Do you think this counts as Olympic travel chaos yet? I ask, jokingly. I’m on a hot, crowded Piccadilly line train that’s just pulled out of Holborn after sitting there for a few minutes after I got on. Behind me there’s a group of young tourists chattering away in another language that I don’t recognise but most people look grim faced, as people usually do on the Underground.
I’m talking to a young, dark-skinned woman wearing a headscarf standing in the corner. “Maybe not yet,” she mumbles shyly with a hint of an accent, “but it’s only going to get worse.”
Are you looking forward to it? I ask (given the atmosphere in London today, there is really no need to define what it is). “The opening ceremony, yeah,” she says. I tell her that that’s what I’m looking forward to most, I don’t really mind about the rest of it. “I’ll watch the 100 metres as well, I want to watch that,” she says.
She has become less shy now, although she keeps adjusting her headscarf, pulling it forward slightly. “Do you live locally?” she asks. Near Kings Cross, I tell her. “At least you don’t live in East,” she says. “They’ve closed loads of roads and stuff there.” Do you think it’s all worth it? “Only time will tell.”
Are you going to watch it anywhere? I ask about tonight. “No, I’ll just watch it at home. I don’t like the crowds,” she says, perhaps showing why she’s standing in the corner. She doesn’t have any tickets to events either. “Because I didn’t know if I was going to be here or not,” she says almost as an excuse.
She’s an accountant (the money’s OK but it’s “very tedious and I get bored easily”) who lives north and works just south of the river so she’ll have to be commuting across London every day during the Games. “I go in a bit later [than rush hour] though, so it should be alright.”
She asks some questions about me and our conversation is halting but comfortable. Enjoy the opening ceremony, I say as we reach my stop. “You too,” she says and we exchange a quick smile.