I am reading 'Londoners' by Craig Taylor at the moment. It was my little gift to myself, and I received it sooner than estimated, so I was pleasantly surprised. It is quite interesting to read about all these different accounts, people with no faces... You can walk around in London and you don't really think about the number of people you will walk past. People say Londoners are rude, but then you can either argue: "Who are Londoners?" because it's true, it's hard to define properly, everyone has their own idea. As for myself, I like to think of myself as not really being a 'true' Londoner, but a... well, a traveller, maybe. A citizen of the world. Then there's the other argument. Would it really be possible to smile and say hello to every single person you walk past? Try going to Oxford Street, and do that. Go on. I don't think this is a rude city. I once was sitting on a bench in Southbank, eating lunch, when a guy with a "Big Issue" tag on a red trolley started talking to me. We had a conversation, we were polite. I said "Have a good day" when I left, he wished me luck on finding a job.
No, London is not rude, it is busy. You will find some nice people, but it all starts with you. There is no point grumbling about people on the tube looking miserable if you look miserable yourself, and yes, it's packed, people push, they are annoying. But you have to survive, you can't be excessively polite, you'll be trampled. It's a city that moves, it's fast, and if people are slow and take up the entire pavement, yes I will get annoyed, not because I am rude but because I want to get to my destination. Other times perhaps I am the one being slow. You can't win, because everyone is in different moods at different times in different places and you will always want to be right.. I do speed a lot, but sometimes I try to remind myself to stop, breathe, be calm, and admire something. Most often I will do that by the river, on a bridge. Then I am the one in the way... I love looking at the river, feeling the breeze on my face and being lost in thought. Often I will feel a twinge of something in me.. Nostalgia, perhaps? Some sort of strange homesickness, an urge to run away.
A few people talk about having a love/hate relationship with London, and I also feel that way. I can be walking around all day in crowded tube stations and carriages (Oh, the Jubilee line is bad... perhaps I just don't know the others well enough but they seem better) I can get really frustrated at slow people and tourists, and I admit I sometimes growl at annoying people and accidentally on purpose barge into the tall people - and overtake them in the street - to show that height isn't everything... ahem.. (And feel rather silly when a nice person then apologizes sincerely, and I can tell by the tone of voice, so then I smile and say sorry too...) By the end of the day I can be a mess of shattered nerves and high blood pressure, but then something amazing can happen... The other day I was with a friend, we walked all over Lambeth for a good six hours, and had fun talking to each other too, but then we went to Southbank and it was all lit, the Eye was blue and bright and the river glittered, and suddenly everything felt so dreamy, so poetic, and that's when you turn around and tell your friend: "This city is so beautiful, though.." as you stand by the railings and look at Big Ben and the Thames, eating mini Dutch pancakes and drinking Glühwein.
See, London by night is so amazing, and the river is beautiful, too. For me, it's more than just about London and the Thames, it's about what it means, what I think of... I can be standing near it and looking at the sky, and I'll be feeling nostalgic, melancholic, I'll have strong emotional whiplashes because of all the feeling it brings back. The river is more than that to me, it's the closest I can get to the sea, it's like a little part of it, freedom flowing through the city. Night time in London isn't just about the end of a day, it's like an entirely different place, and it makes me feel different, too. And when you turn to your friend and mutter in that thoughtful voice, as if philosophizing about deeper things: "Look.. The sky is orange..." and she replies "A city sky.." in that same tone, and you sigh and listen to the water lapping against the sandy banks of the Thames, that's the part you love.