Anti London -

London. Oh the Fun.

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I asked Gary C today how the transport was in London, now that the congestion charge had kicked in. “Great,” he replied, “no problems.” I was surprised. Until he finished off, “Apart from the normal ones, that is.”

And that’s the problem. I’ve written before about why I really wouldn’t want to work in London. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing place – the buildings, the history, the events, it all contributes to one of the great tourist cities in the world.

But tourists don’t stay. It’s great to visit and see the sites, but working there at the moment is entirely different. It’s a daily battle of wits, loosely based around a hilariously ironic “integrated transport scheme”. You try the tube – three lines have been closed for a month and a half and the trains and tracks are so old they’re falling to bits. You try the trains – the fares have rocketed, most of them arrive late, and they’re packed. You try the car – the roads were full, and now you have the congestion charge – a charge which forces people down the broken tubes and onto the extortionate trains. You try the ever growing terrorist threats.
And a lot of people just accept it. I hope it’ll get better, but at the moment a lot of people I know hate working there, and are trying to get jobs away from the capital.
I, meanwhile, work in Guildford. There are no transport chaos, no closed lines, no rising crime rate, relatively affordable accomodation (well, compared to London), and it’s a town that’s big enough to be known, and small enough to be a community.

Visiting London

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Well, on Friday Michelle and I have returned from a thoroughly enjoyable 2-day London trip, visiting Harrods, TGI Fridays, Leicester Square and Kensington, and staying in a rather corking hotel. And a visit to a Thai restaurant. It was, frankly, wonderful. And all paid for by Michelle. THANK YOU MICHELLE! However, here are a few tips for visiting the huge place:

Travelling around London – The prospect of your travelling day running smoother than a pair of Ulrika’s tights is about as likely as Barry White at a singles party. Out of the 5 trips I made in two days, every one was interrupted by signal and train failures. Even visiting Americans, normally totally in love with the place, muttered expletives and vowed never to visit again. Truly stunning.

The Tube – You think the overcrowded, illegally hot, mucky, rat-infested and maze-like underground tube system is bad now? Try next February, when the Traffic Congestion Charge rolls into town. All those hundreds of thousands of lovely, car-loving commuters will be spooned lovingly down the stairs and onto the Tube. It’s like a game of sardines, only you’ll want to cry.

Blowing your nose – Never do it after you’ve been on the fume-filled tube. The sheer blackness of it all will instantly label you a concerted smoker, even if you’ve never been near the blasted cancer-sticks in your life.

Visit Harrods – It may be illegally owned by an Egyptian grocer, but it’s seriously top draw. The gold and marble-covered escalators really are the pooch’s privates. And if nothing else, you should visit purely because it’s the only shop I know where spending a penny costs a pound.

London residents sense of distance – I suppose, if you lived in London, you’d have the necessary cash to hail taxis, and the necessary time to use public transport. But for visiting bods like Michelle and myself, walking was the only option, and asking how far some landmark was is like asking John Leslie for a quick snog. SIMPLY WRONG. “Just about a mile up that way, sir” smiled a friendly doorman. 2 1/2 miles later, we arrived, legs like stumps and gasping for air.