I have just returned from a whirlwind visit to London to visit my new nephew and catch up with some old friends. It was pretty hectic but I enjoyed it nevertheless. London is now two-removed from being my home and so no longer feels like a place I’d like to live. I think that to live well in London you either need to be young, single and loaded or married and loaded or just loaded. There is a common theme here, but I am struggling to grasp it.
The weather was perfect (the weather: I am still a brit at heart…); clear skies with a crispness in the air and there was a feeling of the first day of spring. You could practically hear the opening bars of Peter and the Wolf. But I view London, and England, through fresh eyes now (listen to me, gone two months and I am coming over all Alistair Cooke…if only) and I wanted to list a few observations of the differences between London and cont-inentaal Europe:
- Trends There are fashions trends out there, oh yes. I have seen them with my own eyes. The yoof in London dress in a fashion uniform. The girls are dressed like a cross between Breakfast Club rejects and Afgani war correspondents – all pink Christopher Biggins specs and arab scarves. The lads on the other hand, are all wearing pea-coats with epulets and it’s like being on the set of a Michael Caine movie from the sixties. I said, it’s like being on the set of a Michael Caine movie. On the European mainland, there is no real trend; there is a slight eighties style going on with the yoof, but the yoof are hidden away in caves until they are of marrying age in Europe, so I don’t see it much. You can see fashion trends and styles in abundance in London, but apart from porn-star moustaches, Europe is a wasteland.
- Music Music seems to be the lifeblood of London and everywhere I went there was music pouring out of speakers. In shops, on trains, out of cars, people’s headphones, people’s mobiles, adverts on the tube escalators – it was a cacophony and somewhat wearisome after a while. You seem to be bombarded with audio and visual messages constantly with a soundtrack to boot. London is noisy and maybe the music is just another way to compete. But maybe London needs to be quiet now and again, I think.
- Laughter You hear it a lot in London: in bars, cafes and just out and about. Someone is always telling a joke, taking the piss of making a clever observation or crass remark. London can be right grim at times; with it’s inhabitants marching down it’s thoroughfares with pursed lips and practiced frowns – but with fresh eyes I noticed that it is actually quite a happy place.
- Swearing Sitting on the tube with my ears open was like being in The Long Good Friday in which every second word was fuck or wanker or shit. I know that I am a parent and say fiddlesticks and blimey a lot – but it all sounded a bit uncouth. Londoners do, though, swear awfully well. When an American swears, it sounds quite pleasant really; the accent softens it a bit, almost non-threatening. When Londoners swear it sounds like they really, really mean it.