It started for me the day before when Tami Brissett - the New Orleans Police Captain who had flown over specifically to take part met me in Covent Garden at lunchtime, but before we can go in I get a call from Virgin Radio who want to interview us in advance of the next day, and so we head over to their studios near Piccadilly Circus, and kick off the first of many media whore moments.
Then we have lunch, and catch up properly and work ourselves up into a state of excitement about our 'epic' journey tomorrow! She heads off to her hotel, I head back to the LT museum, and buy a pointless gift as a good luck charm - something I've always done before each sojourn around the system before heading off to Amersham myself and checking into the B&B.
Generally, I'm terrible at taking things in until they're actually happening, and so the enormity of what i've started here doesn't actually hit me until later that evening I'm in the pub, and people start to turn up to meet up.
We'd picked the Boot and Slipper in Amersham to meet in the night before because someone had told me that it was big enough to accommodate a lot of people. True - it is but only actually because it's one of those pubs that considers itself to be a restaurant and so we immediately make ourselves unpopular with the staff when we moved some of the tables to let more people in.
Then Neil started to shave his beard off and got chucked outside "This is a restaurant - you can't do this in here!" he was told, and so had to move.
Then we eventually got some food orders in, they got more pissed off and you could see them referring to "Table 12 .. the noisy one" under their breaths.
Ah well. Miserable bastards, we brought them in 30 persons worth of customers that night, and admittedly not everyone got as pissed as John 'Statto' Sanders, but we all ate, and had a couple of drinks.
I got to meet people in the flesh that I'd only previously talked to online or via eMail. Tami turned up again, and handed out sew-on New Orleans Police Department patches for everyone. Drinks were drunk. Much banter ensued. We sorted out a few accommodation 'niggles', and generally everyone got in the mood for it.
Everyone headed off by 10.30pm, but back at the B&B where 8 of us were staying more banter ensued, tube map routes were compared (Well .. except ours, Geoff & Neil were not about to give their World-Record winning route away!), and we got to bed quite late. So late in fact that I'd got to the point of beyond being tired enough to sleep, and it wasn't until about 2am - two hours before I'd set my alarm to get up, that I found myself nodding off and getting just a couple of hours sleep! I worked out later that I got about 14 hours sleep over a period of about four days.
Amersham - It's a lovely place - and most of you reading this now will have probably never of been there either, and if that's the case then you should definitely download and play 'The Amersham Song' which will give you an insight into how it's perceived by some. (Courtesy of the Project Adorno website - The A to Z of the London Underground)
The first train out is the 05.28, but we meet at 5am. Some people have been there waiting though since three AM! Most are wearing 'Not Afraid' T-Shirts, but others have made their own, my favourite customisation is the chaps that had "Not Afraid ... unless it's a Dalek" on the back - love it!
I do a bit of chat to say hello and welcome to everyone, hand out leaflets and flyers for people, and then take the obligatory group photo of everyone at the start.
It's 05:20 ... we've got a few minutes to spare, more photos are taken ... the train pulls in from the siding, we all pile in, and a few seconds after it's scheduled to leave we pull out to a large cheer and the day has begun.
I don't think anyone has ever seen Chesham station quite so busy - even during the peak hours. We've been down to Chalfont and walked under the subway (which is quite funny, for as people are emerging on one side of the platform people are still going down the steps on the previous side, and it reminds me like a game of Snakes that you play on your Nokia phone where you end up chasing your tail a lot of the time), and got the train up to Chesham - where people mill about on the platform as the sun gently rises being light to our face for the first time that day and people take more photos.
Ten minutes later we get the train down towards Moor Park and we worry that it's going to be a tight connection for the train up to Watford. As it is - we have our one and only problem of the day, as they train is running late meaning that we miss our connection back out of Watford and puts us behind schedule by 10 minutes. Because of this, we all get a bit rowdy on the platform of Moor Park, and the PA crackles into life and a stern voice tells us to keep the noise down and think of the local residents who live nearby who'll still be asleep at this time of day. Killjoy.
Eventually the train arrives - 6 minutes late - and and we all jump on for Watford. We're looking at our watches, debating whether we are going to make the 06.35 back out again after all , but just as we approach Watford and slow - and stop - just outside the station, the train comes rattling past in the opposite direction, and so we're already 10 minutes down .. arse!
