Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Show me the way to go home

Boris Johnson, London’s new mayor, has decided to ban drinking alcohol on the tube. From 1 June, if you’re caught drinking on the tube…er…well, no-one’s too sure what happens or how this will be enforced, but, um, you might get fined, or perhaps out in stocks or thrown under the next Victoria line train or something.

Of all the things that need sorting out in London, I’m not altogether sure that boozing on the Tube is the most pressing. People do drink on the tube, yes, but this is usually more to do with the fact that it takes an hour to get anywhere if you live out in the suburbs than the primal urge to get pissed out of your mind on public transport. In handing down this edict, Lord Boris (as he no doubt will be one day) spoke of the intimidation that Tube-travelling people feel thanks to fellow passengers drinking alcohol. Er, no. You can tell Boris and his cronies don’t step onto the Northern line very much.

There are definitely times when drunks can be loud and overbearing, but these people are usually ALREADY pissed. Sober people don’t get on the Tube with a six pack and go round and round the Circle line getting more and more inebriated terrorising law-abiding citizens. Getting wasted on the Tube isn’t a social event. To really combat the problem of drunks on the underground, you’d have to breathalyse all passengers at the turnstiles. Drinking on the Tube isn’t the issue, it’s the drunks who get paralytic before they get on.

If you were to stop boozers getting on the Tube, you might as well close it at 8 every night, as there’d only be a few librarians from Ealing getting on and making a journey.

I don’t get the Tube and when I do, I don’t drink alcohol, but this law seems to be nothing more than a new way for the chattering classes in the suburbs to cock a snook at the inner Londoners who loved Ken so much. “Take that, you rotters!” they’re no doubt calling out. On horseback. With a dead fox under each arm.

Can we ban something useful next please, oh mayoral one? Like, maybe, YOU.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wheel of misfortune

I’m not really a fan of driving. First of all, I’ve never done it and secondly, there seems to be this secret society at work that involves loving a big hunk of metal and enjoying sitting in great rows of them in the burning heat. Many drivers tend to be aggressive and controlling no matter where they live, but in London those drivers really are something else.

Whether they’re zooming through red light, flipping the bird to traffic wardens or parking in your back garden, the London driver really doesn’t seem to give a fuck about anyone else. A zebra crossing was installed outside my house last year and yet is visible only to us pedestrians: the car-lovers motor on through no matter who or what might be in their path. As they sit grunting, sweating and rocking backwards and forwards in their traffic jams or screeching round a corner into a gaggle of unsuspecting schoolchildren, I wonder why some humans are naturally predisposed to getting behind the wheel and others, well, aren’t.

Thankfully the London driver has the perfect foil in the London pedestrian. While ‘green men’, who masquerade as pedestrians’ friends yet really are on the side of the wheel bound, illuminate only long enough for you to get one third of the way across the road, the London pedestrian will take his or her time and, for a few seconds at least, own the road again. Zebra crossings are met with a laid-back stroll and lollipop men and women nod approvingly as their charges take a million years to dawdle their way to the friendly kerb.

Of course, every social group needs a common enemy and it in the cyclist that both driver and pedestrian can unite in hatred. These Earth-loving, highway code-ignorant neon crusaders, who see path, road, or canvas shoe as fair game for their front wheel, may be burning valuable calories and doing their bit for the environment, but they also help to piss up the non-pedalling public.

I suppose every wants to get to where they’re going as safely as possible and in as short a time. Whether we intend to do it at the expense of everybody else is quite another matter. Perhaps that’s part of the fun.