Julie Hamill: King Charles on the Jubilee line

Julie Hamill: King Charles on the Jubilee line

I’m looking down at my phone, even though it hasn’t got a signal. I peer up over my specs and see that everybody else is doing the same. No chat is required this morning, no pleasantries needed, no conversations before coffee. It’s headphones on, chins on chest and let’s just get to where we’re going. The last thing anyone wants to do is look up and catch an eye for fear of a smile or, worse than that, the terror of seeing someone they know. In the morning, the London Underground is under strict “look down” rules: control chatter, remain dull.

Until a dog comes on.

Entering at Green Park is a young owner with a gorgeous football-faced King Charles Spaniel. The dog has a smile like a slice of watermelon and a non-stop tail. As he moves around sniffing his surroundings, all chins lift and all eyes widen.  Headphones come off and mouths move from straight line expressions into glee and wonder. People look as if they’ve seen the glow of the sun for the first time, AND have been handed a winning lottery ticket. AND a banana.

The dog proceeds to visit everyone, quickly choosing favourites to sit beside and lean on, largely dependent on who’s giving the best scrub of his ears. “Casey”, as I see from his collar is his name, sits between my boots. His fur is as soft as baby skin and my smile is instantly lost in his gummy chops. The happiness of this dog, who simply wants to please all, is totally transformative. His presence instantly evaporates all introspective sleepy blankness from our carriage, which he has blessed by choosing. He has broken the look down.

I can’t help myself. I strike up a chat with the owner. I’m only doing what everyone else wants to: ask the dog’s name, his age and find out about his personality.

Casey is six years old. His owner tells me he’s still a puppy at heart and loves to travel by Tube. He’s so chilled and, like so many dogs I see on “big” trains, he lies right down on the floor at full spread and makes himself at home. My man owns this carriage now, and people laugh as they have to step over him to get on and off.

As he comes over to lean on my leg (and leaves a gift of fur on my trousers) I declare my love to Casey and his newly groomed boxing-glove paws, trimmed in at the wrists. I tell the owner I want him to marry my own dog, Dolly, who is ten. The owner tells me that Casey is a submissive boy who does, in fact, enjoy the company of older girls, so they could well be a match. Everybody is smiling and looking and talking to King Casey as gets up again to conduct a few royal visits. He is every inch the celebrity he deserves to be.

The owner says goodbye and some people wave directly to the dog, like he might lift his paw and wave back. For a few seconds all the heads remain up, enjoying eye contact and exchanging acknowledgement of a new atmosphere and a good feeling. As the Tube pulls away, all the chins drift down again, and look down is resumed. But for those few stops he joyfully reigned over us. It was pawesome.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE.

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