Ah well. It did at least mean that we could all afford to take a quick toilet break. I rather like this photo - it looks to me as if Jonny is longingly looking on at the men lining up as if to say "When's it going to be my turn?".
Tami discovers that there are no female toilets on the station - no matter, she can use the cubicle in the men's! "Don't mind me boys!" she says in her heavy Louisianan accent, as she wanders in averting her gaze and takes a leak in the reasonably clean cubicle!
John (who someone came up to me and asked "Is that Moby's evil twin brother?") comes up to me on the Metropolitan Line train ... "Geoff! Geoff!" he cries - "I've just realised something .. Moor Park backwards is Krap Room- And i've just been to the Crap Room!" and as if he feels the need to prove it, he shows me a piece of toilet-roll that he salvaged.
Or maybe he got it caught in the back of his trousers and only just found it there. I didn't really like to ask to be honest, I just smiled .. and reminded him that Finsbury Park backwards, sounds almost equally as amusing (!?) if you read it as Krapy Rubsnif.
We get to North Harrow - from here, it's the first major walk of the day (and we do walk - not run!) down the back streets to West Harrow. It's a little strange seeing sixty people walking along in one long line.
We've been walking for a a few minutes when I realise that unless people speed up, we might miss the connection at West Harrow. "Pick up the pace chaps!", I called to the stragglers, aware that I know we said we were just going to walk, but also more aware that that train would be on time at 07.16, and to get a good time out of Harrow & Wealdstone we really had to be on it.
People appear to walk fast, so I run ahead and get to the front, to the station, through the barrier and up the steps .. to be greeted by a train about 20 seconds away coming in. Shit - people are a good minute walk back down the road, so I stand at the top of the steps and shout "There's a train coming ... pass it back, AND GET A MOVE ON!". Shouts go up, the word is spread back, but people are still making it to the station entrance and there is only once ticket barrier letting people in. "Jump the barrier!" I shout out, but people still seem to be dutifully queuing up.
"It's ok Geoff, we're holding the train!" I heard a voice behind me say, and I turn and see that there are about 4 different people all 'posting' themselves at the door ready to hold the doors if they try and close. But we're ok - the driver had seen us .. in fact, I think he's grinning at us a bit - I think he knows what's going on.
I look back down the stairs, everyone is now in and have come through the barriers and are huffing and puffing up the steps. I move towards the train and help 'guard' a door myself. The last person comes up - a guy called Pete, and he runs from the top of the steps towards the train ... and spills the entire contents of his bag all over the platform! A cheer goes up, and I look at the driver who raises eyebrows, as Pete clears up his belongings - mainly drinks cans which are rolling over the platform, and eventually, with everything collected - he bundles himself on board where bemused commuters stand looking at us wandering what the hell is going on.
The doors shuts, the train pulls away, and the PA crackles into life ... "Well that was organised chaos wasn't it?" he says, and the whole carriage gives a huge cheer. Fantastic!
We later find out (someone speaks to the driver briefly when we get out at Preston Road), they news of our journey today has got out amongst the drivers, and so they're expecting us. We like that - a lot.
Into town, and into separate teams
It's 7.45 am by my watch, and we've just left Harrow & Wealdstone on a Bakerloo line train. It's at this point that everyone starts to group up to split off into their respective teams. Going round with me & Neil is his friend Ann, and two friends of mine Adrian and Richard.
Adrian was rather thrilled earlier when we passed through Chorleywood station and we got a photo of him trying to block out the 'Wood' part of the sign. Why? Because his surname is 'Chorley', that's why!
It's also Adrian's thirty-third birthday today - and so to make him feel like it, I announce it to the whole Bakerloo Line carriage, and strike up a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for him.
People get off at various points ... Marylebone, Baker Street, Regents Park, Embankment, but there are four teams that stay on all the way as we do to Elephant & Castle. Our team goes up the Northern Line, then west onto the Jubilee line heading to Stanmore, to find that two guys in another team Chris and Phil are also coming this way, and we'll be with them for a little while.
We break out into the open just after Finchley Road, and my mobile phone beeps into text life. I check the message : "You've made the webpage you sneaky bastard!", it says. It's someone at work. Cool.
