Maybe Because I’m a Londoner

Apologies for the radio silence – we’ve had a great and inspiring weekend touring the mini hollands of Enfield and Waltham Forest – and now suddenly it is Wednesday and I have neither written it up nor anything else that has happened (although if you are desperate you can catch up via our hashtag). The truth is I have been largely working (the downside of being a freelancer that they never tell you about is the way your work follows you around so that you are never quite free of the dreaded laptop and the hunt for a quiet corner with WiFi to squeeze in some work) and catching up with old friends leaving little time for anything else.

This afternoon, being free of the laptop for once, and having some time to kill between coffee and cake and chat with one friend and the book launch of another (go buy the book, by the way. It’s got a bicycle on the cover and everything), I decided to walk across central London from Trafalgar Square to Bank. There’s no city in the world other than London that I could dare to do this in without a map – while I can (and do) get lost coming out of a pub toilet, I can generally navigate my way around my old home city based on the map that’s indelibly ingrained in my head and the fact that it’s laid out like a sensible city with the river down the middle and a gentle slope down towards the centre (Edinburgh, I’m looking at you).

Saint Pauls

With time still to kill, I crossed over the wobbly bridge to Tate Modern to check out the swings (and, ahem, offload some of that coffee). I noticed as I sat down on one to take the weight off my feet that I had instinctively done so tube-passenger style – even though the swing would be better balanced had I sat in the middle, I sat at the end, so that if anyone else wanted to sit on the swing they could do so without sitting right next to me. These are the things that get into your blood if you live and commute in London, and they are habits that cannot be shaken.

sitting on a swing

Never mind the centre of gravity …

In fact, as I stopped on the bridge to marvel at the ever changing skyline (if London had a state bird, it would be the crane), I realised that I may not have lived here for 10 years, but I will always walk fast and chafe at being trapped behind slow-moving tourists to the point of stepping out into the road rather than be held up. I will always know that if you’re going to Covent Garden you actually want to get off at Leicester Square and nip down the back alleyway behind the theatre. I will always walk up the escalator even if I’m not in a hurry and glare at the people who don’t stand on the right. I will always mind the gap and move right down inside the car. I will always cross the road when there’s a gap in the traffic, regardless of what the green man says. I will always know which side of the river is the right one. I will always pedantically insist that Big Ben is the bell. And I will always ensure that I sit down in such a way as to enable us all to maximise the distance between ourselves and everyone else for as long as possible. In short, I am a Londoner and will always be a Londoner and the fact that I no longer live here is an irrelevance.

London buildings

Who put those buildings there?

That said, I’m quite looking forward to going home tomorrow…

8 Responses to Maybe Because I’m a Londoner

  1. msnomadica says:

    I used to walk in the road when I was living in the French Quarter and walking to work on weekends when it was full of tourists, and I still walk fast everywhere even though I’m from the languid south. I try to slow down in Mexico City, where it’s the locals who are strolling around, lol.

    Still, as someone who loves London and goes there as often as possible, I would dearly love to know: how do you refer to the clock?

    I’ve known forever that the bell is Big Ben, but no one has told me what to call the clock.

  2. somewhatstunned says:

    Me too, me too, me too! Ten years out of London and all the same things! (Especially the getting-tutty-with-dozy-tourists)

  3. Confused – the book link leads to a train rather than a bike. I like trains, but I was expecting a bike :o(

  4. Charles says:

    Cannot say I miss London at all. The appalling manners on the roads and the tube, the fact that it is unfriendly and rushed. When you are tired of London it’s a sign of maturity, or being born in the 60s. Actually with the internet the sole reason for going to London has gone, it used to be the one place you could reliably get anything, now it’s just a click on a mouse. That being said the slow moving are a curse on humanity, but please do not exclude the youth of today with faces buried in phones. The only excuse for dawdling is having a curious dog on the end of a lead.

  5. Philip says:

    Ah, but they’re looking at changing the rules on walking on escalators. Or at least they were last I heard.

  6. disgruntled says:

    @MsNomadica – the clock is just a clock. The whole thing is called the Westminster Clocktower (although I think they have now rebranded it the Elizabeth tower).
    @Somewhatstunned – I did try not to get too audibly tutty …
    @Kevin – it’s multimodal
    @Charles – despite your protests, you’re still clearly a Londoner
    @Philip – I think they’ve found it’s more efficient overall if everyone stands, but that is not the point

  7. Ha! I see it on the laptop – now I’m intrigued :o)

  8. […] I might have thought I was bestriding London as a returned exile triumphing in her native city – but it turns out that at a microbial level I was but a lamb to slaughter: to the average […]

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