I began writing this by hand, scribbled on the back of an EU Council agenda, standing up in the middle of a steel can of compressed human flesh commonly known as The Brussels Metro. In a fit of desperation to control my claustrophobia, that is.
Yes, I know, anyone who has ever managed to squeeze him/herself down the London Tube during rush hour, or, as I understand, onto any train in Japan at any given point, will probably think I am whining about nothing. But the Brussels Metro has this strange, rubbery, CO2-filled stench, which adds quite considerably to the nausea already originating from the combination of being compressed into corned beef together with a group of total strangers, the stop-go rolling and tumbling of the train itself, fatigue, hunger and general angst. Blah.
It gets hot, too, and it is as dimly lit as every other public place in Brussels. So maybe it is an attempt by the ever-present Catholic Church to remind us, poor travelling souls, of the perils at the next underground level that awaits the sinners? In fact, some days, you almost wonder how deep underground the Metro train goes, come to that. Maybe that stench is brimstone, after all.
The funny thing is that the trains are usually about as long as half the platforms at the stations. So why, oh why, can’t they just add on a few cars?