It’s enough to give anyone grey hairs

A recent letter to the Bangkok Post from the ever observant Ye Olde Pedant suggested that Bangkok’s BTS and MRT executives should display more imagination in the naming of new rail lines and avoid colour coding. He cited the proposed Grey Line which for him immediately conjured up images of passengers with silvery hair, otherwise known as “the elderly”.

Historically, grey has not been a popular colour owing to its associations with old age, dullness, conformity, indifference, boredom and worst of all, inclement weather. If you are feeling down, you can’t beat a grey sky to make you feel even more miserable. Perhaps ”polka dot line” would be a more cheerful choice for the new line.

In a European survey only 1% of men named grey as their favourite colour, while 13% said it as their least favourite. A poll of women revealed similar results. I admit to being partial to “light grey” and recall having a grey suit made at “Jonny Tailor” in Pratunam in the 1970s. It wasn’t exactly Savile Row and was a total fashion disaster, although I bravely wore it at numerous weddings.

Someone who also donned a grey suit but with much more aplomb was Gregory Peck in the title role of the 1956 film The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. I suspect even a Jonny Tailor outfit would have looked good on him. Of course the expression “men in grey suits” is often used as an unfavourable description of government officials who make unpopular decisions behind the scenes.

Our uncertainty about greyness is highlighted by the expression “a grey area” when things are totally unclear, which just about sums up our situation at the moment.

London calling

Ye Olde Pedant will perhaps be disappointed to learn that London’s much-acclaimed Underground network also has a ”Grey Line.” This is the colour designated to the Jubilee line which opened in 1979 and was named after Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The London “Tube” has 11 different lines and, as in Bangkok, they are given names but are also assigned a colour which can come in quite useful in the rush hour at crowded stations while negotiating the maze of tunnels. Considering London’s rich history the names of the lines are not particularly imaginative and some are plain dull, like Central, Circle and District.

I’ve always liked the Bakerloo (a contraction of Baker St-Waterloo) although it is often the subject of jokes. One station official got into trouble after cheerfully announcing to passengers: “The Bakerloo Line is running normally today, so you may expect delays at all destinations.”

North and south

The route I was most familiar with during my time in London was the Northern Line which by some quirk actually goes further south than any other line, ending up at Morden, near Wimbledon.

In 1968 I was sharing a flat with a friend in Edgware, the northernmost terminus. I did not enjoy the daily commute into central London, although the first half dozen stations from Edgware to Golders Green were actually above ground which made it more bearable. Mind you, the view was either an embankment or dreary suburban housing. Still it beat the uninviting murk which is all you see once you really go underground.

As in Bangkok, overcrowding has always been a problem on the London Underground. The drivers do their best to cheer people up. On one long-delayed packed train the driver announced: “I just hope the person next to you is wearing a good deodorant.”

End of the line

One morning at the Edgware flat I got up for work and was surprised to find my flat-mate in the kitchen already in his suit even though he normally left after me. His suit was crumpled and he looked a little the worse for wear … and for good reason.

The previous night he had attended a party in the West End for an office colleague. There was plenty of amber liquid flowing but he just made it in time for the last train to Edgware and promptly fell asleep. When he woke up the train wasn’t moving and there was no one else aboard. He looked out and appeared to be in a siding. All the doors were locked so he made the sensible choice of going back to sleep.

He was eventually booted out at dawn by cleaners.

Pig pickin’

On to culinary matters. In a recent PostScript there was an item about the ability of Thai workers to sleep in a truck full of dead pigs, with an accompanying flippant comment “pork chops would never taste the same after that”. It reminded a reader of an experience in Yasothon a few years ago at a friend’s wedding party.

He was asked if he would like some “moo” (pork) and he said “OK”. However a few minutes later he wished he hadn’t when the hosts returned with a live porker and proceeded to slaughter it right in front of him. Not long after, they presented him with a plate of steaming hot pork. After what he had just witnessed he had totally lost his appetite, but took a small bite out of politeness.

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Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

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