Being brought up in Durham I am used to the ever so friendly spirits of Northern people. I have recently moved to London and my day is now filled with shocking revelations from the Big Smoke’s residents. Bearing in mind I was brought up in a world where saying ‘Good Morning!’ to strangers is the norm, I now stand alone as I cheerfully screech ‘Morning’ to my new work colleges as they scuttle past in shock. (I am left red faced smelling my armpits and checking my teeth in the mirror)
Now I understand the hectic lives of Londoner’s (I am now one of them!), but honestly is it absolutely vital to punch your way through a crowd of old people, young children and pregnant Women just to throw yourself onto an overcrowded tube train that is radiating with swine flu infecting snot in the hope of snuggling up next to some strangers, stale armpit. Perhaps I am the first one to realize that a tube comes every 2 minutes. I will start pointing it out. On the other hand 2 minutes could be a life changing amount of time especially if you are attempting to board the central line at rush hour. Many a life has been lost as the overcrowded platforms push people to their deaths. Disturbing, but at least you know what’s what down in the underground. I recently had to tell my Mum she had misheard the announcement “This train is delayed due to a body on the line” now you don’t get that kind of excitement on the transport scene in Durham now do you?
I thought about writing on this topic the other day after receiving a humiliated and angered response from a middle aged man. I offered him a seat, you see. Clearly he thought himself to young or able bodied to be offered my seat or perhaps this is common practice? I did recently watch a woman wearing a Bump on Board badge stand for about 30mins whilst people pretended not to see her and tapped away on their blackberry’s (WE KNOW THERE IS NO SIGNAL DOWN HERE you rude gits!)
Walking home from work, where I had spoken to only one person all day (We communicate via email only down here. In fact people go red if you speak to them) I sulked at the state of my spot ridden skin and wheezing into my inhaler (note to commuters: London gives you asthma) wondering whether this grey city is really worth it.
The next day looking for inspiration to prove my argument I studied the people of London. That day I was offered a seat on the tube by a young guy and as I dropped my newspaper two people bumped their heads as they went to pick it up for me. Ok London one, me nil…….
I then walked past my local homeless guy on route to work (everyone has one) and there, someone stopped and sat down next to him and asked him how he was and if he wanted a coffee. Shaking my head I strolled into work where everyone who walked past my desk greeted me with a ‘Good Morning’. It may have only been me they said it to but I was touched that I had managed to infect a few people with a smile and a hello!
On my return home I missed the tube I was legging it for and as I sat down a man randomly struck up a conversation with me. Ok, he was American but he had lived in London for a few years so I think that counts. By the end of our journey I knew his whole life history (and no he wasn’t trying to hit on me) he lovingly told me about his girlfriend, his job and although I had initially avoided eye contact with this ‘stranger’ I felt a burst of happiness as we chatted on the tube while everyone else looked on in horror as we broke the underground code of silence.
I guess London is what you make of it. It’s a good place to be impatient and angry (your acts of rage often don’t bat an eyelid). Avoiding reusing Hugh Grant’s ‘Love IS all around speech’, if you want it to be, London is a friendly place bursting with people just waiting to make your day.