Now honestly - I did not make that happen, all I do is let the right channels know that it was happening and see if they pick up on it - and it did, so we got a new story online here. I decide that I need to see it, so fire up the story on my mobile phone to see it for myself.
We get to the top of the Jubilee Line at Stanmore - I'm on the phone again, this time to BBC Three Counties Radio. "Where are you?" they ask me, and at that the moment the door slide open and it went out quite clearly on air that we were at Stanmore. "At Stanmore!" I say, and continue chatting to them, plugging the whole day and making sure I get the first of many reference of www.tuberelief.co.uk in.
We go back down the line one to Canons Park - there's only a 2 minute wait for a train, and then in the beautiful sunshine whilst we wait by the bus stop which is right outside we take a nice group shot of the five of us along with Chris and Phil who's first part of their route is still the same as ours.
The bus comes to Edgware, but upon arrival we just miss a southbound Northern Line train. Damn! 7 minutes wait too for the next one. We discover there was a problems on the line on the southern section earlier and it might be having a bit of a knock-on effect. Still it does give us some time to pop into Gregg's the bakers, and get home hot sausage rolls and sticky bun cakes. Yum.
Adrian who also likes to go to the loo at a certain time of the day manages to sneak into the staff toilets at Edgware by asking the guy on the gates nicely. He sees our t-shirts and gives us a nod of recognition - I think this helps our cause. Neil and I have taken an Imodium tablet each early on, and so don't have any 'sit down' urges all day. Back on the train, Chris eats his cream cake first and then his sausage roll (dessert before main, hello?) which for some reason amuses me greatly.
We go down the Northern back into Zone 1 and so some stations in the middle, taking in on the way Goodge Street which (obviously) requires the tradition of The Goodge Street Photo.
I even stick up a specially laminated sign just above and to the left of the LU roundel that says "Get your photo taken here!". We know that some people DID also have their pictures taken here whilst the sign was still up, but later on in the day it had disappeared - An over zealous member of staff taken it down? We'll never know.
Nutters, interviewers & a strange smell
The day goes on. I have to be cagey now otherwise I'd be giving away our route, but our next major moment of fun comes when travelling through just a couple of stations north of Kings's Cross on the Piccadilly. A journalist from Virgin Radio has come out to talk to us (well, ok .. talk to me!) and gets out a sizeable professional mini disc recorder and microphone from a bag.
Suddenly - seemingly out of nowhere - (we didn't see if he just got on the train, or was already there) a nutter/beggar type suddenly runs up to us and pointing at the bag that contains the mini disc recorder shouts "IS THAT A BOMB IN THERE? IT IS, ISN'T IT! WE'RE ALL GONNA BE DEAD IN FIVE MINUTES!". I tell him to fuck off (under my breath) but the journalist is quite visible shaken for a moment.
"Tube nutter..." I tell her "Ignore him and carry on..." and whilst he rambles on in the background clutching his two litre bottle of what smells like cider, I start again and finish the answer to the question that she's just asked me.
The nutter lurches off a few stations latter murmuring something about "His fan club of 15 million fans that adore him". Hmm. Maybe we should of asked him if he could get them all to sponsor us - that would bring a few quid in.
Time passes ... we're now at Earl's Court waiting to go up to Olympia when I walked past Neil and he catches a whiff of me. "Eugh! Is that you?" he says sniffing with his nose - and I have to confess that it is.
To minimise the amount of stuff I had to carry up with me the night before, I'd not packed any personal items - not even a toothbrush - so it's now been over 24 hours since I last washed myself, and over 10 of those hours have been on the London Tube system.
"Anyone got any deodorants then?" I ask, and before you can say "Smelly armpits" both Neil and Richard had produced two spray on cans, which - in a scene not too dissimilar from any Clint Eastwood Western - I took of my shirt, and neatly twirled them in my hands like guns from a holster, before 'firing' them under opposite armpits at the same time.
I put my shirt back on and have a sniff. I just about get away with it. Neil declines to have another whiff though much to my disappointment.
