the elastic’s almost gone.

  1. Oh heavens yes.
    The Ickenham Residents’ Association have a noticeboard on the eastbound platform. It’s seen better days, but it makes this one of the most welcoming stations in London.

  2. What’s wrong with Hillingdon? I like Hillingdon. It’s bright and airy, unique in style on the Underground, and much better than the unimaginative grey dystopian grimness that is Canary Wharf.

    • It’s unique and airy, for sure, but feels to me like it’s in desperate need of refurbishment. The paint is peeling off the majority of its once bold, bright structures. But this – along with everything on this blog – is only my opinion. I don’t mind you not liking Canary Wharf if you don’t mind me not liking Hillingdon!

    • Oh, that comment did appear. Weird. I copied it to Twitter as nothing showed up on my browser after I clicked ‘Post’ – normally if it requires moderation you get a message telling you so.

      Admittedly I haven’t been to Hillingdon in years, so if the paint is peeling then I haven’t seen it. But it is about twice as old as Canary Wharf, and that’s not immune to scrimping on maintenance either. I think we all know what raw concrete ends up looking like if you neglect to maintain it for long enough…

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