In the second of an occasional series of interviews, Graham Bandage talks to Roger Dulwich, the last tube man in Great Britain.
Graham Bandage: Roger Dulwich, you’re the last tube man in Great Britain. Why do you stick at it?
Roger Dulwich: It’s the only life I’ve ever known. And, you know, it’s a craft, my father was a tube man, so was his father. And if it dies with me, then so be it.
GB: Tell me what the tube man did.
RD: Does, man, does! I’m not dead yet. They’ll have to crowbar my tube out of my cold dead hand.
GB: I don’t think so. Not straight away. Rigor mortis only comes in a few hours later. You’d be floppy at first… Sorry, go on…
RD: We all worked out of a depot. And we’d just wait for the letters to arrive. Then we’d go through the letters and decide who was going where. Then we’d put the contents in the tubes and take them out in our floats to the houses.
GB: So what would happen when you got to the house?
RD: Well, we’d knock on the door. And there’d be a proper old buzz. “Ooh, the tube man’s here. The tube man’s here. Quick, come and see the tube man.” So then they’d bring me into the lounge, sit on the sofa. And they’d make a fuss, bring me a cup of tea and that, and then it’d start.
GB: You could use a lubricant, like WD40 or something.
GB: To get the tube out of your dead hand. You wouldn’t necessarily need a crowbar.
RD: And then it’d start. I’d slip the content out of the tube. And I’d show them.
GB: What was the content?
RD: Ooh, it could be anything. Nothing blue. We didn’t do blue. Old films, emo kids talking, pointless re-edits of Doctor Who title sequences. That was the beauty of it, you see. Just the tube man standing there, with a massive unrolled flicker book, simulating animation.
GB: How long would it last?
RD: Ooh, anything from 30 seconds to five minutes. Or until my wrist gave out.
GB: And what happened in the end?
RD: Well, the last frame had a big roll of paper attached. And they’d write their comments on it, like “OMFG! That was TEH L4M3ST. LOLZ” and … actually, I think that was the only thing they’d write.
GB: Was the tube cardboard?
RD: Yes, why?
GB: Well, if you were cremated, we wouldn’t need to take it at all.
RD: Now they do the whole thing on the internet. But it’s not the same.
GB: No, because there’s sound and it’s quicker.
RD: You-bloody-tube? No. Let ME bloody tube for you, a professional.