More stations and a couple of hours whizz by. Well ... trundle by - we are on the District Line after all, and I'm waiting for LBC to call me for some latest media-whoreing. They rang earlier and asked what would be a good time to call, and so I picked the stretch of time when I figured we would be on the Earls Court to Wimbledon branch. So phone at the ready, we leave Fulham Broadway and they haven't rung yet.
The carriage is filling up - and where we'd all sat spaced apart, people now fill up the seats in between us. Richard is still sat across from me though, and I notice he's got his eyes shut .. tut! I lean over and give him a playful slap on his thigh. "Brrrigdhgahhh!" he seems to splutter as he wakes up, gets his bearings and give me an evil stare. "Bastard!" he then addends regaining his senses, "I was just nodding off!". "I know!" I cheerfully reply, and before he can retaliate, my phone rings and it's a cheerful sounding LBC presenter saying I'll be on in a moment.
A few minutes later, I am indeed on air chatting away telling them what we're up to, when the phone cuts dead. What? Tunnel? Arse .. I'd forgotten that even though the whole Earls Court to Wimbledon branch of the District is indeed over ground, there's a tiny tunnel, and thus blackspot just after East Putney, and the the interview is terminated rather abruptly!
In Paul's excellent guide, 'How to survive the tube challenge', he talks about eating "Eating a grim KFC at Morden". When Neil & I have gone round before, we've never really stopped for food properly, but in their afternoon all five of us find ourselves hungry, and on foot to Morden station having just come from Wimbledon, and that very KFC in Morden loomed into view. We were tired, hungry and in danger of entering a mass-malaise, and so suddenly, hot greasy chicken was on the menu!
So the journey up the Northern line from Morden was a scene of schoolchildren on a day out as we all dived into those greasy wrappers as if we'd never seen food before, and at the end - conscious to the last, we then took all the rubbish, put it into two plastic bags, tied them up and carried them with us for the next half an hour until we were out on the street walking and found our first litter bin. Aren't we good?
We change again. And then again. Victoria Line now, and I see a new sticker/sign which LU are obviously putting up which makes me chuckle but it warns against doing something which every expert tube challenger gets to do once in a while namely - holding the doors back. "This will delays your journey!" says the sign. Yes .. and that's exactly what we need to do if someone hasn't quite made the train! More amusingly, I later found out that I wasn't alone in seeing this sign and taking a picture of it.
And on we go ...
A few more hours and more stations done later and we're into the evening rush hour. We're on the East London Line. Shoreditch is as deserted than ever, and apart from a cubicle on the platform which isn't a toilet (even though it's toilet roll hanging from the ceiling inside) there isn't much to see. This might be the last time that I ever come here as it's now definitely closing next year.
The train goes back to New Cross. We know this because at Whitechapel the driver cheerfully announces "Welcome to this East London Line service to New Cross .. all station to New Cross. Our journey time today will be approximately 12 minutes, and we will travel at speeds between 0 and 36 miles per hour. I'm afraid there is no in-train catering on this service, but if you're feeling peckish there is a chocolate machine at Canada Water". Marvelous!
On the way back up passing through Surrey Quays, Neil decides that the wee he's been holding in for the last hour really needs to come out. Out of his bag, he produces not a bottle, but his empty KFC cup that he's obviously been saving for just the occasion, and so as I keep cover and threaten to take an 'in action' photo, Neil relieves himself and poses happily for a 'thumbs up' shot afterwards. "It looks like Root Beer", I think. Do you remember when McDonalds used to sell that? I didn't see where he disposed of it. Again, I didn't like to ask.
Moby's evil twin - John - calls me with an amusing (for us) tale. He's had to pull out! He's been sick .. in the street! He literally through up. He was looking a bit rough this morning as it was I thought, but he reckons that he ate something dodgy earlier that didn't agree with him, and as he was doing a connection on foot he suddenly came over all queasy and vomited! Nice.
More time passes. We're at Hammersmith waiting for a train to take us west when Chris calls me. He and Phil has been with us for the first part of the day, but left us after Edgware Road and taken what we know to be a similar but enough-to-be-classed-as-different route. We figured that we might end up on the same trains for the last part of the journey, and that we might have met them at Earl's Court. So when he rings, I'm intrigued to see where he is.
