Observation #8: On Rain, Umbrellas, and Rain

A scribble of a child in the rain. Most of my illustrations are lumped over at http://thegirlandtheink.daportfolio.com

Ah, summer. The season in which the BBC enthusiastically predicts various heat waves and it rains, and the rest of Great Britain predicts rain, and it rains. The season in which the quintessential weather-speak of this magnificently sodden land is not simply relegated to the beginnings of a casual chat, but fuels entire dinner-table conversations on its own strength – for it is summer! Children should frolic, flowers should nod in the sunshine, and we should all be stepping out in pastel and florals having laid to rest our atrocious winter Sausage Coats.

This idyllic vision is what we hope for, but it is not what we actually expect. We are not so foolish.

For it is summer. That the sunshine is pathetic, that the skies are dismally grey and that we are apparently experiencing the wettest year on record since 1766 are statements pronounced repeatedly in tones both shocked and secretly satisfied by every resident of Great Britain at some point in the day. Those unfamiliar with the bizarre subtleties of the English would think that rain in August was a shocking event. They might suspect that said rain was an unexpected personal affront to us.

This is not the case. It is a curious fact that if it didn’t rain at any and every point in the year we would feel strangely offended. If, every year, we didn’t break rainfall/wind/sub-zero temperature records, we’d feel downright disappointed in our country. And yet when it does rain we call it ‘unseasonal’, assume an air of gloomy triumph, and look upon the wet and squawking tourists with condescending superiority for not having expected the best while predicting the worst.

For it is summer, which reinforces one of the strictest rules of living in Great Britain: summer clothes thou mayest wear, but an umbrella thou shalt always have with thee. And thus we find ourselves under the necessity of actually owning an umbrella, of which there are generally three types.

Type 1: The Cupcake

This is the most common umbrella among the laydees. The Cupcake is pretty, small, and totally useless for any sort of rain heavier than light drizzle.

umbrellacupcake

Due to its unfortunate tendency to turn inside out the first breath of wind, inexplicably break, or join the 12,000 other lost umbrellas hanging around in lost property offices, the average Londoner will get through about 5 Cupcake umbrellas in a year. Its only merit is the fact that it probably compliments your equally useless ballet pumps. They cover such a small amount of space that however you angle it you will always get wet; for, as we all know, in England the rain never does anything as simple as pour straight down from the sky. It comes at you from an angle. Always an angle.

(There is also a manly version of the Cupcake – the Mancake? – but apart from being slightly less pretty and slightly more plain and manly it is still, to all intents and purposes, useless).

Type 2: The Ferris Wheel

The staple of every family establishment, country home, and males in this rainy city who scorn having anything as feminine as a Cupcake Umbrella.

ferrish

While it will not blow inside out at the first sneeze like its cousin, the Cupcake, it is somehow the most awkward accessory known to mankind. It is unwieldy when open, and unwieldy when closed. Wherever you turn, you will hook someone like an expert fisherman through their belt buckle, button hole, elbow or pocket. Hold it by its handle and you will start swinging it like an idiot; hold it upright and you will feel you are about to pitch a tent; hold it horizontally and you will spear someone behind or in front, or do both in a manoeuvre similar to the Hokey Cokey in which you jab the person behind by accident, and while turning around to apologise you promptly spear the person in front.

Type 3: The Bubble

Once upon a time, a valiant human being took stock of the abysmal umbrella situation, decided that a solution was needed, and came up with one of the most confusing contraptions known to man.

bubble

Do you walk in it? Does it come with windscreen wipers? Don’t you feel like an idiot? If the wind blows hard do you just fly away like Mary Poppins? So many questions.

Nonetheless, whichever umbrella you own, it is sadly necessary to own one; and useless though Cupcake umbrellas may be, they at least provide a spot of colour in the grey-pavement-grey-sky-grey-building vista of London. It is here that I, with a guilty heart, must raise my hand and own to possessing not one but two Cupcake umbrellas, one in nautical stripes (to enliven office wear) and one in a light blue and pale pink pattern (to broadcast my innate frivolousness to the world at large).

That said, one must also learn the rules of umbrella negotiation on busy pavements. The rules are simple: tall people lift, small people duck (and anyone not in possession of an umbrella must simply drip in abject misery). Otherwise you end up participating in some sort of weird umbrella-based bumper-car game in which the wielder of the bounciest umbrella wins.

