Thursday, 10 September 2009


London's fast. If London ran its own marathon, it'd probably get disqualified for cheating.

Everything happens so quickly. This ever changing atmosphere is something that manifests itself in the way people live their lives, even the way you think. London runs in light speed and those who live here can only try and keep up. One minute you're up, next minute your down. One minute you're gagging to get out, next minute you can't think of anywhere else you'd rather be.

Nothing epitomises this cities dual nature than my lunchtime expedition from Warren Street to Embankment, or North of the river to South Bank, or BT Tower to London Eye. I wondered towards the station wrapped in my own thoughts. Mainly cloudy thoughts, I've got too much in my mind that I can't make sense of; stuff I'm not comfortable blogging about. That's not to say I haven't blogged about it before, I'm just evaluating how much I share these days. It's too easy to get caught up in blogging, you end up sharing too mu-...


...interrupted my thoughts. He didn't raise his voice, just said it angrily as he walked past and it left me baffled. I wasn't in your f@~ing way, mate. I looked over my shoulder at him and he turned round, glaring at me as he strode off. I walked into the tube shaking my head and muttering how rude, how bloody rude. Bloody London. Bloody rude London people.

A few minutes later and I'm walking up those familiar steps outside Embankment tube. I get stuck behind two slow stepping pensioners, and the man taps his wife and mentions for her to move aside so I can get by. "No, it's ok" I said, drawing level, "If I go too quickly, my calves will start to ache." The man smiled, I don't think he heard me. "Yes. Enjoy the sunshine".

I got to the other side of the bridge, smiling from my little exchange, where a Big Issue seller was doing his best to shift some magazines. He looked at me as I approached and over the bassline on my earphones I heard him say

"Big Issue, darling?"
"Not unless you take card!" I said, and continued down the steps.
"I've got chip and pin!" he replied, and I laughed. "Hey! Hey! Wait! Do you walk across this bridge every day?"
"Not usually," I replied, taking the earphones out and turning around, "Sometimes"
"How often do you walk across it?" he asked
"About once every three weeks?"
"Right" he said, and started digging in his bag with the magazines.
"No no no! You can't give me one, I don't have any money on me! No no no!"
"Take it!" and he handed me the magazine. "Take it and pay me when you can. You'll be back. I know you will, no one's let me down yet. I know you won't. Whether it's this week or three weeks, whenever you're next passing. My name's Peter."
"Ok Peter. Thank you!"

I walked off and exchanged grins with another man who'd been standing watching the exchange between me and the homeless man. I smiled all the way to my destination. On the way back, I went via the same bridge. Peter was packing up his magazines and I went over. "Mate," I said, "I've got your money" and handed him £1.50. "You were right, see, I came back".

"Thank you darling, oh thank you. You just caught me I was packing up, I..I need a ruddy pee, you see. But thank you, you nearly missed me!"
"That's ok. Thanks for the magazine. I've never bought the Big Issue before. Have a good day"
"You too. SEE YOU IN A WEEK!" he yelled after me, and people on the bridge turned to look.

And just like that, London was back in my good books.


Elaine said...

I went a little gooey when I read that. I don't know about London, but I like Peter. I like Peter a lot.

Anonymous said...

I have to make a conscious effort not to grumble at dawdlers on London streets.

The times I have bought a Big Issue have always been because the seller has some witty banter, rather than the usual inane patter.

Ellie said...

Oh, yeah. That is friggin' London.

I was coming out of Holborn today and some beyatch pushed me out of the way in order to get out the turnstiles. I'm not slow, and by the way she walked, she wasn't in any big rush. Just a self-absorbed beyatch - and tall. Sometimes I think taller people take advantage. Anyway, I was fucking pissed off inside my head ("What a bitch" I was saying to myself). Then London will turn on dime.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

For every rude stuffed suit and "beyatch" [how very American of you, Ellie!] there are 50 Peters. Humanity 1 Asswipes nil.

All Mod Cons said...

Awesome post. Can relate to all of that SO much. I often buy the Big Issue. Just the fact that these people are out there doing something instead of sitting on their fat ones and poncing benefits deserves £1.50 in my book.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Elaine - Given your post from the other day, I had a feeling you might like Peter.

Perp - Yeah, they're not supposed to shout or anything, but a little bit of ingenuity doesn't go amiss.

Ellie - I know those ones. I nearly threw a fit on the tube the other day because it was packed and people insisted on pushing past me to get off. I was like just wait, we'll all get off, the train's not going anywhere. It didn't. We were all chucked off anyway in the end.

Unbearable - True that. There's always someone around to make you smile.

All Mod - I hardly ever buy it, mostly because if I've got cash on me (hardly ever) then I like to keep hold of it for tickets and tips and things. But if I'm in need of reading material then I'll consider it in the future.

Kirsty said...

What a great story. London exhausts me - it's frenetic. But you're right, the people can be just lovely. When you don't get in their "way".

Steph said...

You are an awesome writer! I enjoyed every word of that.
My sister is in London at the moment and having the very same love it/hate it experiences.

Anonymous said...

I buy the Big Issue quite a bit when I'm home... I rarely read it. But at home the sellers have something worthwhile to say and "look homeless". When I lived in Liverpool they never "looked homeless"... they looked like chavs, wearing sportswear and trainers?! So I never parted with my money for them!

I think I probably buy it, most of the time, just to make me feel good!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Kirsty - I think there's more good people than arseholes.Personally.

Thanks Steph, your sister will no doubt be experiencing the joys of the tube, too...

roseski - This guy looked quite normal. He was polite, not grubby, he'd do well in a sales job I reckon. Had a nice manner.

Brennig said...

OK, I've waited until (probably) last to say this...

I fucking hate The Big Issue (England) and The Big Issue (Cymru).

I admire the sentiments behind the concept and feel the model for distribution of wealth is wholly commendable.

But the standard of writing in TBI and TBI(C) is absolutely deplorable.

So I give a £2 to TBI/TBI(C) vendors but won't pick up the rag because, frankly, I wouldn't touch it with yours.

Around My Kitchen Table said...

Everyone needs to meet a Peter occasionally - an oasis of calm amid the madness!

CoatMan said...

That is adorable! That Big Issue man had a cunning tactic, though - he's a savvy fellow. Surprised that somebody with selling skills like that is homeless in the first place. But that is a wonderful snapshot portrait of all that is good and bad about London.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Brennig - Thing is right, thats what they tell you not to do. Like buy the magazine and not take it. Because they're not begging, they're selling, etc etc. But yes, the standard of writing could definitely be upped, but I'm not sure thats totally the point of it...

Around - Exxxactly. True story.

Coatman - Yeah, thats the thing, I was like in however many years of living in London I've never bought the Big Issue. This bloke had a foolproof sales technique, I was actually surprised. If he sells it to the right person, he could be in luck one day.

Anonymous said...

What cheers me up are the buskers. They always (or usually) play really well, and it is a little bit of calm in a busy, busy city.

I sometimes go as far as to wish I had a little stool I could sit on and have a listen!


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