"Where are you mate?" I ask straight away, knowing it's him as his name has flashed up on my phone. "Earls Court" he says "Just missed an Ealing Broadway train". And we carry on talking and realise that he's now going to be 'following' us exactly for the last part of his route is the same as ours .. only he's about 20 minutes behind us.
We talk for a while about how each others day has gone, right up to the point in fact that an Ealing Broadway train arrives at Hammersmith to take us west. Later, we realise this is the same train that Chris just missed at Earls Court, and if he and Phil had arrived about 30 seconds earlier at Earl's Court, then they would have been with us for the whole of the last part of the journey and finished in the same place with the same time that we did. But as it is ...
And now, the end is near
We get out of Chiswick Park. It's at this point that I'm thankful of the fact that we don't feel that we have to go immediately running off. I'm always the first to advocate some of the marvelous architecture that we have on the London Underground, and nothing defines this better that the beautiful 1930's built station that is in Chiswick, by one Mr. Charles Holden.
So I switch the my camera to night mode, screw in my mini-tripod and take this photo with my camera balanced on top of a traffic bollard. I love it.
We go down to Richmond were Annie Mole of the Going Underground Blog is waiting to meet us with sweet, chocolate and drink. Somehow Neil manages to persuade her to follow along with us for a bit, and so she's still with us over an hour later when we're at Action Town. And yes, I did mean to spell it that way.
It's at this point that we meet Matt and Bjorn from another team - We soon realise that they're going to be doing the same last part of the route as us as well! I call Chris - he's still 20 minutes behind. In fact, he's getting worried about going out to Uxbridge, because the last West Ruislip train that connects to the last District train to go to Upminster is at 23.45 and he doesn't think he's going to make it.
At this point my mum calls me! She' come out to do the last part of the day with me - she's driven to Upminster and parked her car there, and has travelled across to Uxbridge to wait for us. If the trains do their usual trick up there of one leaving at the same moment that one arrives, then I'm thinking that I might get her to maybe hold the doors!
"We'll be coming in on a Metropolitan Line train" I tell her "and not a Piccadilly". "Oh" she replies "I know them as big trains and little trains, which is which?". Bless. I inform her that the Met line trains are the 'big' ones, and the Piccadilly, the smaller.
We get to Uxbridge, as it is no door holding is necessary and I meet my mum who's wearing a home made 'TubeRelief' t-shirt, as well as a badge that says "TubeRelief - Geoff's mum!", brilliant!
Chris calls me back as we're doing the walk between Ickenham and West Ruislip. We work out he's still 20 to 30 minutes behind us, "But I got the time of that last train wrong", he says "It's at 23.55, not 23.45!" meaning that he and Phil had a chance of making it after all. I look at my watch - it's 22.22 - three minutes to go and the station is in sight, so I start to jog a little and Richard and Adrian join in. Neil is between us with my mum & Ann following up the rear. We get to the station, ticket in barriers, I glance up at the departure board - there is no X minutes to go, meaning that it's ready to leave!
We run down to the platform and bundle on. I hit my quick dial button on my phone to call Neil to hurry up the ladies, but as I do he appears at the bottom of the stairs. "Where are they!" I say urgently, "Dunno", he says "Back there somewhere". "Go and get them!" and put myself into the single door-holding position.
I can hear their footsteps .. "Come on! Come on!" I suddenly shout with even more urgency, and as I do I hear a new voice shout "Yes! Come oooon!" from way down the platform. The driver? No, can't be. It's another commuter .. two carriages down and by the sounds of it a bit pissed, and later comes and talks to us saying that "We're a fun bunch of people - the nicest bunch of people he's ever met on the tube in fact". Like I say, he's a bit pissed.
I don't know if the driver heard or saw the commotion and waited, or whether they would have made it anyway, but just seconds after Ann & my mum came down the steps and jumped on, the doors beeped ... we all sit down, and with a sigh of relief realised that there would be no more walking or running .. just one easy adjacent platform connection at Mile End and we're home and dry.
One more change
I'm knackered now. Really knackered. And feel like I should be taking some photos but can't be bothered.
Someone is passing a bottle of warm fizzy water around which isn't very pleasant but it's the only liquid available and so I gulp some down.
