On Saturday evening, driving to Mass in Urlaur, I heard a short clip of a documentary on RTE Radio 1. It was called “The Green Line” and I’d heard promos for it during the week. The premise seemed to be that the reporter travelled on the Green Line (London Underground) in the hope of meeting Irish emigrants. It worked! A variety of Irish men and women shared views and stories of life in London.
Interlaced throughout the documentary was the well known phrase from the London Underground “MIND THE GAP” It’a timely warning to those getting on and off the train to be careful of the gap between the train and the platform. Presumably in some of the older stations it was a wider gap but the gap has the potential to cause problems. Were someone to get a foot caught, the consequences need not be developed. MIND THE GAP then is a very important part of the commute. It’s likely that the well-seasoned traveller doesn’t hear it anymore but it’s still relevant. The automated voice now replaces someone watching in the past and shouting to the passengers. The method may have changed but the meaning and the urgency of message remain unaltered.
The first time I heard that message was in 1986 when I went to London in the summer months to work as a deacon. I went along with a very good friend of mine, another deacon, to get some experience of parish life. He went to work in Kentish Town and I went to St Gabriel’s Parish on the Holloway Road. It was a lovely time and we shared a lot of days, chatting about life, wandering around London and exploring the Tube. “Archway” was my stop.
All these years later, I have lost, almost totally, contact with that friend. Geographically he’s at a remove now and, though we meet occasionally, the contact is fairly irregular. That said, I am happy to say we’re still friends but “the gap” has had it’s moment.
“MIND THE GAP” – it creeps in easily enough and creates a vacuum, a distance between train and platform, between friend and friend, between church and state, between practice and non-practice. The more the gap is allowed develop the greater the risk of loss.
That’s sort of what I’m thinking today …. we need to be alert to the gap – to “MIND THE GAP” – lest it lead us to a place of distance …