There is, of course, always the option of going for the full tourist ensemble: to wit., donning The Cape.

poncho_vinyl-lg

I mean, wow.

poncho2

In terms of practicality this is genius. It doesn’t blow away, it’s lightweight, it keeps you dry. In fact if someone decided to turn a hose on you you’d still remain delightfully un-soaked (unlike the “waterproof” or rather “water resistant” raincoats you can get which, let’s face it, are about as waterproof as a hanky). However, for the true-blue Londoner, this is suicide. Not even a plastic cape with pretty polkadots all over it is going to save you. The Cape screams old person. It screams foreigner. Or even old person foreigner.

There are very, very few instances in which a Londoner will think it reasonable to don The Cape, and these will generally be in the near vicinity of a waterfall, or possibly at Glastonbury Festival (which, on really rainy days, is basically the same thing).

Basically, if this long and rambly blog post could be summed up in 3 points, it would be these:

  1. In London, it rains;
  2. Get yourself an umbrella; and
  3. Take the perennial advice of Edna Mode: no capes.
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Observation #7: On London beneath the Light

If you truly want to know what a city is like, watch the sun rise over it; and not because of the city but because of the light.

Very few people know that at their hearts, summer dawns are pitiless. At 5am in July London looks as if she is stirring in a sort of soft glory but she is, in reality, being sliced into precise cuts of white light and shadow as she wakes – gently, at first, but precisely, like a butcher tracing out his pieces.

You only know it when the sun leaps up, drives in and cuts down; because suddenly London is fragmented. She becomes a city of lanced angles and harsh reflections, all metal and glass and stone, a city glittering with the same merciless brilliance as the edge of a knife. St Paul’s gleams high up with swathes of shadow about her feet – the Shard is a painful wedge of brightness – the river flings a broad light, full of sparks, back towards the sky. Little is soft about London in the summer.

But this morning – early October – I reached Blackfriars in time to watch the sunrise. Blackfriars station straddles the Thames and is mainly made of glass. I have often thought that being there is like being given a front-seat ticket to a show, with performers who have been acting before the human populace since the beginning of time.

Today, it was a tragedy.

It is a peculiar thing that watching an autumn or winter sunrise is like watching the sun die. Sometimes it rises reluctantly – an old man in a cloak of grey. In these moods London is solid and patient, supporting it, willing the sun over the horizon, the terraced roofs pushing it up onto the shoulders of Parliament, boosting it to the top of Big Ben, launching it over the arc of the Eye. But occasionally – very occasionally – the sun rises in a rage, in a burst of tired, defiant light. This morning the dawn was angry and London cowered. A thick grey line of cloud, its belly ruffled, was crawling heavily across the orange sky towards the raging sun, and Dylan Thomas’ poem sprang to mind –

do not go gently into that good night;

rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

People flowed around me on the platform, and I stood still, wondering why they didn’t see it – didn’t see that the river was dark and the sun was dying – didn’t see the war going on over the peaks of Tower Bridge. The ceiling of cloud was closing in and the sun spat sparks across the river. It rammed up; the clouds rammed down. I almost expected a scream of fury as they met, and the clouds swallowed the sun.

And then it became grey, and London crept cautiously into her place.

At that moment I heard two or three clicks of a shutter, and knew that someone else, at least, had seen it; a few metres away an enthusiastic tourist was rocking back on her heels with her iPhone out, trying to get a good angle. As I turned away I was struck with the futility of the action. My fellow spectator will have a photo of it – she will remember it was a eerily beautiful sunrise. She will have a few thousand pixels of grey and black and brown and orange that unite to show a sun swallowed by clouds; but she will not be able to remember the fact that it was a silent tragedy of war on a grand inhuman scale that happened this morning.

My phone stayed in its pocket; words, I felt, were best.

Observation #6: On Making Eye Contact during Tube Journeys

There is one simple, golden and rather solipsistic rule to the transport system in London:

The Golden Rule

Every Londoner knows and acts on this first commandment of the tube (it’s a different scenario with buses, but we’ll go into that later).

Some find it odd that the more packed a tube is, the more furiously  people ignore each other, and the more you know people, the more you avoid them. You might, for example, take the same tube with the same stranger every morning for five years but never actually talk to them. You will know them so well by sight that you could describe them accurately to the police, draw their portrait, write a list of the books they’ve read and when they’ve worn the same outfit more than once. And yet every morning you conscientiously avoid eye-contact, body-contact, or any other action that might signal knowledge of their existence. Why is this?

