So I wait on the platform. By some miraculous chance, the train that pulls up is not too crowded and I even see – the holy grail of the rush hour traveller – AN EMPTY SEAT. I imagine the gods of the underground – a spiteful, immature bunch – have their attention elsewhere, the circle line perhaps.
When I get on the train I see why the seat is empty. A dog of giant proportions is lying in front of it and no one seems prepared to move him. I stare at the dog. It is stunning – thick fur, large round head at least as big as mine; body over a meter long. But the startling thing about him is his fur. He is stripped like a tiger with colours of biscuit, caramel and sesame.
His owner, a young black woman has hold of the lead – a large metal chain. She has long black dreds and looks like she hasn’t slept in a week. They could have stepped out of the pages of a Philip Pullman book. Everyone else on the tube is staring at the dog. Most of the carriage is smiling – it has bewitched us.
We are a nation of animal lovers; the RSPCA formed 60 years before the NSPCC after all. And I am ashamed to realise that if she was blocking the seat with anything else – shopping, crutches, even a child – I would be seething with inner commuter hatred. The creature shifts and gets to his feet freeing access to the seat. I sidle around his enormous head and sit down.
‘You have a very beautiful dog,’ I say. Normal rules of the tube don’t seem to apply when you are sitting next to a tigerdog.
‘Thanks,’ she smiles at me, ‘he’s not happy with all these people though.’ The dog tries to chew the edge of my coat and she pulls him away.
‘What sort of dog is he?’ I ask.
‘A mix – huskie and Japanese Kishu Inu.’
He turns around and sits down. On my feet. It is the best tube journey I have ever had.
This is the funny thing about London – one minute you’ll be poked in the eye with an umbrella goboon and then next a tiger dog will be sitting on your feet. Whatever else it is, it certainly ain’t boring.