Friday, 16 September 2011

Capital Karma

You know what? I’ve noticed something. In my recent blogs, I have been decidedly kind about London, praising local gems, the variety of different things to do and the sensory stimulation that keeps me interested, even after ten years.
London certainly has its good points. But sadly the pleasures of the capital are regularly tarnished by...well, Londoners.
Take last Sunday. My chum and I hit Finsbury Park with a couple of bikes. As a beginner, the plan was to practice signalling and the like in an attempt to get me ready for a trip to Cambridgeshire. It all went swimmingly well, even though the bike I was on was a little on the small side for me. Anyway, after a good ninety minutes of winding around the park’s paths, my chum had to head home to take our dinner out of the oven.
“I’ll just do another lap them follow you home.” I decided.
However, after an hour and a half of hard work (remember, I am new to this cycling malarkey) I was pretty tired. Halfway up my least favourite hill I could pedal no more. So, I had a little rest, then decided to get going again. Sadly, a hill start was a little bit beyond my amateurish skills and, after a bit of a wobble, I fell off.
About three joggers passed me as I sat on the floor, my legs tangled up with my wheels. And not one of them stopped to see if I was okay. No even an “are you alright.” Okay, so my injuries only consisted of a grazed hand and several bruises (including to my poor ego). But that isn’t the point.
A similar thing happened to me several years ago. I was running for the tube at Kentish Town and, desperate to get on the train, I dived through the closing doors. Unfortunately I managed to catch my shin on the step up from the platform and went sprawling across the carriage floor.
Not one person on that carriage asked if I was hurt.
There is a lesson to be learned by these examples – and no, not just that I am a right clump. The lesson? That a lot of Londoners don’t give a monkeys about anyone but themselves – or if they do, they are too scared/apathetic/tired to help out their fellow citizens when they are in need.
Evidence would suggest that it is the former. Take earlier this week on the bus. I climbed up to the top deck and took the only vacant seat next to a teenage lad in school uniform, his head clamped between an impressive set of headphones. His legs were liberally spread wide – and failed to move to make room for his fellow passenger. And, when we approached his stop, he didn’t bother to say “excuse me,” let alone “please”. Instead he just stood up and proceeded to push past me. I’m still cursing myself for moving out of his way rather than "accidentally" tripping him up with my cumbersome handbag.
It doesn’t stop there. The pedestrians who refuse to move out of your way, even when they are walking five abreast and you have no way of getting out of their way other than stepping onto the road. The theatre patrons who wouldn’t move their legs to one side, let alone stand up to let me past during the interval at “Losing It” last night.
Despite this, I still try my best to be as polite as possible to fellow commuters on the tube, supermarket shoppers and gym users. And, on the odd occasion that someone does show me manners, I say thank you – and I mean it. It does happen – the chap who held the door open for me today at the Welcome Collection, the shop owner who dodged out of my way as I jogged down Stroud Green Road the other morning. But it doesn’t happen enough.
Although I’m no Buddhist, I do believe to some degree in Karma. I’m not a Christian either, but think there is a lot of wisdom in the phrase, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” And I can’t help thinking that London would be a much nicer place if we all went along with these simple philosophies.
Let’s just be a bit nicer to each other, and make London not just great, but good too.


  1. Just moved to London two weeks ago - originally from N Ireland. I've noticed signs of kindness... but how do we improve things?

  2. I think we need to infect London with a little bit of love... are you in?