We took the kids to the science museum today. As we boarded the tube at Archway, I started to do what I always do when I hit the London underground: try and deflect the onslaught of adverts that are taking up every freely available space on the walls so that ones gaze is not free to wander without falling on one. The constant interruptions to my reverie particularly pissed me off today as I noticed how each one kick-started a thought pattern that made me uneasy and in very subtle ways made me feel that my life was lacking in some way. I became conscious that I couldn’t afford to take that city break to Istanbul or take my kids to see Cirque du Soleil and that I didn’t have time to read that latest book release or see that film when all I wanted to do was tune into the moment and enjoy a Saturday out with the kids. And then something happened when we hit Green Park tube station. As we were walking down a long passageway to get from the Victoria line to the Piccadilly line a strange sense of peace came over me. My breathing slowed down and became deeper than usual. The un-usualness of this feeling made me stop and take stock. It dawned on me that there were no ads at all on this whole stretch of wall, only beautiful white and blue tiles. For a whole two minutes I had the pleasure of being able to look around without any distractions. The mental space was wonderful and made me feel warm inside – and only because I had had two minutes reprieve! I was reminded of my time in Havana, Cuba where I saw not one ad or poster in three weeks (except of Che Guevara) and how great it had felt. I began to fantasise about how it would feel if the whole of the London underground were filled with art or simply blank spaces. How much more peaceful it would be for the brain and how much happier we would be at the end of our tube journey. I reckoned that with space to let the mind wander, to tune in to ourselves, to have little inspirations not associated with the need to own a product or pay for an experience we might reach our destination daring to believe that what we have is enough.
Anyway, the science museum was great – it’s a wonderful thing that museums are still on the whole free. We loved the bubble show and especially loved that it was performed by a young Muslim woman wearing a Hijab. Filled with warm feelings about the diversity of my city we got back on the tube at South Kensington.