Almanac Life: Amy Adams on the London Tube


Amy Adams (Source: Wikicommons/Patrick Lovell)



It was one of those balmy English evenings, the Thames postcard-still and aglitter even at 8:30pm. On such a night I have previously wondered aloud why the locals baulk at calling this the greatest city on earth, only to be chided in response that until one has lived through a winter here, then their opinion counts for nowt. But what is not to love about the bustle of this grand old town, where around every corner is a familiar street name first memorized while playing Monopoly, or a pub which poured its first beer before white man set foot in Australia, or a glorious red-brick Tube-station entrance?



Travelling on the Tube is one of the great joys of visiting London. For the tourist, at least, for we are not required to submit ourselves to the grind of a daily commute. The network is expansive and relatively efficient, despite appearing careworn and fracturing slightly at the edges. Much like London itself, really. On this night, that clearest of sensory signals that the next train is imminent, is delivered in the form a warm wave: the rush of air being expelled from the dark bowel of the tunnel and breaking across the platform is more familiar than a mother’s embrace. Passengers disembarked, and I stood for a moment to listen to that familiar old friend imploring me to “mind the gap” before I clambered inside to seek out a standing space at the end of the carriage, mercifully adjacent to an open window. I have always enjoyed standing when travelling on the tube, with the added height allowing for a more complete people-watching experience.



I would not be surprised to learn that the stations across the network were quite deliberately gifted the most English of names the forefathers could devise, so that not a single passenger would forget for a moment the city in which he or she was travelling. Mansion House, Blackfriars, Great Portland Street. Where else could you possibly be but in London?



It was at Marble Arch, or maybe Lancaster Gate, or some other stop along the Central Line, that the doors opened, and she entered. Nonetheless, when she boarded the carriage she drifted toward my end. At first I did not recognize her, as she maintained the shy countenance of someone not wishing to be noticed nor recognized. But at that moment when she stood next to the open window and I, recognition slapped me as surely and forcibly than any schoolyard fisticuff. I immediately knew that I was in the presence of acting greatness. Amy Adams, at that moment in time a four-time Academy Award nominee, was a passenger on the tube.



Glancing about the carriage I saw the puzzlement on some of the commuters’ faces: from where do I know her?  Others were unashamedly staring with the astonishment that recognition had wrought. Did I proffer the slightest of acknowledging nods of the head? For she ever so slightly lifted her eyebrows in response. She knew that I knew who she was. And I was suddenly disappointed that my wife, who had left for home earlier in the day and was probably now somewhere over the Bay of Bengal, was not here with me to share in this moment and – more importantly – be the verifier of my after-dinner tale for years to come.



Why was Amy Adams on the tube? Perhaps she was just popping down to Tesco for some groceries? Or making for Harrods to purchase souvenirs? Maybe she was heading toward Covent Garden for a theatre rehearsal? Whatever the reason, her luminosity was almost blinding to everyone on that train. More and more eyes were being drawn to her, as if she was in colour and the rest of the us were in black and white. She must have known that all eyes were upon her, but she stood silently and gracefully, pretending not to notice. I had the urge to inquire of her what it was like being stared at by strangers. But I suspect that her rapid-fire response may have been along the lines of ‘It’s not as bad as being asked a question by a stranger!’



And then she was gone. The doors opened at Holburn, and she strode purposefully and gracefully down the carriage, through the doors, and out onto the platform. Her summery floral dress was twirling in the breeze. Now I had seen it all. Amy Adams on the Tube!



I was still shaking my head as I trudged up the steps at Chancery Lane station, preparing to enter the London night. And, as I emerged, momentarily disoriented by the blinking lights and double-decker busses on High Holborn, it was then that I had a horrible thought. Maybe it had not been Amy Adams after all?




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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Such ‘brushes with fame’ are an interesting conundrum, Smokie. A few weeks ago I was on my way to the cinema in Noosa Junction and, as I walked along past the numerous eateries, there was Adam Scott having coffee with someone. Cap pulled fairly low over his eyes, it seemed that he intuited from my millisecond longer than usual glance that I knew who he was. But I kept walking as I take the view, ‘leave the poor bugger alone as he has enough sycophants to cope with without me adding to the queue’.

