If I’d only waited a few more minutes. For then I could have trotted out the old “stands the clock at ten to three?” doggerel, and I’d have had a not-at-all-hoary-and-cliched opening remark all ready made.
But no. I’d already loitered a little too long for comfort in the ticket hall of a station a little too empty of people to not draw too much attention to my endeavours. I had to grab what time I could – which, in this instance, was 2.40.
As I’ve said before, a glance at a clock face is all most of us ever need (or have time for, ahem.) It follows that the essentials of a clock can, if done sensitively, become components of a broader statement, not merely of information but of style.
Those small circular daubs of colour: look at them, as John Betjeman would say. Do you see how they subtly echo the Underground roundel, in particular the ones positioned at each quarter-hour?
And that stencilled instruction “To London”: surely a reminder of how remote and isolated Ruislip still was when the station was rebuilt in the late 1930s?
Perhaps most striking of all is the colour. You don’t get this much cream in one dose in many Underground stations. There’s enough to rival the total tonnage of afternoon teas in Grantchester.
Which reminds me…