Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Living in London

I had to return a rental car to Central London at 10am on Sunday morning. I don't often find myself in Central London on a Sunday morning at this time of day and it seemed foolish just to go home so I thought I'd make the most of it and go for a bit of a walk.

You may think it's unusual that I live in London and say that I don't often find myself in this position but this is the reality for most Londoners. They tend to go into the centre for work and maybe go out once or twice in the evening after work but tend to avoid the place at weekends, and especially in the Summer.

The main reason for this is London is full of tourists at the weekend so the actual residents tend to stay at home or are content to go somewhere closer to home to find their fun. It's not that we dislike tourists but there is the distinct feeling that, when thrown into this collective polyglot maelstrom you rapidly become part of it and end up feeling, rather uncomfortably, like a visitor in your own house which has been strangely taken over by foreigners.

It's funny that most Londoners, when they have vistors from abroad or from out of town, are at a loss with what to do with them. Vistors arrive, goggle-eyed and anxious to see the sights but their hosts can think of nothing more uninvigorating than visiting tourist attractions in their own city.

It's a constant source of amazement to Londoners why anyone would want to visit Madame Tussauds or the Tower of London. Sure we'll take you on The London Eye and take you to our favourite pub and maybe even a visit to the theatre but likely as not, we'll send you out of the house in the morning with a tube map and a prepaid Oyster Card and tell you to go off and find your own entertainment and be home in time for tea.

This, I admit, is a poor state of affairs. We live in one of the world's greatest cities yet feel like strangers there at the weekend.

What did I end up doing on Sunday morning? Well, I walked along Oxford Street - the shops were closed at that time on a Sunday morning. I wandered down a few side streets I was unfamiliar with - London is big and there are plenty of these. I then went down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, then into Leicester Square which was already crowded and then down towards Trafalgar Square where I dived into the National Portrait Gallery which I have never visited in all the time I've lived here.

The National Portrait Gallery is crammed with about 500 years worth of mostly paintings and a few photographs of variously, royalty, aristocracy, military heroes and assorted other great and good characters who have made contributions to the nation. Explorers, scientists, writers etc. You get the idea. Whilst the various realisations were interesting enough and I learnt a great deal reading the condensed history of each picture I have to report that this nation is founded on a spectacularly unattractive gene pool. The men looked invariably portly, humourless and brutish and the few women portrayed were variously bug-eyed, doe-eyed or cross-eyed. I actually find cross-eyed women incredibly attractive but I'm prepared to admit I may be unique in this particular peccadillo.

I spent a good two hours in there and despite the slightly negative sounding above paragraph I rather enjoyed it. I actually behaved like a tourist, enjoyed the paintings (not so much the 20th century stuff) and believe I blended in quite nicely with all the other visitors, none of whom were from London. I then went walking again - Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Covent Garden, Charing Cross Road before hopping on a bus to go home as I was getting hungry.

I wonder if this feeling of mild alienation in your own city is common to urban dwellers all over the world or is it unique to London. I'd be interested to know. Whatever happens, next time I have visitors I promise to make more of an effort.

5 comments:

sabrina said...

OOOOhhhh the National Gallery sounds very nice...you must take me there...and to your favv pub of course :)

I think i'll give the London Eye a miss though...we have one here in malaysia and i think it's a total waste of money!

But i know what u mean bout the tourist thingy...especially in my own home town i just wouldn't know what to do with them cos i wouldn't know where to take them. Penang Island is different cos there will be plenty of joints to eat great food....u should deff come....i guarantee you'll be 10kgs fatter once i'm done with you :)

King of Scurf said...

Hehehe - sounds like it'll be easy to keep you occupied if you like galleries.

I like the sound of Penang. Got an excellent Malaysian restuarant only half a mile from my front door and I go there whenever I can.....which is not often enough.

sabrina said...

Really??? Who would have thought...

But yes...i'm sure you would enjoy penang very very much! Especially the food...would be soo great if you came here...fingers crossed that it will actually happen one day :)

nursemyra said...

Descartes was also attracted to cross eyed women ;-)

King of Scurf said...

He was obviously a very clever and perceptive fellow.

I see there's even an emoticon for cross-eyedness...

%-) or X-)