    Ditto in London some years ago, not far from Sloane Square, as John Cleese emerged from a dentist’s surgery. I did permit myself the tiniest of smiles in his direction. I would have loved to have taken 10 seconds to say a simple ‘thanks’ for all the enjoyment he had brought to me (and millions of others) but I kept to the above principle.

    And several others over the years, most notably Michael Parkinson in Harrods, and Donald Fagan sharing a sidewalk coffee with Marcia Hines in Redcliffe a few days before Steely Dan’s Brisbane concert.

    Ordinary people going about the ordinary aspects of their lives.

    But as you say, Smokie, was it really them?

  2. a terrific description of the Tube Smokie. I couldn’t believe how old and claustrophobic it was. I remember helping a ladies with a suitcase because there were no elevators. Much to my chagrin the case weighed about 50kg and the stairs suddenly looked like the Everest summit!

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    The London Tube makes you realise what a small world it really is. Before I resigned my job in the early 70s to live and work in London then eventually travel Europe I would travel into Melbourne everyday for 5 years on the No48 tram from Nth Balwyn/Kew. Usually it was the same cohort of passengers off to work.At a Bridge Rd stop a young bloke around my age would hop on the tram. After a couple of years we would nod, sometimes say good day to each other. You can imagine my surprise when travelling to work on the London Tube onto the train hops this same guy from Richmond. Incredible! We just looked at one another and could not believe it! Finally, we formally introduced ourselves for the first time after both travelling half way round the world and arranged to meet up in a local pub. It is a small world!

  4. Almost 40 years ago I was on a Tube station platform and realised two aged gentlemen nearby in overcoats and hats were Alec Guinness and Leo McKern. The pair had been on stage in the West End and were simply catching a train home. Fancy, they were human just like the rest of us.

  5. Love it.

  6. Thanks for your comments, all.

  7. I once stumbled onto a plane to find I was sitting next to Thomas Muster who was en route to visit the Sunshine Coast.

  8. I once had to pick up Isabella Cowan at an airport and take her to her hotel – I was helping on a tennis camp. She was Peter McNamara’s partner. I was shockingly hungover and smelt of Bundy.

  9. I love the Tube and really enjoy pouring over the map and marvelling at the evocative station and line names such as Hammersmith and City and Maida Vale. Unlike public transport in Australia or maybe just Adelaide the Tube seems to be embraced more widely and regardless of class.

    Landing at Gatwick one dawn I then took the Gatwick Express home through town. Martin Freeman was in the same carriage, and I tried to only recall him from The Office but his scenes in Love Actually as the porn star kept interfering.

    Great story, Smokie.

  10. Gold Smokie, gold!

  11. Bruce O'Brien says

    Love your choice of words Smoke.
    Some years ago Sue and I hopped off a bus in Mayfair and standing right of us was Former CY’s and Willi player, David Utbar and his wife Carol.
    The four of us were amazed, all from the same (Williams)town.
    Several years later Sue and I were again in the UK and decided that a trip to Greenwich to straddle the line would be a good idea.
    Dan Henry’s brother Tim, another former CY’s player and his wife Mandy couldn’t believe that the four of us would meet there as neither couple knew of each other’s trip.
    So much for “it’s a big wide wonderful world theme song” written by John Rox (1939), one of the 16 most ever requested songs.
    My mother once told me,”if you come from Williamstown, behave yourself because you’ll always bump into someone from Williamstown”.
    My mother was right.

  12. Brilliant Smokie. Went searching through the Hall of Repressed Memories for a brush with fame. When I worked for the Health Minister in Canberra in the 1980’s we had a visit from the fledgling ABC Science Unit. Robin Williams (not the actor/comedian) led the delegation with a young Scottish paediatrician Norman Swan and a cadet journalist in recently retired dual Commonwealth Games swimming gold medallist Lisa Forrest. I was transfixed. At meeting’s end I went over to the blond goddess and said something along the lines of “I really admire your sporting achievements………and you’ve got……..brains……….and…….and…….gorgeous looks”.
    She gave me the look of “who is this slime just crawled out of the swamp and what is he doing working for the Health Minister?#**!”
    I shuffled off crestfallen hoping the floor would swallow me and since then have adopted Smokie’s silent admiration approach.