The rest of the world thinks this is evidence that the British are stiffly anti-social. This, I stress, is not true. It is because to the British mind it is far more rude to enter lightly into conversation just once and ignore them the rest of the time. If you speak once, you must forever speak. And this is a social commitment that no one – I repeat, no one – is ready to make just because of public transport. And therefore, out of politeness, the Londoner will refuse to acknowledge anyone’s existence to begin with, thereby nipping chances of conversation in the bud and preventing all possibilities of painful and misplaced social interaction. It is, in short, a great public service to one another that we make such an art of indifference.

dont-talk-to-me-darling-were-on-the-tube--db29a

This, of course, is why on-the-tube buskers, beggars and drunk people make everyone magnificently uncomfortable. They break this rule right across its unacknowledged middle. They demand attention from a people who instinctively feel they should give attention out of politeness and yet politeness dictates that they should not give attention. They cause internal moral crises. They are a glitch in the public transport Matrix.

But even these interruptions might not penetrate the Londoner’s best defence: the abstracted gaze. Observe, for example, the London Creature – she of little height – standing in the midst of a carriage full of what appears to be drunk knights of the realm (a stag party, evidently). Although she may have a rowdy Lancelot sprawled perilously close to her ankles and a cardboard pike poking into her rib, she is above it all. Her gaze is loftily indifferent, detached, fixed at a point far on the horizons of the Victoria tube line. And the drunk knights acknowledge her not.

This gaze is so blank and uninterested it is practically an art. Whatever is not in your direct line of vision ceases to exist. The world might fall but the Londoner’s uninterested gaze will prevail, wordlessly signalling to the crumbling universe that “I am occupied with a profound train of thought, to interrupt would be foolhardy and rude and besides you do not exist”.

Of course this lofty and detached gazing gets rather difficult when you are on a tube crushed in with one hundred other human beings of various heights, weights and degrees of body odour, because there is nowhere to direct one’s perfectly abstracted gaze without it alighting on an actual person. If it is very packed, one will find oneself hedged in by an array of chins, noses, chests and/or throats. It is rather uncomfortable to fix one’s indifferent gaze on someone’s chin, and so in situations like this you will commonly find people gazing determinedly at the adverts just above everyone else’s heads as if that ad on WellWoman was the only thing they’ve ever wanted in life.

Avoid gaze at all costs

The only people who will look directly at you on the tube are babies and foreigners. The first party are forgivable, and they are also the only humans with whom one is permitted to make direct eye contact without the heavy social repercussion mentioned above, largely because they are incapable of communication. Babies are a safe play. Always. The second party, on the other hand, do not seem to understand that direct eye contact means you intend to start a conversation, that there is something wrong with you, or that they are actually a good friend of yours (a good friend, mind, not just an acquaintance. Londoners will absolutely not acknowledge an acquaintance if they can possibly help it, even if said acquaintance’s face is currently crushed into one’s upper back at rush-hour).

Tragic happening

If the worst really does come to the worst, and a stranger throws an off-hand comment which lands like a bomb at the feet of a Londoner, the most that will be elicited from of them will be an “Oh right” given in a politely interested tone of voice. The initial speaker might be encouraged; but everyone else in the surrounding vicinity knows that in reality the Londoner is in real pain on the inside from the sheer awkwardness of it all. Ironically, when these unexpected moments of actual human communication happen aboard our public transport, the awkwardness on the part of the Londoner is caused more by the consciousness that everyone else is listening, rather than the fact that a stranger addressed you. That conversation becomes rather like a beetle trapped in a jar in a silent room: odd, awkwardly bumbling, an object observed with a detached and rather condescending interest by those not cornered by the necessity of social acknowledgement.

Strangely, if the Londoner and the intrepid conversationalist were the only ones in the carriage, a light-hearted and interested dialogue would blossom quite happily; because Londoners, contrary to popular opinion, do not shut down on every conversation. There’s nothing a real Londoner likes better than to tap lightly into other peoples’ tiny microcosms of existence when the chance arises and take a look at the cross-section of experience, culture and opinions that every person brings; and nowhere is this made more manifest than in London, the great cultural mixing bowl of the world. The problem lies in the fact that there is a time and place for these candid conversations and that time and place is never, ever, ever, on the tube.

