After what seems like years of waiting, it’s finally arrived and all eyes turn to the capital as we host the world famous Olympic games (are we allowed to call it that? I think it’s banned. As is London 2012). For months, the councils have been busy beautifying our humble cities, because it’s OK if it looks as bit naff for us, but God forbid the rest of the world think that we haven’t run the Hoover round. It’s like when your Nan comes to stay.
And of course, the weather has been absolutely glorious this week. I’m not complaining; after months of pouring rain dampening my mood and causing my feet to web in an unsightly fashion, the presence of the sun on my skin is a welcome, if not alien feeling. My legs emerged from my jeans like prisoners into the sun, all white and reluctant, and I keep thinking I forgot to put my trousers on this morning as my legs feel so light and strange in a dress. But all of you lot are going to think that we are overreacting with our constant whinging about the weather as you see the rays casting beautiful shadows over the games, and wonder if you were maybe wrong to think that it always rains in the UK.
I can assure you, this is a rare heat wave, and as soon as the curtain falls for the last act of the Olympics, the first drops of rain will join it.
I’ve read a couple of articles of hints and tips for tourists visiting the capital during this time, and so I thought I’d do the same. Like a public service announcement, but with less boring old voices, and more Englishness. No need to thank me, just send cake.
Trains and Tubes: the tube system in London is a God send for anyone wanting to get from A to B and arrive in a hot sticky mess while understanding what it means to have a panic attack, but it’s also a melting pot of emotions. If you think that it’s a quaint little British train full of jaunty English folk who want to talk about tea and crumpets, you are wrong. I can understand why as a tourist, you would want to have a go on the tube. The views from the window are spectacular and if you are lucky enough you might get the change to rest your face in a sweaty armpit, but in the morning, the Tube system is the most evil of hellholes and smiling is not an option. The majority of people look at the floor, and if you do manage to make rare eye contact with a fellow traveller, it will be a look of death, most often accompanied by a scowl. It’s not a happy place. Try to make conversation with someone and you may see an uncharacteristic example of team work by frazzled Londoners; when we team together and throw you on the line.
If you have the pleasure of travelling on one of the packed commuter overground trains into the capital, make sure that unless your bag has purchased a ticket of its own, that it is not taking up prime real estate on a seat. It’s bad enough being pressed into the small holding areas between carriages with ninety three other sweaty bodies, so if someone spies a spare seat being taken by a bag, they will not be accountable for their actions. Especially if the air conditioning isn’t working.
Boris Bikes, and Boris in general: if you spot a bank of blue and silver bikes, then by all means, grab one and go for a cycle. Just be careful of the buses. They don’t acknowledge your existence. With regards to their namesake, he is a concern for the majority of us. When he opens his mouth and speaks on behalf of our fair city, we all face palm on mass. We don’t know which planet he came from, and for the time being we are also unsure of when they are coming back for him. Read more here…
North, South, East, West: wherever you are staying during your sojourn for the games, you will notice a ‘certain sort of person’. In the East, you will notice that everyone wears trendy glasses with thick black rims and jeans so skinny that you worry for the circulation in their feet. We call them wankers, but I think the official term is hipsters.
Out West you’ll find that the people on the streets are slightly different. They have names like Tarquin and Camilla and you will be able to identify them by their welles and padded jackets. Extra points if you spot one toting a rifle on their way to a hunt.
In South London you’ll be fine, as long as you have packed your stab vest. I reside here, and own one in the majority of colours. The sirens lull you to sleep, and if an old man walks past you, sucks his teeth and asks you “what you’re saying?” carry on walking; you weren’t saying anything.
Taxis: yes, it is acceptable to hail a taxi and the drivers have an extensive knowledge of the city, but you might find that you are sitting still for a long period of time. Just walk it. you’ll be surprised how close everything is. If you do decide to use a cab, don’t ask the driver how excited he is about the Olympics, or if you are nearly there yet.
Cockney rhyming slang: I know the temptation as soon as you get to the UK is so use this, but the majority of us don’t really understand it. we will just be very British, and ignore you.
When travelling around the city on foot, don’t stop. A tourist with a map and no sense of urgency is the metaphorical red rag to a bull, and you’ll find that the pile up you cause will be highly abusive.