Having previously posted about the things I do miss about living in London, I thought I would redress the balance with a few recollections of things that I really do not miss.
This is everywhere, especially paper. It blows about, in winds fanned by the high buildings, and narrow streets. There are a few free newspapers handed out, mainly to commuters at rush hour, as well as countless leaflets; for cheap meals, computer deals, and the sale of golfing goods. This discarded forest of unwanted paper lies everywhere in view, and when it is raining, forms clumps of undesirable paper-mache, that cling to your shoes. At the end of the evening, the many restaurants and fast-food establishments, pile the detritus of their day’s trading onto the pavement, awaiting a late collection by refuse trucks. Food scraps, bottles, cardboard, all urinated on by drunks, kicked around, disturbed by seagulls (yes, there are lots of seagulls in Central London), rats, and vagrants, all this litters the narrow pavements.
Loud music systems
Whether in cars, next to you on the train or bus, or just wandering around, the users of these personal music systems seem unable to enjoy anything, except at full volume. Regardless of annoying anyone nearby, or more likely deliberately to do so, the monotonous beats bang out, day and night, the theme tune to the mindless.
News channels and the Police, the Ambulance Service, and rich people, all love to use helicopters. A news report is not complete, without an aerial shot of a moving prison van, or a cordoned-off crime scene. Ambulance helicopters love to descend into the midst of a busy shopping area, closing off all the streets, and surrounding walkways. Police helicopters patrol ‘sensitive locations’, day and night, as well as chase cars, along the faster roads in the city. Having worked in the emergency services, I remain firmly convinced that helicopters are unnecessary in Central London. They are an expensive vanity, with little practical application in the metropolis. What they do succeed in doing, is to disturb you with noise, wake you up at all hours of the night, and shine lights as bright as the surface of the sun into your flat, when least wanted. I was pleased to say ‘farewell’ to them.
London must rate as one of the most brightly-lit cities anywhere. Street lights, lights on housing estates, security lights, office lights left on all night, floodlit buildings, and stations glowing like alien spacecraft. It has it all. When I lived in Camden, I could get out of bed at any time in the night, wander around the flat, use the bathroom, make a coffee, in fact anything I wanted to do. This is not unusual, unless you consider that I did not need to put on any lights inside my home. The intrusive ambient light was strong enough to do the job. This made it difficult to sleep, and easy to be disturbed. It was also wasteful, though that didn’t seem to concern anyone, except when it came to forcing me to buy low-energy bulbs, useless for reading.
I used sirens in emergency vehicles for over 20 years. I know that they can be useful for getting through heavy traffic, and alerting road-users to your presence. However, in London, there is a culture of siren use that extends throughout the full 24-hour period, even when it is patently not necessary. Live near a Fire Station, or a busy road junction, and you may as well kiss goodbye to sleep, and peace and quiet. The emergency vehicles will crawl along in traffic, sirens wailing, or have them on at 3am, driving through deserted roads, just for the sake of it. I know, I was there…By contrast, in Norfolk, sirens are used sparingly, on fast roads, with difficult visibility, and people take them all the more seriously for that.
So, just the five things for now. I am sure that there will be lots more, but for now let’s just call it my ‘top five’.