About this time next week I’ll be arriving in my (sort of) new apartment, and looking for the keys… so I thought that was a suitable milestone to make a list of random things I’ll miss about London.
1. Urban foxes
The wildlife in London (apart from mice and rats) isn’t exactly thriving, but there is one very cool phenomenon in the suburbs: urban foxes. Most people have a love/hate relationship with them, as they love nothing more than taking apart household bin bags overnight (I’m not quite as fond of picking up the rotting rubbish from the driveway the next day) – but they are beautiful animals. At the moment the fox in the garden outside my flat has cubs, and it’s been fun watching them grow up!
2. London Underground
London Underground is a never-ending source of (mostly involuntary) humour. Lines are suspended because of the wrong kind of rain, the wrong kind of snow, leaves on the line, and about 50.000 other crazy reasons. Announcement boards will tell you that the next tube will come in “745 minutes”, or go with the optimistic eternal “one minute”. But the best thing about the tube is tube driver announcements such as (as heard in the last few months) –
“Please stand back from the platform edge. Believe me, the train will not come any faster the further forward you stand.”
“This train will not be stopping at the next station. It would be great if I could have told you this before, wouldn’t it, but nobody tells me anything around here…”
“This train is now ready to depart, and we’ll soon be on our way with our usual blistering speed, all stops to Upminster.”
When I first moved to London, I was an innocent Austrian girl who was used to making use of available space to walk to the front of the line. Boy did I learn fast. The English queue system is not something to be messed with. The rules are strict:
- If it as much as seems that someone arrived at a counter/ bus stop/ door before you, you can not, under any circumstances, pass that person.
- If it is unclear whether the person is part of the queue or not, you walk up to that person, politely ask if that person is part of the queue and proceed from there.
- If the structure of the queue is unclear, you ask directions to the end of the queue and proceed from there.
Failure to adhere to the above will result in piercing looks and annoyed tutting. The thing is though, I love the queue. There is something so polite and fair about it. In fact I have come to like the queue so much that I am probably now one of the people tutting incredulously if somebody ignores the system!
Which brings me to the ultimate queueing experience…
I spent many, many years queueing up for Wimbledon to get centre court tickets. It works like this (all of these things actually happened):
- You, your friend, your tent and a lot of alcohol arrive at a local park outside the All-England Lawn Tennis Club the afternoon/evening before you intend to watch tennis. A friendly steward will show you to the end of the queue, where you pitch your tent.
- You, your friend and the alcohol spend the evening sitting in the sun and talking about years past and camping holidays you did as a child.
- You try to sleep, which is impossible because you cannot stop listening to the people having an in-depth conversation about relationships in the tent next to you.
- You are woken up at 4 a.m. by the sound of rain making drumming noises on the tent. You remember that you left your bags, shoes, food and alcohol outside but are too tired to care.
- You are woken up at 6 a.m. by the sound of the friendly steward: “Queuing starts at 6.30! Rise and shine! It’s lovely out!” You get up, empty your shoes and bags, and pack the tent in the pouring rain.
- You queue on the pavement for four hours, the highlight being the “I queued in Wimbledon in the rain” sticker that is distributed, coffee, and the Centre Court wristband you manage to gain (yes!)
- Finally, you make it to the tennis club. All hardship is forgotten – the rain, the lack of sleep, the wet shoes and the £3 you paid for a bottle of water. The atmosphere is incredible. You take your place at centre court, and the first match starts.
- 5-6 and 0-30 in the first set, it starts raining. The court is covered, and you leave your seats to queue for a coffee. (Repeat the last two points as applicable)
- You go home and start planning next year’s Wimbledon.
Maybe not something you would normally associate with Londoners or inhabitants of any major city, but I have thoroughly embraced the culture of apologising even if you are not to blame. In London, if someone bumps into you by accident, both of you will apologise. I probably took it too far when I once accidentally apologised to a coffee table (the table didn’t apologise back, but I was willing to let that go), but hey… it’s much nicer to be polite to each other than to hear “hey, look where you’re going!”
It’ll only be fair to make a “Things I WON’T miss about London” post too, but I’ll leave that for another day…