I have lived in London for well over a year and I must admit, I’m still not very good at it. I’m far too relaxed and never in that much of a rush to push old ladies and children down the stairs just to catch a train. Nothing grinds my gears more than a clean shaven, shiny haired businessman in a suit tearing through Highbury and Islington station to catch a train, there is always another one, never more than 4 minutes away on the Victoria line. I’m too patient, it’s always me that gets run over and trampled by these suits always in a hurry for some reason. I would follow one to find out wherever they’re going in such a rush but I fear I’d never be able to keep up; my run is on par with the top speed of an overweight pensioner.
That said, I sit here in my Holloway flat with a cup of tea quite content with the city I live in, perhaps that’s because I can only see a fraction of it out of the window. I haven’t been pushed down the stairs or hit by a double decker bus in my living room, maybe I should just stay here.
I do venture outside on occasion, not just the trundling overground commute to Hackney Wick. Today, I went to the British Museum. Having never been before, I was expecting looming, dark domed rooms with dusty books and paintings. There was more stuff than that to my surprise however, as the rule goes, if there’s more stuff, there’s more people (okay, that’s not a rule, simply something I made up to bulk this rambling nonsense out a bit). I looked at some nice statues of mostly naked men holding water pitchers and draping cloths over their shoulders and arms… yet not their willies. I decided to venture into the Egyptian section, it was a bloodbath. There was the original Rosetta Stone there, the source of ancient language translations. Well, I say it was there, I couldn’t see it. There were hundreds of school children and tourists gathered around it frantically trying to take a photograph of it. Is it just me or is that the most ridiculous idea? Do they really run home and show their family what they saw at the museum, it is marvellous but not that marvellous. It’s not something that is different when you take a blurry, out-of-focus photo on your smartphone, compared to say… google images. There’s no need, a photo exists of it already and is easily accessible. They weren’t even taking a pose with the stone, it was just a stone. On its own. The phones might be smart but I’m not sure the people are.
So I quickly got bored of the mummies, the enormous Egyptian statues and the greasy children covered in ice-cream defying, in broad daylight, the ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ signs. It was a stress I didn’t need so I hastily tried to find a part of the museum where there was assured to be no-one there. Lo and behold I descend upon the clocks and timekeeping room. Immediately it was my favourite part of the museum, not just because it was empty and free of human life, there was a remarkable atmosphere in there. All the clocks were functioning, it sounded like the opening to Back to the Future where there were all kinds of ticks, tocks, dings and chimes surrounding me. There were also no statues of Greek dudes with their reproductive organs hanging out, which was certainly refreshing.
I stayed in the clock room for 20 minutes hoping they would all chime at the same time shaking the foundations and shattering all of the glass compartments, it never happened, even the Cuckoo Clock was disabled somehow. Probably to keep the staff from going insane sitting in their little museum chairs watching the world go by, one ice cream spillage at a time.
I promptly left the British Museum, once I found the exit of course, even a geographer like myself couldn't navigate the complicated colour co-ordinated maps and signposts. After a few laps I made it outside into the sunshine. I considered my route home deciding to cut through SOAS and University College London. This is where I noticed that almost every railing in London has a sign attached to it saying ‘Please don’t attach bicycles to this railing’. Until you think about it, those signs are everywhere. Londoners seem very protective over their railings. I like to think of a time where London was like Amsterdam where bikes are chained to essentially every stationary object, lamp posts, handrails… even one of those living statue street performers. Maybe that’s why the tube is so crowded, no-one has anywhere to keep their bike any more so they just put them in the bin and settle for the train instead. Perhaps that well-dressed business man that pushes grannies under buses is just running to unlock his bicycle from the railing before it gets ‘removed’ and tossed on the pile of criminal bicycles in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be rehabilitated. I'm sure they’ll be reintroduced several years from now when they are classed as ‘vintage’ so youthful, bearded, tweed-wearing nonces from East London can tootle around playing unknown folk instruments by the canal.