It should be noted that British Non-Londoners are also violators of the No One Else Exists rule but to a lesser extent. For example, Northerners, the innately garrulous cousins of the more reticent Londoner, might occasionally strike up a conversation on the grounds of being lost, or merely on the strength of your wellies being very useful and stylish, and where did you get them? And from thence will emerge a discussion about sales and the shocking price of living these days. When this happens it is not so bad: mainly because all Britons will instinctively hit on a topic of conversation that is easy to touch into and let go naturally, and because they are, after all, British. Their Northernness is something they cannot help and so it is tolerated by the Londoner in the same way as they might tolerate a baby grabbing the charm on their bag or wanting to play a game of peek-a-boo.

So the next time you find people assiduously avoiding your gaze or resisting any attempts at making small-talk, do remember that Londoners are being polite, and that, unless they are looking directly at you, you do not actually exist.

Observation #5: On Running for the Bus

Most mornings

Buses. The direct offspring of Murphy’s Law and the wicked side of God’s sense of humour.

I am not exactly renowned for my sporting ability – I think I may have had a wild moment of glory in year 8 at pot-lacrosse (because all the sporty people were at a tournament and I constituted as ‘sporty’ by default – those were indeed desperate times); and apparently my year 7 PE teacher put me down as ‘swift and agile’ at netball which is a source of constant puzzlement to me and one of unmitigated hilarity to my brothers. (Example: “Mum, don’t give Chris so much ice cream; it’ll stop her being so swift and agile –”).

For a Londoner, however, fleetness of foot is not dependent on your level of physical fitness, it is dependent on how badly you want to catch that bus.

The world of London is split into two camps: people who run for the bus, and people who do not. There is a crisis point in which everybody discovers to which side they belong, a point with which we are all too familiar: that moment when you look up and catch sight of that bumbling red behemoth coming down the road. Your mind freezes and your gut clenches. Sweat stands out on your brow. Some people let out a strangled cry (optional, but it’s been done). From there on, London falls into two very different mentalities.

Non-Runners: these are the ultimate realists in life, the people who look, see, and are conquered by the certainty of an overwhelming truth: that if they run and make it they will collapse on board the bus gasping for breath like a diseased and dying walrus – and if they run and miss it they will collapse at the bus stop gasping for breath like a diseased and dying walrus. It is a lose-lose situation and thus, like the sensible beings that they are, they runneth not. Perhaps they even slow down, pretending not to see it. To banish the sneaking feeling of shame (especially if they stroll nonchalantly up to the bus stop and the bus is still there) they adopt an air of indifference and pretend it is not their bus. There is even a rare strain of the species who do this even if it is the only bus that calls at that particular bus stop. You will know them by their way of assiduously avoiding the gaze of the driver and that of every other smirking passenger by the window.

Runners: the people who either a) let adrenalin flood their system and FLY WITH IT BABY or b) are fuelled by despair and desperation because they reallyreallyreally have to catch that bus. By nature I belong to the Non-Runner group, but due to time pressures and nine o’clock meetings, Runner Option B is a more accurate description of my mornings. The problem is that no matter how fit or desperate you are, there is no graceful way to run for your bus. There isn’t. I haven’t seen a single person who looks good doing the Run Of Shame down the road. Coat flapping, hair flying, face a mask of desperation or panic (or both). Bonus points to the lads who seem to think it’s practical to wear jeans/trackies halfway down their backsides and still have the gumption to run for their bus. Hilarious things have been known to happen.

However, rejoice all ye peoples of both camps: the TFL bus countdown tells you exactly when your bus is coming. Bookmark it on your phone browser – or if you’re an iPhone user, download this app. Android users, feast your eyes on this. BlackBerrys, there’s no hope for you, there never was.

And now you, kindred Non-Runner, can confidently walk – nay, swagger – to your stop; while you, of the exalted Runner camp, will never again have to do the Run Of Shame in vain.

Observation #4: TFL/journeyplanner

For those who are unfamiliar with the Lord of the Rings, it can be butchered summarised thus: in a 3-book/1011-page/12-hour-film journey of epic proportions, a young and intelligent lad called Frodo undertakes a fairly straightforward journey (going from Hobbiton to Bree with a few friends and a Ring of Power), which soon becomes far hairier and far longer than it should be (being chased from Bree to Mordor through forests, under ground and over mountains by Black Riders, orcs, a giant spider and a Balrog of Morgoth, getting kidnapped, tortured, having his forefinger chewed off, and all the while being crushed psychologically, spiritually and emotionally by the Burden He Is Tied To i.e. the Ring).

This is also an uncannily accurate depiction of any journey planned by the TFL journey planner (minus the Balrog, perhaps, but the Ring of Power could easily be your boss).

