Sunday, 8 July 2012

London, more or less...

London; more or less the same as last time I visited.

We've been living in Cumbria for 18 months and last week saw me revisiting my life in the South East complete with London commute.  I spent 22 years living and working in the South East and a fair chunk of that time commuting into various parts of London so, had it changed or was it still the way I remembered it?

More people, less chat

Rush hour commute.
I'm sure some people will think this is a good thing, but I'm amazed at how quiet London commuter trains are.  Thousands of people literally rammed together and barely a word is spoken.  Compare that to my regular northern commute where I've learned plenty about the people around me; their lives, their families, what her at number 43 is doing and the fact that Bruce Dickinson apparently played a gig in Kendal last year.  Not that the teenager telling the story had any idea who he was mind.  Some people buy magazines to read this kind of stuff, I get it first hand.

More clothes, less colour.

I don't mean the people of the south actually wear more clothes, but there's generally a greater variety than I see in South Cumbria where outdoor clothes reign supreme (regardless of whether anyone has any intention of heading for the fells).  Black is the new black down south.  Walking through the City recently I witnessed several thousand people spewing out of Cannon Street station and it was as if all the colour had drained out of the world.  Does everyone wear black because they're miserable or are they so miserable because they wear black?  A couple of daredevils were wearing grey; they must be in marketing.
Small details, interesting histories.

More cars, less patience.

Now I know how a rabbit feels when caught in the headlights of a car.  The traffic light changed to red, the little green man lit up and I started to cross.  Next to me I was aware of three lanes of very impatient traffic desperately waiting to get going again, seemingly regardless of whether I'd made it across in my allotted time or not.  I'd watched one of them screech to a halt halfway across the crossing and the driver now sat glowering at me as I nervously made my way over to Baker Street station.

Great Gable on a sunny Cumbrian morning.
It's not that northern drivers are saints, it's simply that there are fewer cars and I've got surprisingly used to that.  Last Monday my journey to work took me to Junction 36 of the M6.  As I approached the junction at around 8am I thought it seemed quite busy; there were six cars ahead of me.  It's no wonder London is now a bit of a shock to my system.

More sun, less time to enjoy it.

Much as I love to argue the fact the Cumbria is really not as wet and rainy as everyone seems to think, there's no getting away from the statistics; it's one of the wettest counties in the UK.  And the South East really does get the most sun.  But with the long working hours and commutes, people seem to have less time to enjoy it.  In the UK we work some of the longest hours in the EU and that can't be good for our health.  And although the South East gets less rain, when it does come they whinge about it a lot more.  I'm not saying we all jump for joy when the rain clouds gather, there's just more of an acceptance that it's part of the deal when living up here.  Plus we're better kitted out to deal with it.  We have to be.

More historical buildings, less appreciation of them.

Easy not to see things you pass every day.
On Saturday we took a stroll through London, covering routes that I'd walked thousands of times on my way to or from the office; the difference was, this time I was a tourist.  I always thought I'd appreciated my surroundings, but it turns out there's much more to see when you're not racing along trying to be on time for meetings or trains.  It was fun joining in the throng of tourists clamouring to take pictures of Tower Bridge.  I used to walk that way to work and I'm sure that, somewhere in the world, there are hundreds of holiday snaps with me somewhere in the background looking miserable.

The whole trip was a great reminder for me about how easy it is to take your surroundings for granted.  Something I hope I never do in the Lake District.


  1. Nicely observed - I think London tends to slowly suck the colour and humanity out of us all, if we're not careful!

  2. Thank you. London has some great things going for it, but I found working there didn't work out well for me. I don't miss it.

  3. I found it all rather strange when I went down this weeekend

  4. I migrated north from London over 20 years ago, so a very interesting article and comments :-)


  5. Thanks Wellycath it's all very different now - but in a really good way.