I recently went to London to celebrate a big birthday with a very good friend of mine. I live in the North West of England but I lived in London for 3 years, nearly 10 years ago. I loved it then. Now, every time I go, I experience a mixture of feelings about the place. One is nostalgia because I remember things from the past, places I had good times at, people that enriched my life back then. The other feeling is one of dispair. As soon as I step off the train, I’m quickly reminded of how busy things can get in London and how rushed people are on the streets, on the tube, everywhere! Then, something a bit strange happens: I start behaving a bit like everyone else and get agitated if things start getting in my way. Maybe I’m just a true Londoner at heart and the calmness of the North is just a disguise…
Thinking about the place, I compiled a little list of what I love and hate about London. Here we are:
Hate number 1: People that stop in front of the barrier to find their Oyster card
You’re in a tube station and your goal is to get the train. You know that an Oyster card or ticket is required. Why then do you wait until you reach the barrier before you try and find it? It would be so much easier if people just planned ahead a little so as to not to let a long queue pile up behind them.
Hate number 2: Not letting people off the train first (or not moving down the carriage)
This should go without saying as it’s just a case of common sense, really. If you want to get on a train, you wait until everyone that wants to come out is out before you step on, right? No, of course not. Some seem to think that there’s no need for that. Just go in, sod the rest. Not very nice. Tuc, tuc, tuc.
Hate number 3: Escalator etiquette
Sorry that this is about the tube again, but it does seem that the most annoying things about London do happen underground. Must be the air. Now here there is only one rule to obbey and it’s so easy to remember it hurts: all you have to do if you are lazy to walk down the stairs is to stand on the right hand side. This leaves the left hand side for the busy London people to rush down and not miss that train, even though there will be another in 2 minutes. Never mind. Just stand on the right and you’ll avoid lots of grumpy faces. Simple.
Hate number 4: My purse is empty!
Whenever I go to London, I budget to spend a certain amount and always (but ALWAYS) come back and realise I spent at least half as much. I blame it on the cafe culture. Everyone eats out in London, it’s just the way it is. I love going to a cafe to catch up with a friend, but in London people seem to have every meal out. My over budget spending might also have something to do with musicals (which I love), museum/art galleries entries and shops. So, in reality, I shouldn’t blame London, really, but my lack of control near temptation instead. Now that’s a confession!
Hate number 5: Where is the bin?
Back to the days of the IRA’s bin-bomb campaign, the lack of bins was understandable, but nowadays it’s practically impossible to find a bin in London. They say that they would make it far too easy for a terrorist to just plant a bomb in them. However, it would be just as easy for a terrorist to plonk a bomb in a rucksack and leave it on the street, since Londoners don’t really take much notice of whatever is not right under their nostrils. Bins everywhere, please, no excuses!
Love number 1: Southbank
Now I can start talking about the reasons to love London and Southbank is a really good one. Walking along the river Thames is just so beautiful. There is art, there is nature, there is civilised people (people actually seem calmer in that part of the city than anywhere else). And just a short walk around the corner there is my beloved Tower Bridge, my favourite London sight. Can’t ask for more.
Love number 2: Affordable World Food
From Indian to Italian to Spanish to French cuisine, you’ll fnd it all in London and at affordable prices – depending of where you go, of course. The many food markets are just incredible and you have more ways than one to awaken your taste buds. Just listen to what your palate is asking for and go for it. Experiment. Dare. Enjoy.
Love number 3: Art, everywhere!
Photography, theatre, museums, galleries, take your pick. London can offer whatever floats your boat. If you are clever, you can go into places for free, although certain exhibitions can set you back a few quid. Money spent on appreciating art is always money well spent in my view, though, so whenever I visit, my budget always allows for this. It’s just such a pleasure to see new things. Art keeps you thinking, it shows you new ways of seeing the world and motivates you to be creative. What’s not to love?
Love number 4: Friends, friends, friends
London is home to some of my best friends and nothing is better than visiting them. Some of them are from my university years and others are from the time when I was discovering London as my new home. Memories are everywhere and the fact that we have the city in commom somehow just makes it all the more special.
Love number 5: It’s London!
What more can I say?
So there you have it, my little list of things to love and hate about London. I put this together quite quickly as if I was to spend a long time thinking about it, thew list of what to love would be a lot more extensive than the list of what to hate. London is magical, you have to go and feel the magic for yourself. There will always be something you haven’t seen before, a place to go, something to experience, an undiscovered gem. So, my advice is: if you haven’t been, go and become a lover too. Pronto.