I know that to some people – many people – living in London is the epitome of cool. It’s very rare you hear of country kids growing up with a dream to move to Manchester, for example. It’s always London. The capital city; centre of culture, home to theatreland and the geography of our Monarch.
Me? I’ve never seen the appeal. It’s expensive, crowded and full of tourists. Plus it’s pretty big. So living “in” London is actually about living in one of many boroughs, all of which have their own individual high streets, postcodes and local pubs. All the “great things” that people quote about living in London – the museums, the art galleries, the chance to see different bands every night of the week and a different play in the West End – aren’t really on your doorstep. Sure, your own borough might have stuff going on, but probably not every day, You’ll invariably need to travel to suck up everything that London has to offer, which means an overcrowded tube, an overpriced taxi, or a walk that will be more suited to trainers than those new strappy heels that match so well with your dress.
Because you wouldn’t drive. Good god no! Traffic jams and parking nightmares and one way systems, plus the fact that you probably couldn’t afford to run a car because of your extortionate public transport costs (plus paying through the nose to rent a flat the size of a shoebox). That’s why women can be seen traversing the pavements in business suits and sneakers on their way to offices where they’ll change into heels when safely at their desk.
The reason for my vitriolic London rant? Today! I had a meeting in London today, for work. I had to catch a 6.30am train (that’s not London’s fault, I know). There were issues with my pre-booked tickets (also not London’s fault). Here’s the bit that’s London’s fault.
The underground. Queuing to get on an escalator to get to correct platform.
Temperatures increasing the lower you get, so that even in winter when you’re wrapped up against the elements it’s too hot. Standing crammed against strangers in an overstuffed carriage and hoping everyone remembered to use deodorant that morning.
Tourists. Everywhere! Wheeling suitcases, taking up space, stopping without warning or running over your feet.
How do people do it every day?!
And of course things weren’t helped by the fact that the Victoria line – the one and only tube line that would get me to where I needed to be – was closed. So, all of a sudden, the life source of London – moving people around seamlessly and methodically, away from the unpredictability of traffic jams and delivery drivers and all those things which can slow a vehicle above ground – came to a halt. Not so bad if you know what the alternatives are. A pain in the ass if you don’t.
Now, I’m not completely callous and heartless, so the fact that the line closure was due to a fatality on the line did temper my annoyance somewhat. But being told I needed to catch “the number 24, from behind that building” wasn’t exactly the hand holding I needed. “That building” didn’t have an obvious “back”. It had sides, which I had to wander around. It also had many many bus stops on it’s perimeter.
The upshot was that I found the bus stop. The bus turned up quickly. The driver looked at me like I was trying to pull a fast one when I explained that the Victoria Line wasn’t working and told me that I would have to justify this to the ticket inspector if he got on the bus, but he didn’t charge me. And, unlike being underground, you get to see more of this great city.
Like the building work.
Oh, and some more building work (seriously, it’s everywhere you look).
The great range of well thought out and well appointed apartments, where you can sit outside and admire the building work while breathing in genuine London smog.
The bright red double decker buses, snaking across the city at a snail’s pace.
Of course there are some great sights too, although how much notice you would take if you were seeing them on a daily basis is questionable.
Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column
The cenotaph in Whitehall, covered in fresh wreaths following the Battle of Gallipoli memorial parade at the weekend
Beautiful and imposing buildings with architectural influences from across the centuries
Good old London boozers.
Quite a lot of photographs for one bus journey, yes? That’s because it took a whole bloody hour instead of what would have been a 10 minute tube journey. It took 8 minutes to get across one set of traffic lights when there was only one vehicle in front of us. The bus driver squeezed in a space alongside a lorry that was so tight the two vehicles were touching each other. And neither driver acknowledged the bump or challenged the other one.
Presumably because, well, that’s London for ya.