I flip out my notebook and do some calculations. We're at Perivale now at twenty to midnight. If a District Line comes within a couple of minutes when we change at Mile End, we'll probably get into Upminster bang on 1am, and have a total time of nineteen and a half hours. Not bad considering we missed ten minutes at the beginning, and stopped twice - once at Euston and again at Morden.
So this is it. We're on the home straight, and everyone's mood changes slightly because the end now really is in sight.
We whizz through White City, pointing out 'where I work' to my mum on the way through. Matt gets out his iPod Shuffle .. "Listening to the Jam's Going Underground!" he says, grinning.
The train fills up with late night slightly drunk people. One guy more drunk than the others tells me he lives in Tavistock Street, where the bomb on the bus was. He's thrilled by what we're doing, but somehow his drunken slur spoils the sentiment a little. He takes the flyer that I give him anyway.
At Bank we move down a couple of carriages. There are three girls all around 18 years old wearing the tiniest skirts you have ever seen, and one of them is clutching a group of balloons - pink, red, purple in colour - and seven of them in total with streamers hanging down. They 'bob' and sway as the trains goes round the sharp bend after Bank station, it's quite mesmeric. I didn't take a photo - I wish I had of done now.
The change at Mile End is smooth - very smooth. An Upminster bound District glides in 30 seconds after we arrive, and we settle into our seats for the very last time. More banter now. My mum is giving her life story to Bjork, and I consider stepping in and saving him, but he does appear to be smiling and enjoying it. She's telling him about all the places she's worked at in London and what the nearest tube station was to them.
I make some phone calls to find out where other people are ... there are several teams on trains just a few minutes ahead of us, some I can't get through to at all so are probably still underground somewhere.
We wonder whether Chris & Phil made the 23.55 at West Ruislip - as if they haven't then they're stuck for the night and aren't getting to Upminster! Shortly after the train leaves Bow Road though, the mobile signal comes back and a text message beeps through almost straight away. It's from Chris. "We made it!" it says, timed at 23.57 and 12 seconds. Nice.
We get to Upminster - I can't actually remember what time we got there in the end. Honestly! Such is my feelings about not being out to break the record today, I think I make a cursory glance of my watch and make a note of it, and somewhere vaguely in the back of my head reason that if you take out the ten minutes that we stopped at Euston, and the ten minutes that we stopped at the KFC in Morden, we actually had a time comparable to our 'Tube7' world record. But I'm not fussed.
Instead, the next 20 minutes is spent with more people arriving "Did you see so and so?", "What happened at .. ?" as people swap tales about the day. Lots of photos are taken. Including a big group shot (below), and then there is some fuss over how certain people are going to get home, and we all disappear into the night, knowing that we're going to meet up again two days later for a party/cum de-brief at a pub in the centre of London.
Tube 9 statistics
Stations visited: 275/275
Start time: 05:28
Time taken: 19 hours, 28 minutes. Did not count the seconds for an exact time as was not going for the record.
Number of people: 5 in my team, 67 overall on the day.
Support team: 0
Tube 1 | Tube 2 | Tube 3 | Tube 4 | Tube 5 | Tube 6 | Tube 7 (World Record)
Tube 8 | Tube 9 (Tube Relief) | Tube 10 | Tube 11 | Tube 12 | Tube 13 | Tube 14 | Tube 15 | Tube 16 | Tube 17 | Tube 18 | Tube 19 | Tube 20
We got on the BBC News Website with this story here. It ran as the lead story on the BBC London specific pages for most of the day.
In the morning, I got interviewed by BBC Southern Counties Radio, and two different 'branches' of BBC Three Counties Radio - all carefully chosen / timed at point when I was overground in the morning.
At lunchtime, a reporter from Virgin Radio came out and met us on the Piccadilly Line as we traveled down from Finsbury Park towards King's Cross. This was used in their evening bulletins.
A lot of people have uploaded their own personal photos
to the 'TubeRelief' Flickr group at:
I did an interview the next day for BBC World Service, that
will appear on their 'learning English' pages, here:
Luke Hopwood sent me this link to the video clips that he took on the day.
I got in my local newspaper, the Epsom Guardian
We can't not mention the terrible thing that happened to Tami immediately after the TubeRelief day.
She appeared on the loca BBC London regional news programme, and then on GMTV the next morning, from which the clip was used on the ITV rolling news channel throughout the day.