“The finest hour I’ve ever known, was finding a pound on the Underground.” or….travelling with badges.

Ahh the Sundays: https://youtu.be/AnuDxWHtk2U and their lovely London Underground based lyrics. Likewise another great London based song more recently discovered… THIS: https://youtu.be/P3GOVzy6Tzs – who knew?!

I’ve been able to get out a bit more and see a bit more of London recently. Pretty soon after the SIRT treatment, which knocked it out of me a bit (liver pain – not good), I’m starting to come right (I think). I dunno…it’s as much of a guessing game with this as with everything. I’m due to start another SIRT treatment in later in August so I hope I should be recovered enough to take that second radiation blast. They’re talking about adding in chemo to the mix this time, which will be interesting.

Anyway, in my recent wanderings, I’ve taken in film at the Barbican (close to Barts hospital, one of my treatment centres), gone for lunch at the Ivy, done a bit of park walking and a bit of Greenwich loitering (my old neighbourhood many moons ago).

London in the Summer (the ‘school holidays Summer’ where all the kids are out of school) is weirdly quiet and calm. The library where I write this has about 10 people in it max and it’s a massive library at Canada Water. It also looks like a spaceship architecturally, but that’s not the point. Things are quiet. Oddly quiet. I’m not sure I like it. I feel sort of like Cillian Murphy when he wakes up from hospital in 28 days later, with no one around in broad daylight. Except that if I were Cillian Murphy I’d spend a heroic amount of time trying to get-off with myself, so in the interests of getting things done, it’s better to be me in this weird lack-of-people Summer.

On my meanderings, I’ve discovered where everyone has actually been hiding. ON the transport! Every time I’ve used transport it’s been rammed, which has been difficult. Due to overcrowding I’ve been able to use and test out TFL’s latest travelling badge – the ‘please offer me a seat‘ badge. https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/please-offer-me-a-seat

I can stand for periods of time, no problem, but my energy wanes fairly quickly and it really is better for me to sit for longer journeys. The badge is supposed to alert other customers to my polite request for a seat – but equally it poses an instant teaser to the tube passengers…”what’s wrong with her that I should offer her my seat?” I don’t really look ill, I’m young(ish), I still have my hair (in fact it’s regrowing where some strands fell out – more on that another time). That I look reasonably like someone that can stand means that other passengers are a bit non-plussed in some cases (yes really, I’ve had some odd reactions to the badge). Some people give you the seat, but then stare at you afterwards, maybe trying to work out what your issue is which is pretty off-putting. In short, as well meant as TFL’s badge is, I just don’t think there’s been the campaign around it that alerts people to the existence of the scheme and also tells people two things; 1) this person needs a seat and they’re not pissing about, 2) mind your own business, you nosey beggar.

Another problem with the TFL badge is that it comes with an accompanying card that you’re supposed to flash, that says ‘remember, not all conditions are visible’. I don’t want to be flashing a card at strangers on the tube/bus. It’s awkward and I don’t want to be like Patrick Bateman in the card flashing scene of American Psycho. The badge alerts the passengers to your request to sit and the I suppose you’re supposed to flash the card quickly afterwards but the whole process is really ‘look at me!’ which I just hate. It takes away my ability to blend into the crowd and it takes it away in a negative way. It says something’s wrong, but then allows people to stare afterwards, wondering just why I have a badge and card… plus, it didn’t get me that many seats when I used it anyway. I guess there are a fair lot of A-holes around, just like there are lovely people around too.

So, looking for an alternative way of getting a seat that didn’t involve card flashing and a badge that didn’t work too well, I came across the amazing work of James McNaught. The man is nothing if not a hero-genius. He came up with badges that say ‘Cancer on Board’  much like pregnant women are able to wear the ‘Baby on Board’ badges. It says what it needs to and pretty much (like a friendly nudge on the arm) says ‘I might need that seat a bit more than you, mate’. I contacted James, who amazing gentleman that he is, popped a badge straight into the post for me. I wore it on transport the next week in tandem with my ‘please offer me a seat’ TFL badge. I double badged…and what a difference it made.

Interestingly, while double badging marked me out from the crowd still, it made sure that people saw what the deal was instantly, and they didn’t then stare because my badges said it all. I felt like I could blend in again even if I was wearing two badges. NB: Some people do still stare with the double badge, but I like staring right back into the eyes of the ultra ‘starey stareys’ so that they get nervy and then don’t stare so much for the rest of the journey.

What James McNaught has created has made my travel so much easier. It does two things. It says please let me sit, and it says, ‘back-off’ which I need it to say so that I’m free to think about other things, like who would win in an arm wrestle between Ryan Adams and Bjork. I can’t thank James or his initiative enough.

You can find James & his team on twitter at @CancerOnBoard

If you want to donate to the Cancer on Board initiative, which helps the team print & get badges out to people like me, you can donate here: https://t.co/yARoJYTbWx £1.50 will get a badge out to someone who needs it and at the moment, where the TFL badge needs a bit more tweaking, their charitable work is vital.

Sorry to end this on more music, but this https://youtu.be/u_hDHm9MD0I by Mitski is a crunchy banger. A song for getting on public transport with double badges on, without feeling like a weirdo.

Other news… I am in the market for a small (about 4cm long) inner forearm tattoo. HI MUM!…..Something a bit like the flowers on the left here. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for wild flowers even if it does make me look like a massive hippy. If anyone knows a good minimalist/liner tattooist, hit me up.


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