In fact, when Tolkien wrote of Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor, I’m pretty sure he was having a clairvoyant moment about London transport and their blithe and totally untrue estimate of journey times. This is the story of what TFL tells you, and what actually happens, as told by the Lord of the Rings cast.

1. You check TFL/journeyplanner

journeytime

40 mins? I’ll be on time!

frodohappy

HOLD UP FRODO THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK. You are not aware at this point that the combination of 2 or more types of public transport symbols spells CERTAIN DOOM.

2. You set off optimistically.

setoff

3. You wait at your bus stop

waitingbus

4. Aaaaand you wait at your bus stop

waitingbus

5. You check the digital countdown.

lookingattimetable

countdown

BUT SOMEHOW, TEN MINUTES LATER

countdown

liar

6. And so you wait a bit more.

frodocomeonbus

7. You wonder whether you ought to walk

waitingbus3

6. WAIT! THE BUS! WE ARE SAVED PRECIOUS

THEBUSYES

7. You get on the bus, and IMMEDIATELY –

whatdoyousmell

CHICKENFLESH. Ahhhh the fragrant scent of fried chicken from the people who think that 10am is prime time for a bit of Morley’s.

8. You sit as far away from the chickenflesh as possible. The bus sets off at the speed of… light…

slowbus

9. and you notice there are pedestrians moving faster than you

therearepedestrians

9. And then it randomly changes destination unannounced

liartimetable

10. You leap off the bus and plunge into rush-hour crowds and make for the nearest tube

rushhour

11. The moment you’re on the tube platform: “We are sorry to announce that there are delays currently on –”

notlistening

12. The tube comes and it is packed but you don’t care, the realisation of how late you are running literally makes you feel sick and you are getting ON THIS TUBE

frodosick

13. This is you on the tube

youontube

14. You get to your destination. Total travel time: 1hr, 15mins.

gonbelate

THANKS, TFL.

Observation #3: 6 Types of London Fears

London is full of terrifying things. I’m not talking about the ghost of Jack the Ripper or people with evil intentions or even sightings of BoJo on one of his own bikes (although the girl behind him seems to think otherwise) .

No. I’m talking about things on an entirely different level.

1) When you see a policeman when walking or hear sirens while driving

No matter how innocent you are, you immediately feel anxious and wonder what crime you have committed lately that the policeman might discover simply by looking into your guilty face.

So then you try and act casual but this is really what you look like

omg

2) When you look up and see that there are Charity Fundraisers on the street

They are relentless, they are like barracudas, and they are legion.

They stand, sometimes 3 or 4 of them, strung out at strategic points on a long pavement. It is like London Temple Run, or an urban version of one of those Japanese game shows where you have to bounce wildly along a series of inflatable obstacle courses before getting walloped indiscriminately into the water by a rotating hammer. You can, if you are ready, avoid one Charity Fundraiser. But two. Or three. Or four? You’re doomed.

I was recently talking to Emily about this: some people have the incredible ability to curtly dismiss these people on the street. I do not and neither does Emily. Perhaps it’s because we have a sneaking sympathy for these hardworking canvassers on the unforgiving London pavements that we are so easily caught. Or maybe it’s just a reflex – when someone smiles we automatically smile back. It’s like opening the door when someone knocks. It’s unstoppable. But I’m sure Emily doesn’t do what I do when I am under this sort of pressure.

I lose my head and lie like an idiot.

I, the London Creature, confess that I have, for the sake of those appealing eyes and endangered tiger cubs and email forms, become several different people: Henrietta Forbes (henforbes92@gmail.com), Marie Wong (mwongy@gmail.com) and variations on my real name such as Cristiana Parreira (cparr11@hotmail.co.uk), Cris Parr and Coraline Prada (no I don’t really know either).

3) When you go through a barrier

This is similar to the policeman issue. You approach a barrier with whatever pass you have, and in that split second before scanning/beeping in, you have a mini heart attack in case the barrier doesn’t open. Or, when it does, you find yourself suddenly nervous because that barrier is going to shut itself on you fo sho, and you’re going to be trapped in the middle and all the cool people will laugh at you.

sobbing

4) When you go through a metal detector

Oh, metal detectors. They detect metal. And even though you know you don’t have a knife or a gun in your bag, you know you’re going to make that monstrosity beep because you always make them beep, like your very bones are made of steel and there is just no hope for you. And you have to take a moment to miserably prepare yourself, because you are going to be pulled aside and frisked, and all the cool people will laugh at you. Again.

lemon-crying

5) When you encounter revolving doors

Who invented this thing? Who invented this waste of space and time? Who thought it was a good idea to subject perfectly dignified humans to an awkward half-circular shuffle-dance of increasing shame and degradation?

