Friday, 10 October 2008

London Overtaken

Its Friday evening, and I am bored in London. The idea of staggering back into an area overrun with tourists, is highly unappealing (aren’t I just the local??). I’d love to go and shop on Oxford Street, but the idea of dodging despondent Londoners and tourists alike, requires more energy then I feel like expending. I have made no secret of my dislike for London. The locals are cold and full of self importance – if an individual dropped dead on the street in front a Londoner, the Londoner would merely step over the body and continue on their journey. How to best illustrate an example of this mentality? Let me recount a conversation from two days ago…

A Englishman walks into a business, and apologizes for his tardiness; he then follows his apology with his excuse: “Oh yes, I was at the Tube Station, and further up the line someone decided to jump in front of an oncoming train. Delayed the whole system…made a mess of transit.”

Concern for the mental health of the individual that felt the need to take his own life in front of charging train? Zero. Disdain for the interruption to travel?? Well that’s the whole point! (*insert a Mastercard slogan here*..hmmm…Prescription for mood stabilizers 45 pounds. Formal psychological help 250 pounds an hour. Jumping in front of a train during rush hour traffic, whereby disturbing London commuters…priceless.) Truly I am being sarcastic here, and do sympathize for the individual driven to such final means.

Concerned about the reality of living in this city, I said to a friend… “I could see becoming lost in this city…not lost, in terms of search & rescue…but lost in the grand scheme of things. I could see becoming this, and I don’t want to.” His response? “Then don’t.” But really, is that possible…

I rarely hear English being spoken in this city. In fact, I hear everything but English – I’m sure upon closer examination you would likely find languages previously thought to be extinct, quite alive and well here. London is now comprised of a larger than large number of immigrants, visa holders (such as myself), refugees, etc. Every street corner seems to have an English school on it (which still doesn’t seem to change the fact that no one here seems to speak English). Many of these individuals have come from humbling circumstances in Third World countries – and even so – they have become London. Can you live here without letting it overtake you? My friend’s advice to me: “You will get used to it.” Yet I can’t help but wonder, when you get used to it, does it become you?

Talking on the phone (errr…mobile) has become a challenge. London is so loud that it is nearly impossible to hear the ring of a phone. If by chance you do hear your phone, good luck trying to talk. Shouting matches ensue as people cram the streets, each one on a mobile phone, all vying to be heard over one another and over the passing cars. I have attempted to find a quiet location to talk – which has been largely unsuccessful, minus the back alleys. First rule of travel: don’t venture down the back alley alone. Thank goodness rules were meant to be broken.

If you read my blog during my last sojourn into English living, you will know that I have already complained about personal space in London. I just need to reiterate – my personal space has been largely violated. Instead of getting my 20 feet of Canadian personal space, I get -5 feet…and as enjoyable as an elbow in the ribs is (human contact, how touching), I’d prefer not having that experience at all. I am getting to be fairly good at dodging people though (and let me tell you, it’s an awesome workout – forget the gym – head to Oxford Circus…or…better yet…go to a tube station during rush hour – also a good idea if you are trying to learn to deal with your temper and/or stress).

Yet when all is said and done – it’s London. London can be what London likes, and do as London pleases. And right now London in wearing a sombrero, is dressed in a multicoloured poncho, and is advertising a salsa club…

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