I’ve now clocked up six months as a London resident.

Confusing life in London with my previous life in Maidenhead, where we lived for over 42 years, is about as likely as confusing Oxford (lots of mature trees, all straight) with the Isle of Man (few trees, all bent by prevailing westerly winds).  I moved from Oxford to the Island when I was 13 years old and as a consequence have always found it easy to sort my childhood memories into two clear compartments. I shall surely find it so with my London and Maidenhead lives (even though in both places the trees tend to be plentiful, mature and straight).

London is extraordinarily vibrant with, or so it seems to me, lots of young people and lots of cranes (16 of them visible from my window).  Restaurants, bars, undergrounds, the South Bank, Tate Modern and Oxford Street are heaving with people of different nationalities, shapes and sizes. Many of these people are capable of walking along whilst texting on their smart phones – both being done briskly and, in the case of walking, with no apparent fear of head-on collisions.  Sometimes they are wearing earphones and are holding animated – often even intimate – conversations with themselves!  Quite often they are carrying skate boards or musical instruments. This morning I followed a cello with what seemed like two legs across Golden Jubilee Bridge.  It turned out to be strapped to the back of a rather small woman with the cello obscuring everything except her spindly legs.  Actually, having mentioned female legs, I can’t help noticing how many young women nowadays have beefy legs and thighs unashamedly on display since so many opt to wear skirts that are hardly worth wearing.  Sometimes the sheer act of walking (well, waddling) causes thighs to rub together.  I’m always surprised the friction doesn’t produce a flame – a mischievous thought, a legacy of scouting I’m afraid and memories of rubbing sticks together to start camp fires.

My early morning walks in London are far more interesting than walking in Maidenhead ever was.  I encounter Big Issue sellers, all with different styles. Some just stand impassively, some say ‘Big Issue’ over and over again, some smile and greet you with a cheery ‘good morning’ and even thank you when you don’t buy a magazine.  I’m sure someone ought to do research to discover what methods result in most sales.

My walk this morning was typically eventful.  At present our apartment block is surrounded by photographers waiting to get pictures of a beleaguered Paul Gabaccini.  I spoke to a cameraman who works for ITN.  He told me this was his third day and that hanging around on the off chance of a sighting was ‘the worst part of my job’.  I suggested that Gabaccini might be somewhere else but the cameraman assured me that lights were on in his apartment.  I didn’t like to tell him that we often left lights on when away to make it look as if we were in residence.

Vintage cars were chugging their way across Westminster Bridge, off to Brighton with passengers well wrapped up against the chilly early morning wind.  Enthusiasts waved, cheered and took photographs (everyone seems addicted to taking photographs in London). Three cars had already ground to a halt on the bridge and stood, vibrating and backfiring, with their bonnets open while puzzled owners fretted over adjustments.

On along Whitehall there to encounter a protest by Ghurkhas huddled around the base of Monty’s statue opposite the gates to Downing Street. Posters demand a fair deal for Ghurkha soldiers. I spoke to two of the women who could hardly speak because their vigil had left them so cold.  I think they were also somewhat taken aback that I had noticed them and stopped to read the posters.  Most people scuttle past looking straight-ahead.  Whilst there, two police cars, with lights blazing and sirens wailing, sped past at what seemed to be a reckless 100 miles per hour. But I had just been watching vintage cars struggling to make the incline on Westminster Bridge so perhaps the contrast exaggerated the speed – but not by much!

Of course these things don’t happen on every walk in London but invariably there is something to amuse or amaze; events in Trafalgar Square; cycling events that close roads to traffic (lots of those lately) and even, back in the summer, hundreds of naked cyclists; beggars and people sleeping rough; drunk people being arrested and loaded into police vans.

Never a dull moment.  And, since becoming a close neighbour, I’ve seen the Queen four times without even trying.

 

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