I moved to London a little under six years ago, and last week I left. The initial enthusiasm had long since gone and I had most definitely become jaded. Not to say I don’t still have a lot of affection for London, but I really am looking forward to a change: I had been in one place for a little to long, and it had reached the stage where things I once enjoyed had begun to grate.
My attitudes towards just simple things had markedly changed from my first few years compared to how I was just before leaving. For example, in those pre-gherkin and congestion charging days when I got to London I was amused by a different London accent I would hear here and there. It was quite unlike the salt of the earth London accent I’d heard being used amongst cabbies or the desperately forced cockney accent of Eastenders actors who were trying their hand at telly after a few years treading the boards at Stratford. Favoured by many of London’s native under 30s, this Bagney accent – with it’s supposed influences from Bangladeshi and Afro-Caribbean populations – seemed somewhat endearing to me, with an inflection striving to make it sound as though the speaker is making as little effort as possible whilst still actually speaking. Now though, with its lazy and abrasive “ah” heavy sound, it just really irritates me.
The chance to escape the Bagney speakers of this world is a huge plus, but there’s plenty I will miss. It swings both ways. Off the top of my head…
-Certain Londoners incessant littering.
-The Bendy Buses. Heralded as a replacement for the outdated Routemasters, the Bendy Buses then started to be rolled out on routes which weren’t being served by Routemasters anyway. A clear case of someone high up striking a deal with Mercedes to buy far more than were needed if ever I saw one. I didn’t hate the Bendy Buses on first sight though; my dislike came for them with experience, when my bus route – previously served by perfectly good 5-year-old buses – was earmarked for the Bendy treatment. In the end what really frayed my patience wasn’t the lack of seating, but it came close: the Bendy Buses of course were heralded as making public transport accessible for everyone, not just for the able-bodied, but personally I never quite grasped how a lack of seats (a mere 35% of the capacity) benefited the infirm, elderly and disabled, the majority of whom, remember, are not wheelchair bound. Nor was it the fact that any increase of the buses overall capacity was undermined by the reduction in frequency of buses serving the routes, meaning buses were as overcrowded as ever. Nor was it the lack of things to hold onto when you invariably did end up having to stand. Nor was it their incompatibility with London’s streets: it’s all very well transplanting a method of transport which has worked well in other European cities, but unless you are also planning on building the wide and straight boulevards found elsewhere it’s a tad inappropriate. No, the thing that eventually was driving me mad amongst all the evidence of a lack of foresight the Bendy revolution provided was that a form of transport had been introduced which was an absolute haven for pickpockets. One which offered an opportunity to easily board without needing to show a ticket also enabled thieves to spend a day riding up and down the length of a route without paying a penny (and, of course, the same goes for mentalists and loonies), and a number of well placed doors also offered a means of making a speedy getaway. A bus’s upper deck may be widely acknowledged as an invitation for anti-social behaviour, but economics beats psychology every time: the hooligans might be behaving, but the criminals are rubbing their hands together. An average week for me would include around 15 bendy bus trips, and during that week it was atypical to neither see or hear signs of at least one theft (attempted or successful). Oh, and another thing that pisses me off about Bendy Buses is that for some reason no-one follows the Tube etiquette of letting the passengers disembarking get off first. What’s that about?!
-Speaking of which, on a related note I won’t miss the stupidness. I’m sure that there is plenty of stupidity elsewhere in the world, but maybe it’s a different sort of stupidity manifesting itself in different ways, and maybe I’ll find that refreshing for a while. Either way, I still reckon there are proportionally more idiots in London Town; I’ve long said London is where all the village idiots end up. It’s magnetic.
-Londoners baffling refusal to push the button at pedestrian crossings, whilst simultaneously looking irritated and impatient.
-The area which surrounded my office. Okay, so in truth there was nothing specifically wrong with where I worked. It's just that my office was about 200m away from where I lived when I first moved to London. There's something about getting lunch in the same place as you did 6 years ago that makes you feel like you aren't really moving forward.
-The magnitude of buildings and streets with rich stories attached to them.
-Being able to get public transport to pretty much anywhere and almost at anytime.
-Interesting regional news programmes and papers. It’s back to “vandals damaged a phonebox in Little Shoremeadow over the weekend. Police are appealing for witnesses” for me.
-The BT Tower. Nuff said.
-Playing football in Regents Park on summer evenings to the sound of the Lions in the zoo roaring.
-Driving out of London on the M4 in the evening, with the sun setting ahead of you.
I’m sure there are many more, but that will do for now. Name something you like and something you hate about where you live.