I went to London on friday for the HP preview (read about it here). Invited my bro along as he’s a fan too and thought it’d be nice to hang out with him just us – we’ve not done that sinnce we were at least nine and eleven. And it was lovely. The film sucked, but afterwards we went back to Ealing on the sweltering tube (which wasn’t too bad, as it wasn’t busy) and grabbed some sushi – at 10.45 at night! Went back to his and watched the tennis on the BBC’s Red Button – Dan had to explain me the technology behind this at least three times. I understand Freeview, I understand Sky+, I get 4OD. I just don’t get the Red Button for some reason!
So, a lovely evening and part of me was thinking, “I could probably do this you know. Live in London…”
The next day, Tupper and I headed off to Camden to find some awesomeo boots for him. The tube was rammed, full of shuffling feet, sweating tunnels and clammy air. At one point, our tube train broke down so we had to find another way. Hundred of people all shuffling along so slowly, all crammed into the tunnels – Tupper and I wanted to get out. Now. Except we couldn’t. Thankfully we kept calm, but it did get a bit panicky at times; and we’re not the types to suffer that kind of hysteria for nothing.
During a much-needed icy drink overlooking the lock, I noticed an old man who was heavily tattoed and pierced who was charging people who wanted their photos taken with him. It struck me as rather sad that this was the only way this man felt he could earn a living. Convention dictates that he clearly can’t work in an office, at schools or in hospiltality. It made me feel rather… displaced and cold. Like this city has created a freak and then made it impossible for him to earn a wage other than turning himself into a one-man circus show. Still, he must rake it in though – in ten minutes he had more than five people take photos. If each of them gave him a couple of quid for a photo, he must earn over £60 an hour. That’s more than I get in my normal job and quadruple what I’d get if I do a bit of freelance! But is it worth mutilating yourself for?
We left Camden for Soho – I’d seen a nice dress in one of the (non sex) shops a few weeks back on a press trip and wanted to get it now I had money. On the way, we passed the Nat Mags building where, about 15 years before, I had run up to the window and begged for a job through the glass. Tupper asked what my 13-year-old-self would think now I’m in the industry. I replied that they’d totally think it was cool and they’d be hugely excited. I then wondered if I’d tell them the truth about it all?!
Soho was crammed. More so than usual. It was Gay Pride. Dammit. More claustrophobia! “OK, Leicester Square!” I said – it was nearby, had somewhere we could sit down and chill with some drink. But as we rounded the corner, we saw some kind of Pride Pop concert happening.
Dammit! “Right. Covent Garden!” I shouted above the noise. By now my feet were killing me and I was hungry and frustrated that I didn’t know London better. If I did I could pull us into a side road and find the quickest route. But instead, it was down into the dreaded Underground again for more shuffling, more heat, more sweat and an elbow to the nose this time – ow!
Why do people love this city? Yes, you can get sushi at 10.45 at night. Yes it has great shops and leads the fashion world. But in my city, if someone bumps into you or elbows you in the nose, they say sorry and ask if you’re OK. They might even give you a tissue if your nose starts bleeding. In London, whenever I bumped into someone (which happened a lot as it was so damned crowded and people were arrogant enough to assume I’d get out of their way) I turned and said sorry – and I was met with either a funny look or was ignored. If I smiled at someone on the tube, I was met with hostility. That would never happen in the West or anywhere else for that matter.
At the end of the day Tupper and I spent longer than normal trying to GIVE our day passes away. Tupper tried three people before I grabbed it off him and gave it to an older lady. Every time he tried he was spoken over with, “No, no, no, no!” as if he was trying to sell them something, or rape their child. What’s wrong with the people in this city?! I hate the way I feel like a bumpkin whenever I go to London. I hate the way most Londoners feel so smug that London is somehow better. Well, I’d rather be a bumpkin than someone who has clearly had their soul elbowed out of them on the tube.
It was lovely to see the bro and Tupper got the boots he’s always wanted – I also saw some ace Pimp shoes, and it was lovely to see Camden again after more than 10 years. It’s weird. The place has changed a lot (more trendy Skins types, fewer hippies) and yet, you can still find pockets where the Camden of old still exists. At one point, we found a stall that was selling joss sticks and tie-dye t-shirts. They were playing The Farm’s Altogether Now. It really felt like it was the 90s again!
I’ve known I’ve not wanted to live in London for a long time now, but this has confirmed it. I’m sure the Londoners or London lovers among you will tell me it’s not that bad and give me reasons why London is better than X city or Y place. It’s not. You’re mistaken. No amount of being able to get things 24/7 can contend with the nasty tube, the rudeness of the people or the emptiness of it all.