Tag Archives: Londoners

8 Ways You Know That You’re Not A “Real” Londoner

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Hello there, you brilliant creature.  Are you enjoying your Thursday so far?

When Ash and I were living in Southgate, we got a lot of stick from our friends about not “really” living in London, even though Zone 4 is still a zone.  Now that I am snug, smug and central in Zone 2, I reckon I should have grasped some of the finer points of the London lifestyle…but I definitely haven’t.  I’ve lived in and around London for most of my life, but there are some Londoner trademarks that I just don’t have.  I’m sure some of them will creep up on me over time, but for a lot of capital-dwellers there are some expected characteristics that we may never obtain.  Here is how you can tell if you’re not a “real” Londoner (yet):

You wait for the green man before crossing a busy road
I have friends who are, in most situations, sensible and sane human beings.  Give them a hectic junction in central London, however, and they will sail across the road without even glancing at the traffic.  I just can’t do that.  I might take thirty seconds longer to reach my destination, but I will definitely get there alive.

You still (secretly) like the tourist attractions
I know they’re full of tourists who don’t know where they’re going, and I know they’re mostly overpriced and cheesy, but I still love London’s tourist traps.  The London Eye is pretty darn cool, and Piccadilly is just fun.  Give me a day of museum hopping in South Kensington over an obscure art gallery any day of the week.

The buses baffle you
I am very glad that my London friends can speak so knowledgeably and confidently about the buses in their local areas, but it takes some time to get that savvy.  I’m still working the tube map out, for heaven’s sake.

You don’t get annoyed appropriately
Yesterday morning I woke up to find two foxes and a squirrel asleep at the end of my garden.  Instead of getting irate about urban vermin and fearing for my bins, I immediately got excited at the possibility of The Animals of Farthing Wood becoming a reality.  That’s not really a Londoner way of thinking, is it?

You don’t understand how Boris bikes work
Seriously, no idea.

You don’t go to the right pubs – sorry, bars
In my heart of hearts I still feel like a student, which means that I automatically gravitate towards the nearest Wetherspoons or Nicholsons pub, even though this fabulous city is chock full of interesting and weirdly themed bars.  Even when I do find an independent pub I quite like, I can never remember what it’s called.  Whenever my friends and I are trying to think of somewhere to go, no one listens to me because I end up suggesting “that place we went to when it was cold”, “the pub that looks like the hanging gardens of Babylon” or “the bar that had lots of beers”.  Not helpful.

You can’t always give tourists directions
I try.  I really do.  I want to be helpful, and I’m flattered that I look enough like a Londoner to be asked for directions, but I very rarely know where I’m going.  I’d been working in the area for two months before I found out that you can walk from Leicester Square to Covent Garden.

You forget that it’s not ok to skip in public
Looking happy is strongly discouraged, and demonstrating joy is a definite no no.  (By the way, I do realise that the skipping thing might just be me, but what’s life for if not a bit of occasional silliness?)

Have a brilliant day.

“Can You Drink the Water in Scotland?”

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Hello, dear reader!  Happy Friday!

Despite the lovely weather and the cheerful atmosphere, mid July has become the time of year that lots of people associate with stress.  In years gone by it was the worst point during the long wait for exam results, and not so very long ago it meant the end of another university year, and the inevitable drinking/farewells/moving house that followed.  These days, a lot of my friends find this time of year stressful, exciting and nerve-racking because we are about to pack our bags and trundle 400 miles up the road to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

There are some very specific things that southerners (Londoners in particular) feel and experience when they make the performance pilgrimage to the capital of Scotland.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Coffee Conundrum: the moment when you realise that it will be easier to meet a friend for coffee when you’re both at the Fringe than it would to try and organise something in London, even thought you live a twenty-minute tube ride apart.

Tourist Tantrum: resenting the tourists all over the Royal Mile, even though you’re just as much of a visitor as they are.  (Except a friend of mine who, before coming up to visit us while we were performing in 2012, genuinely asked us whether you could drink the water in Scotland.)

Regression Renegades: no matter how sensible you are or how long it’s been since your student days, the second you get to the Fringe you take advantage of the fact that every drinking establishment is open til 5am.

Fan Phenomenon: people go and see dozens of shows during the festival, but every so often you come across a show that turns you into an instant fan of the performers.  It’s amazing to find that you can get just as involved with and passionate about the work of non-famous (but fabulous) people as you do about the main players on London stages.

The Edinburgh Bar Principle: something I mentioned in this article I wrote for Everything Theatre – you never know who you’re going to meet at the festival, including very drunk, very interesting or very famous people.  You may even find yourself photo-bombing Rhod Gilbert and having him call you a maverick.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you have as much fun as physically possible.  Give me a shout if you’re planning on being at the Fringe.

