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Oyster card classics

The network is a long, dark corridor. And the network goes on and on and on. Times spill into other times - all the memories overflow. Some diamond up and break free. Keep them clean before everything crumples.

I'm sitting on the bus, my breath is breaking in the frost, my white hands are freezing cold, and I slam out Aphex Twin's On, and I know the whole bus can hear it. That Australian girl with the dog listens in, she's loving it as well. My head is about to explode; those deep, trough-like gaps between the crunching beats, offset by relentless glacial piano riffs, and so much bass the headphones actually shake and rattle. In turn, the jaw rattles too. The entire bus frosts over in joy.

What's that sound? Nothing. Just the rusty clunk of an alleyway door closing. Or the brush of breath in the creaking clear frostbitten Northern morning. My legs are so cold they feel wet. The sky is almost black-blue. Invisible navy. You probably would have had to be there to get the full essence of those sensations. Burial's Untrue. This world is unique. Channelled straight into my head. I've never heard anything that comes close - it's alien, yet it's everything you ever imagined, ever. The things you lost. The things you never even had. Warped, warming voices coming out of nowhere, despairing lonely voices trapped somewhere you'll never touch. The slightest prickle of a discernible trace. And all before the ice-sprinkled earth has even turned on the lights. I see orange streetlamps and rough, jagged graffiti. Camouflaged blue bus against the nearly-not-there sky. A silent tin vessel. I try to make sense of these noises but I guess no one will ever know what the residual energies of that album mean to me, its soul, the power of it in those streets when it tipped me out of slumber.

And then I appeared on the top of the escalator into the white glow, out of the searing humid-hot. I had been here before, although it might have been a dream. Was it a dream? Reality is always shifting, perception changing, just another version of the same thing. Radio silhouettes. With another radio in my head, eternal cocooned dub rhythms. Atmosphere echoes - Benga, Skream, Four Tet, Boards of Canada. Shows/shadows from the street. The soundtrack itself is something real. The soundtrack never gets switched off.

These burrows in the ground, the flows in stone flowing from a crazy past. Roundel. Suction air motion. Lessons in architecture - deep-mined. There are ghosts down here and I feel them despite the turmoil in heat. Roundel. Creaky passageways. Footsteps along the deserted platform. Steel doors banging shut. Gruesome laughter, blurredwhite blanket, paranoia. Roundel. The nightwatchman spills his tea.

It is so cold. Winter is closing in. Crinkle-cut ice hushes on the shivering tarmac. Deadblue sky. The lights are neon icebergs. I move away from the cigarette stench of the tiled tunnels, somehow finding my way, arc along the stairwells, find the surface. There, are the ubiquitous information signs and brilliant, endless bingbongs and announcements. No blood in anyone's faces. It is winter and I am lost but I feel like never before. I love being lost among the people. And there among the people is an old friend with a hugeshriek and a beaming smile and I give her a massive hug. And nervously we move off into the arctic night.

The air is still warm because the earth has been heating up through the summer - now on a lovely, sunny late September day it appears warmer than it actually is. All down to this 'greenhouse' effect, it warms my bowels, warms my heart. I feel this glorious warmth on my back and try, as ever, to dodge all the people on this bustling pavement. We get out their way and eventually reach the rabbit warren. It's darker in there, of course, and it takes a few seconds to get accustomed to the dark. But it still feels humid - you can tell the sun is blazing back, up there, above ground. Even on the Victoria-bound vessel I bask in the fading heat, waiting to come out the other end.

I'm switching from summer to autumn and I'm coming up the escalator and the sun is very weak and the people's faces are exactly as they were maybe in the memory or maybe in real life and tinted in a weird shade, like pastel blood-drained changed travellers. Suddenly the light is gone from the sky and I've left the deafening signs behind and the pub lanterns are getting stronger as I approach the building and my cheeks are sapped of energy and stinging with the start of the eternal candles-on.

Opposite me is the tramp and he's swigging from his cans of Carlsberg and telling me what he thinks of the world. The sun, a baking two-pence coin about to set, burns the back of my neck, just before we enter the tunnels once again. I'm scared of this tramp bloke a bit and just return his questions with spooky grins.

As I ascend the escalator I see it's still muggy summer outside, with the sun breaking free just before it sets. This evening has been heatspeckled sweaty corridors skittling from Jubilee to Northern, all mouse-dotted, then onwards to Victoria. There were words spoken with some copybook whimsical travellers, who faded into the skied story chapter fudge. As I rise I meet an ex-flatmate at the hub entrance and we chat and laugh and my brow is wet in the shadowing high-pressure zone and I know that we are on the tail of the beast, primed and ready for the adventures to come.


'Being on your own listening to headphones is not a million miles away from being in a club surrounded by people, you let it in, you're more open to it. Sometimes you get that feeling like a ghost touched your heart, like someone walks with you.' Burial, December 2007


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© Copyright 2016 John Maher