  13. Given that Mr Dawson not too long ago received direct correspondence from Martina Navratilova, can we expect a postcard from Ms Adams addressed to ‘Smokie Dawson c/- P.O Box The Footy Almanac’?

  14. Peter Fuller says

    I loved this piece, Smokie, and the comments. My encounters are pedestrian by comparison.
    Apart from an occasional encounter with Ian Hauser (which with apologies to Frank Sinatra, were more in the category of “you fly down the street on the chance that you’ll meet and you meet not strictly by chance”), I have a couple of instances from a year in Canberra. We saw Margaret Whitlam browsing/shopping in David Jones on a weekday afternoon. We also attended a concert when Roger Woodward was delayed as the packed Playhouse had a row of seats directly in front of us conspicuously vacant. The mystery was resolved when Sir John Kerr and entourage walked in.
    When I lived in Stockholm for a year, I encountered John Walker, the New Zealander who was then the world mile record holder, having a loosener on the street, during the afternoon before that evening’s competition at the Stockholm Stadion.

  15. Love your work Smokie.

    “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”

  16. Mark Duffett says

    I also once ran into a famous redhead on a commute. Well, almost. She was on foot, I was on my bike, and fortunately swerved sufficiently to avoid knocking Australia’s then-Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard into Hobart’s Constitution Dock.

  17. Peter Fuller says

    Typically further research through the minefield of my memory has yielded some additional results. I travelled on a Melbourne suburban train (mid-1990s) in the same carriage as Twiggy Dunne, who if my memory isn’t entirely mistaken was then Secretary/Chief Executive at Victoria Park.
    My other train encounter was with Francis Bourke in the early noughties. I was on my way to an umpiring commitment at South Yarra, and was as usual when travelling by train, absorbed in my reading material (the Saturday Age, probably). I just moved my knees (long legs) sideways as I sensed a passenger trying to occupy the opposite seat. When I lifted my eyes from the paper, I realised that it was the sainted F. Bourke. I said to him that if I’d known that I was in the company of football royalty, that I would have stood and offered him my seat. He struck up a conversation for the fifteen minutes or so as we travelled from Camberwell to Richmond (he was on his way to a Richmond lunch before an MCG match).
    The other example which I have dredged from the memory bank was on a trip to Canberra some ten years ago. I was running the bike path/walking truck around the Lake, which at its western end skirts Yarralumla. Quentin Bryce was taking her constitutional in the grounds, when I spotted her through the fence, perhaps 10 metres distant, and wished her Good morning, which she generously reciprocated.

  18. Many thanks for all your comments.

  19. Just like Mark Duffett I have had an encounter of sorts with Julia Gillard.

    When she was PM, she at least once attended the Proclamation Day ceremony down at the Old Gum Tree. To my delight and surprise, after it was done, she moved about the crowd, saying hello and even sharing a few hugs with strangers, including a friend. I only nodded my greetings but was amazed that our country’s leader could do this although I’m sure security was lurking. Where else in the world could this happen? Unsure if she enjoyed the Devonshire tea.

  20. On Mickey’s theme of Australia’s egalitarian/safe culture – we were at Somerville outdoor movies at UWA a couple of years ago. Sitting on bean bags on the grass in front of the screen with our picnic, pizza and plonk. A couple of latecomers arrived with their picnic basket and found a space among the frolickers. But nothing to sit on.
    Knowing there were still a few bean bags in the storage area behind the screen I went and grabbed a couple. Gallantly offering them to the grateful couple, I said to Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and his wife “there you go mate – they’re $5 grand apiece”. He laughed and I complimented him on his indigenous employment projects.
    Australia and New Zealand are probably the only countries where someone worth $30B could go out at night without security or staff. We have much to be grateful for.

  21. Peter Flynn says

    Bravo Old Cockfosters.

    Nothing surprises on the Oxo Cube.

  22. roger lowrey says

    Well played Smokester.


  23. Luke Reynolds says

    Not my favourite Lois Lane, but a very good one.

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