Have an unbelievably brilliant weekend.

Deliver Us to Temptation

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Good morning, you gorgeous creature!  How was your bank holiday weekend?

Today I’d like to have a chat about temptation and what it means to each of us.  To a married person it might mean avoiding the temptation to flirt with an attractive stranger; to a student it could be staying home to revise on a Saturday night.  To a lot of Londoners it’s deciding not to push tourists down the escalators, and for pretty much everyone it’s not kicking your television in when Simon Cowell makes an appearance on it.

Being tempted in any sense is a bit of an ordeal, because it combines two juxtaposing things: the opportunity to have something that we want, and the anticipation of impending doom.  It’s lovely to imagine obtaining something that would make us happy, but the key is to remember that that happiness would only be fleeting.  The person on a strict diet is only happy for as long as takes to consume a doughnut, and the recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon will only have their hangover as a souvenir of the fun times.  Greatness comes before a fall, look before you leap and bad things come to those who just can’t wait.

The key to successfully defeating temptation is, bizarrely, not to avoid it.  Repeatedly facing temptation makes us better at seeing it for what it is: a very temporary sensation that would have catastrophic effects in the long run.  Not many people have the clear-sightedness to see past the moment of temptation, but the more times we come up against these moments, the better we become at looking beyond them.  George Bernard Shaw said, “virtue is insufficient temptation”, but I think virtue is actually temptation that got bored and was eventually forced to leave us alone.  We won’t become people we are proud of by avoiding the things that could ruin us: we become those people by standing up to our demons and saying “bog off, demons.  I’ve got better things to do.”

Speaking of which, have a glorious Tuesday.  I hope you tick lots of things off your to do list.

Top Tips for the Thames

Good morning!  How’s your Thursday going so far?

I live in London, and although I am fairly far north I tend to gravitate towards the banks and bridges of the Thames whenever I can.  I love the river in this city, and it has a lot to offer that all Londoners know about: the BFI, the National Theatre and so on.  However, today I would like to recommend some less established entertainment and activities that the Thames offers.  Some of them are ridiculous, but I think they’re all definitely worth doing.  If you’re a proper grown up you might not agree with me, but then I’d rather be silly than sensible.  Being silly is how you have fun.  Speaking of which:

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1) Play pooh sticks on a bridge

My friend Paul and I did this on New Year’s Eve (daytime) a couple of years ago, and we loved it.  It was a snap decision made in a coffee shop somewhere off Wardour Street.  Finding sticks between Soho and Embankment was a bit of a challenge, so if you do this I’d recommend raiding a park beforehand.  The added challenge with Embankment Bridge is that people are crossing it all the time, so you have a game-within-a-game situation whereby you’re playing Dodge the Tourist as you dash across the bridge.  If you don’t know what pooh sticks is (and you’d be surprised how many people don’t), then you need help.  Here is help.

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2) Go on the merry go round next to the Southbank Centre

I know you’re a grown up.  I know you feel silly.  But it’s a wonderful feeling to be soaring through the air on a noble steed, laughing your head off with your friends and watching the river swing around.  I’m sure we looked like eejits, but it felt brilliant.  And what is the point in looking normal/sensible/good when you could be having a good time?

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3) Re-enact the end of Sliding Doors where Gwyneth Paltrow is yelling at John Hannah and then they make up

This one is particularly good for Londoners, because it rains often enough to give you plenty of opportunities.  For a bit of variation, you could try Miranda and Steve’s reunion in the Sex and the City Movie or Anastasia; pick a film with a bridge in it and go for your life.  Maybe stay away from The Bridge on the River Kwai, though.

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4) Stop and have a boogie to one of the buskers

One of my favourite things about the summer months in London is the buskers who play steel drums along the bridges.  Next time I see one, I’m going to stop and have a little dance.  No big deal, just a few minutes of boogie.  I’m a terrible dancer, but whatever.  I hope that whoever accompanies me on this occasion will be prepared to cut a rug (knowing my friends, they probably will be.  Hell, they’ll probably bring tap shoes).

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5) Just look at it

The Thames is amazing.  Especially on days like yesterday, when that photo was taken.  When I’m upset or confused or just feeling a bit weird, I love going and looking at the river.  Sometimes I go with someone and talk, but I’ve also been known to have a wander and ponder by myself.  Londoners sometimes look at the river as a barrier: something to traverse, something that could flood, something that makes the air colder.  But it’s actually a very beautiful thing that unites loads of parts of the city, and personally I think it’s London’s best feature.

Have a brilliant day – I hope your lunch break is the perfect length of time.