Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: When London Underground ticket barriers were new

If I'd known I'd still be writing Lord Bonkers' Diary 30 years after I dashed off a trial version for Liberator, I'd have given the old brute a better name - Lord Uppingham, for instance.

The name Lord Bonkers was a tribute to Colonel Mad, who used to write about horse racing in Private Eye. I had already written a column as Captain Stark for what turned out to be the last issue of an obscure cricket magazine, though I'm sure it wasn't entirely my fault that it folded.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting now and then to look back at what Lord Bonkers was saying 30 years ago - I have an almost complete run of Liberator since the early 1980s.

There was not an October 1990 issue, so here he is in September of that year (issue 191) when ticket barriers were new on the London Underground - or at least new to me. 

But then I was busy as chair of Harborough District Council's housing management subcommittee in those days.


Today I journey to London and have much fun with the ticket barriers on the Underground. I skip through nimbly enough myself, but the neighbouring contraption soon assembles an impressive collection: two-and-a-half-couple of American tourists, an Indian holy man, several heavily laden Swedish hikers, a swart saxophonist and an indeterminate number of Carmelite nuns. 

I trust that the transport authorities extort a ransom from those captured thus, but I am forced, given the cost of travel in the city, to the conclusion that they do not charge half enough. Nuns are notoriously bad payers, but the Americans and Swedes could be made to bring in quite a tidy sum.

Leaving aside questions of economics, I can heartily recommend the spectacle to any Englishman at a loose end in his capital city; it is most diverting to observe the victims writing and screaming in their futile efforts to escape.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West, 1906-10.

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