No one can negotiate revolving doors gracefully. No one.

For more revolving-door hate, check out Michael McIntyre.

And finally:

6) When you cannot find your oyster card

hyperventilating

People in London are practically defined by their oyster cards. It’s half of what makes a Londoner. Real People From London do not pay by cash on the bus or buy single/return tickets on the tube, this is an extreme measure and it is slightly degrading. They have a way of breezing casually through oyster barriers, not even looking, their oyster cards automatically going back to the chosen pocket in their coat or bag like a homing pigeon coming to rest. Their oyster card is their key to the kingdom of London and all barriers will open before them, allowing them to ride the hell out of their city’s public transport.

And losing the oyster card?

It is  like losing your identity.


The feeling of dipping your hand into your pocket/bag and not coming into contact with that comforting, familiar feeling of plastic is like having a coronary. Your blood thunders in your ears. Your heart constricts. And then you suddenly launch into a strange and panicked version of the Macarena (this is what it looks like, in actual fact you are methodically plunging both hands into all the pockets and bags you possess).

If you find it, you beep in and find a seat/descend the escalators feeling so relieved it almost justifies a Facebook status.

If you don’t and you have to join the queue to buy a single ticket like a tourist, you feel you have let your city down. You tell a friend later on, and they sympathise deeply with you, as they should.

Man. Who knew London was such a scary place?

Observation #2: The Unspoken Rules of London Walking: A Guide for Foreigners

Dear Tourist,

Welcome to London. We really do mean ‘welcome’ even though by the time you have spent four days here you will be labouring under the delusion that Londoners are the most uncommunicative, angry, and unreasonably violent species of human beings who have ever existed. This, we stress, is a false image and you can do much to dispel this by adhering to the Moral Law of London Walking. (This is also known as Avoiding Pedestrian Rage).

1. If you are bypassed by a) a pregnant mother b) primary school children or c) a Zimmer-framed octogenarian, please note that you are walking at a dangerously slow pace.

2. If you are standing on the left side of the escalators, and by this we mean any escalator be it in Harrods, the Tube or a two-storey Tesco, you are close to being sniped by her Majesty’s you are standing on the wrong side. In order to avoid becoming a victim of the state verbal abuse or tragic assault, move to the right and allow fellow travellers to pass.

Please note: London operates under the understanding that all escalators are there to precipitate one’s already high walking speed and not to be ridden in an imbecilic and immobile fashion unless you have a book, a baby or some other suitably attention-absorbing object in your possession.

3. You may not walk more than 2 abreast down the street unless you are the military or of a suitably hench build.

4. If a Londoner apologises as they speed-walk around you, please do not take this as an apology. It is not. It is the English way of communicating a polite but fathomless rage at your infuriatingly dawdling person. This might be accompanied by one, or a combination of, the following gestures which are here listed with their interpretations:

i. A lengthening of stride/exceedingly loud and irritable footsteps/sudden burst of speed: “I have been zig-zagging behind you in a mounting state of impotent fury for some time, please move aside.”

ii. A slight flailing of the hands: “I am restraining a deep and fervent desire to jab you with a cattle prod or some such instrument.”

iii. A smile: “I hope you are feeling threatened right now.”

5. If you must pause to a) consult your map b) consult your phone c) admire the view d) chat, please do not do so in the middle of the pavement or in a doorway or a busy concourse. This causes what is called the Bottleneck Phenomenon in which many angry people will shout at you and hit you with rolled-up Metros as they pass.

6. If at any point you experience confusion, bewilderment or perplexity having caused said Bottleneck Phenomenon, please leave the country.

7. If you have invoked the rage of a high-speed pedestrian, avoid phrases such as “calm down” and “be reasonable”. Do not attempt to soothe them. They will not be soothed. Apologise, withdraw and adopt the recovery position until they are out of sight.

If you follow these rules you will find that the average London dweller is pleasant, well-informed and polite with the hidden ability to greet you good morning in broken French or Spanish regardless of your actual mother tongue and direct you to the nearest McDonald’s. Once again we welcome you and wish you a safe and happy trip around London.

Sincerely,

The London Creature