Life in central London is dangerous.  I say that without even including shootings, knifings or muggings because statistically none of these things are likely to happened to me.  Anyway, I always walk around briskly, swinging my arms and looking suitably assertive.  No, I’m thinking of everyday hazards and I have five in particular in mind since they are common occurrences.

Open umbrellas.  I’m tall and this means that the pointed bits on open umbrellas are at my eye level.  Not having my eyes poked out becomes a major preoccupation.  Furthermore, a sea of open umbrellas means that I cannot see where I’m going.  The only advantage (I’m clutching at straws here)  is all the ducking and weaving  I am forced to do; good exercise – a bit like playing ping-pong without a bat and ball.

People running for trains.  I live near Waterloo Station – the busiest station in London. Steering a safe passage through pressing crowds (mercifully without raised umbrellas) calls for remarkable levels of dexterity.  The problem is exacerbated when people running for trains – sometimes dragging a wheelie suitcase behind them – are added to the mix.  These people, single minded and consumed with anxiety that they’ll miss their train, are like Scud rockets let loose in the crowd.  Being bowled over is a genuine concern.   A chain reaction of consequences could easily be set in motion; a broken hip, hospitalisation, pneumonia and death.

Crossing busy roads.  I use crossing points but admit to puzzling about why it says ‘wait’ when it seems safe to cross.  Convinced the town planners are being ultra-cautious, I step out into the road only to find traffic suddenly bearing down on me from a left or right turn. Easy to forget they have been waiting to roar away as soon as the lights change.  I notice I am not alone in imaging traffic only travels in straight lines.

Distractions.  I’m ashamed to admit that scantily clad young women have to be counted as a hazard.  They, of course, are innocent, simply turning out appropriately dressed for a summer day.  Little do they realise (or am I being naïve?)  that exposed, shapely young flesh is hard to ignore, especially for an old man prone to flashbacks about youthful amorous encounters.

Finally, the worst hazard; people texting whilst walking.  This is a newish hazard but it is becoming a regular occurrence.  Walking texters come straight at me without looking up and the onus is on me to take avoiding action.  A part of me is in awe that this sort of multi-tasking is humanly possible but any admiration is quickly replaced with extreme irritation at the number of near misses (or, more accurately, near hits).

I have yet to encounter a scantily clad texter running for a train with a raised umbrella.  I suppose they’d need three arms and, thankfully, they’ll take a few thousand years to evolve.  But I believe there are umbrellas that fit onto someone’s head leaving the arms free to do other things.  Human ingenuity is bound to beat evolution to it.  My heart sinks………

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