I’ve been in the big smoke for over 2 years now. The longest I have lived in any city that isn’t my hometown. Must be good then. Here are my observations from an interesting two years of breathing polluted air that will probably be the death of me.
People never seem to press the traffic light buttons.
So I am standing at the traffic lights with a bunch of people waiting to cross when I glance over at the traffic light button thingy to find that no one has pressed it. I pressed it, the light promptly changes. I just don’t get it. Upon asking a Londoner colleague she replied, ‘the lights change automatically, don’t they?’. Only at T junctions babe.
Pedestrians have no fear
Leading on from my last comment those that brave the busy roads of London by foot do so without fear and at any opportunity. Note my horror when a colleague practically walks in front of oncoming traffic. What to me looked like a near miss was actually a calculated and well judged road crossing move that seems to come naturally to those used to these mean streets.
Traffic don’t stop for no one
Ok so this is something I was aware of previously, but very unlike my native Birmingham. If you happen to make an ill timed road crossing you are literally risking death. These cars do not stop. They never stop. They just keep on moving. Whenever I have taught foreign students who come from a more laid-back culture I have often had to scream at them in order for them to realise they cannot slowly amble along with the onset of the green man on Euston Road. Do so at your peril. That light changes fast.
This is both of cycling and of cyclists. Of cyclists because I have often seen them come up with their own rules of the road leading to near misses when I have been legally crossing. And of cycling because I have seen the way the people drive here. Still to decide whether it is worth getting back on that saddle, I have yet to learn the laws of this jungle.
There is amazing food.
Food from around the world no further than 100 metres away and it is usually reasonably priced. £3.50 for the best damn Japanese chicken I have ever tasted at Chatsworth Road market. Not great for the aspiring vegetarian. I really cannot say no to that!
If want people to hear your writing/see your art this is the city for you
The opportunities for creative writing ventures here make it a hard place not to get creative. There are an abundance of spoken word nights such as Spoken Word London’s fortnightly open mic sessions in Hackney and the more experimental, monthly You’re Hysterical, (a mixture of performance art and live poetry). If you prefer your performance poetry with a bit of hip-hop and grime mixed in there’s Word on the Street. If you want to get all page poetry about it you can make your way to the Poetry Café in Covent Garden to see what they’ve got going on. No matter what day of the week it is there is always something. Not to mention writing groups. Words Down in Willesden Green is a good one to go to for friendly feedback on your prompted pieces. And if you can’t find exactly what you want you can set your own night up. It’s easy enough to do.
You will never feel more alone surrounded by millions of people
I’m sure you have heard this before but London can be a lonely place. People are always going their own way, doing their own thing. It is far removed from my native Birmingham where people make eye contact and speak to each other, stranger or no. London can feel very exclusive and cliquey at times. In saying that there are many more people who feel the same way, looking for a way in, you just have to have your eyes open.
London is almost one massive park
Did you know, 47% of London is made up of green spaces? No? Me neither. Well at least that was until I lived here and noticed that I couldn’t get very far without falling into one. London is the third greenest city in the world and it’s parks are almost as diverse as it’s people. From the deer in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington to underground secret tunnels in Greenwich. The big smoke I think not!
There are green parakeets that fly around
Look up or you might miss them. I don’t know how or why but they’re here and they ain’t going nowhere.
Overall I haven’t learned much about this city because it is so damn big. What I have learned about it is that there is more to it than you’d think. If you manage to survive through it’s smoky exterior you will find diverse cultures and sub-cultures existing beside each other, coming together to make the city the vibrant, never boring place it is. Just be sure to look left and right before crossing the road.
So far so good London. Here’s to finding out more.