Wednesday, November 9, 2011

London 1994 - Incident on the "Tube"

In 1994 I visited London. I spent a lot of my time there with Mark Dalton, a native of London, who I had met in Truckee a few years earlier when he briefly lived there.

Two young cousins of mine, brothers Conor & Cormac Cahalane, from Downpatrick, Ireland, were living in London at the time I visited. I had never met them, but I called them and made arrangements to meet one evening.

A day or two before I was to meet my cousins, Mark and I were riding on the Piccadilly Line of the London Underground (which they call the “Tube” and we would call a subway). As we rode along I asked Mark if he knew why two of the Underground Stations had a peculiarity in their spellings. I had noticed that Earl’s Court Station used an apostrophe but the neighboring Barons Court did not.

Mark was mildly surprised by my observation, stating that he had never even noticed it before and that he had absolutely no idea why the difference.

Over the next while, whenever Mark would see someone he knew, he would ask them about this, and every time their response was the same as Mark’s; surprise by it, statement that they had never noticed it and lack of knowledge as to the reason.

Later, Mark and I went to the restaurant where we were to meet my cousins. I had seen pictures of the two, but wasn’t sure that I would immediately recognize them. As far as I knew, they had no idea what I looked like, and, of course, they didn’t know Mark at all. However, as soon as we walked in, two young men approached us. One (later identified as Cormac) turned to the other and said, “See, I told you it was him! And see, there’s the belt I told you about!”

Cormac and Conor explained. Cormac had been sitting next to Mark and me on the Underground when we had had our discussion about the apostrophe. He had talked to me briefly on the phone and upon hearing my voice in the Underground he thought it was me, but thought the chances of actually sitting next to his unmet American cousin on the London subway was too difficult to believe and thought it would be silly to ask. He looked at me very carefully so that he would remember me later.

When he got back to the apartment he and Conor shared, he told him about the event and Conor said, “Cormac, you’re daft [crazy]! It’s not possible.” Cormac then told Conor about the unusual belt the man on the Underground was wearing.

The belt I was wearing (and I’m wearing it as I type this) is unusual. It is made of woven leather. It has no holes as the buckle prong can slip though the weave at any point.

In closing, Conor & Cormac had been talking about the apostrophe difference since Cormac heard me mention it. Neither of them had ever even noticed it before and had absolutely no idea why the difference. There is a reason though, and you can find it if you look up either Earl’s Court or Barons Court on Wikipedia.


  1. I remember it well and often pointed it out to people I was travelling on the tube with friends. Conor

  2. Just came across your blog. Thought I would write and let you know Conor and Cormac are also cousins of mine!


    1. Are you cousins on their Mother or Father's side? If it's the Father's side we are also related.

    2. On the Father's side.