With the Olympics thousands of tourists have flooded the capital. A few years ago I too was a newcomer to the city, so I thought I might share with you some of the tips I’ve learnt, the hard way.
The London Underground is one of the wonders of the world. Or it should be. A wonder that smells a bit funny and leaves the insides of your nostrils coated in soot, but a wonder none the less. If you speak English, and I presume you can if you’re reading this, LISTEN TO THE NICE TUBE LADY! When she says the doors are closing, they’re actually closing, and you WILL get stuck in the doors, and it WILL delay the train, result in all the other passengers glaring at you, and hurt like hell. And when she says move down the carriage you better move the heck down that carriage! It makes life easier for everyone including yourselves. Unless of course you WANT to play human-tetris with complete strangers, and discover another meaning to the phrase “mind the gap”.
Countries all over the world have escalators, though you wouldn’t know it from the way most tourists behave – as though they’re Babe, Pig In The City, utterly baffled by these strange human contraptions. Escalators are your friends! It’s actually pretty hard to fall down them – unless alcohol is in the equation. It’s simple really: don’t step on the cracks, and KEEP RIGHT. This last one is important, because the locals will want to bustle past you down the escalator (Wait?! Londoners don’t wait!). If you do end up blocking the left side of the escalator, no one will shout, but the heat of the angry glares aimed your way will be enough to vaporise the hair off the back of your head.
We like to moan!
It’s a little known fact that the London Underground is powered purely by the energy created from the whining populace above. They store it in a big generator inside the Gherkin. Londoners spend the majority of their days mentally crafting the best put-downs, insults and catty asides aimed at our fair city and our fellow inhabitants. But remember: while it’s acceptable to laugh politely, you must NEVER JOIN IN. Do not moan about our city, its architecture, people, culture, monarch*, or weather. We may bitch and moan about our city and the people that live there (besides us and our friends, of course), but underneath that cheeky-chappy cockney exterior we’re hormonal and touchy – insult us and we’ll turn on you quicker than you can say “British pluck.” Nothing unites Londoners like a common enemy. The Nazis tried us. The Daleks tried us. Last summer a bunch of addle-brained kids with hoodies and BMXs tried us. Seriously, don’t even start. Learn from Mitt Romney, whose likeness is even now being crafted into effigies by primary school children across the land, ready for the bonfires built entirely of American flags.**
*Though all politicians, including the Primeminister, are fair game.
** Touchy and hormonal Americans: This is a joke.
Don’t be fooled – it may be alright at the moment, but our English weather is as up and down as a manic depressive on a see-saw. If see-saws could piss rain everywhere. At the beginning of the summer we were facing a drought – it would take months of constant rainfall to get us back to normal water levels, said the officials. Well, we Brits like a challenge, and churning out days of damp grey misery is sort of our Thing. So always carry an umbrella. Also stay away from the side of the road or you WILL be splashed purposely by passing motorists, cackling into their steering wheels (we’re trying to do something about this but the logistics are proving tricky).
We’re sorry about that. Really, dreadfully sorry.
Yep, we’re sorry about him too. Or proud of him. It depends on the day, really – Boris is either hideously embarrassing or irreverently funny. And his hair is, if not a thing of beauty, at least a thing of wonder.
It’s pronounced LESTER Square. You’re welcome.
Two different places!
Stratford and Stratford-upon-Avon. TOTALLY DIFFERENT.