Along with its abundance of parks, museums, restaurants and never-ending calendar of events – I love London because of the people watching opportunities it brings. On the odd occasion when I am in central London with some actual time to spare, I’m guilty of finding a spot with a good viewpoint, unplugging whatever podcast I would normally be engrossed in and quite literally watching the world go by.
And usually, this sport doesn’t disappoint. I stepped out of the office yesterday in search of some lunch and overheard the following:
Person one: This is a pure chicken wrap with no dressing kinda area and that’s just not my vibe.
Person two: What is your vibe?
Person one: I’m more a chicken wings and hot sauce kinda gal
Person two: But would you eat that at your desk?
Person: Yeah, who cares. Gimme the hot sauce and let them watch.
And then last week there was this little tale of intrigue:
Person one: She defo knows.
Person two: She doesn’t you’re being so paranoid and weird and it’s making you do that weird eye brow twitch thing when you talk to her which is making her think something is wrong.
Person one: What eyebrow thing? And also she knows. You’re in total denial. She knows and she is going to be so furious when she finds out and we are going to be up the creek of shit with no paddles and no escape so can we please make a fucking plan.
Person two: See your eyebrow just went mental again.
Who needs Netflix, the Pret a Manger queue has it all.
Living in London is a bit like marmite. Some days, I love this city – there’s a real energy and real buzz to being in such a hyper active, busy and bustling city. I want nothing more than to consume it all – every experience and every opportunity the city offers. And some days I recoil from it, horrified by the smell and gagging at its stench. And this week has been a textbook marmite week for me.
And as well as moments that have served as excellent entertainment, there have been moments that have completely restored my faith in humanity, when people have actually stopped for a few minutes in their day to talk to Tom the homeless guy who we all walk past morning, noon and night to just ask how he is coping in this heat. Or the woman who handed her fellow passenger a tissue as she bawled her eyes on a SWR train on the way home and proceed to offer kind words and support despite having no clue what her fellow passenger was so distraught about while the rest of us sat awkwardly staring at our shoe laces.
But as much as people surprise and delight me with their love for hot sauce and their generosity with tissues, I also sometimes find myself losing faith each and everyone one of us as much as I’m losing faith in our politicians. As the temperatures soared up this week, the tube became increasingly more like some kind of sauna torture chamber. Basic manners seemed to stay above ground as each and every commuter tried to stave off the beads of sweat emanating from every crevice.
From the woman who proceeded to bash me five times in the face with her rucksack and then refused to apologise because she wasn’t doing it “on purpose” and spent the remainder of our journey snarling at me to the suited and booted gentlemen who proceeded to shout expletives at his fellow passengers as he took a run up and launched himself into the already packed carriage only to bounce back out again like an episode of Takeshi’s Castle – there have been countless occasions this week when I’ve been shocked by human behaviour. And that’s without having to open a newspaper and read about the atrocities going on in the Sudan or the harrowing descriptions of sexual assault done by men in the highest powers of office.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a saint. I can be rude and grumpy and I am sure there are days when I offend the general public with my presence. I’m guilty of the head down, dead behind the eyes, commuter look as much as the next person but if I am totally honest, it suits me even less than the lycra onesie and pigtails look I was considering for spinning this week.
So, as we head into warmer weather and hopefully bluer skies I’ve made a little pact with myself to try and show a little more compassion, a little more humanity and a little more kindness in the minutia of my every day. I figure, we can’t ask the world for things we aren’t prepared to put into it ourselves. It has to start somewhere, and I wear a smile more easily than I do a frown.
I’ve been obsessing over a certain TV show (and no it’s not Love Island). each episode has given me a lot to think about and the series finale of Years and Years was not one to disappoint. After a scarily on point eight episodes, I was struck by the timeliness and poignancy of Muriel’s rousing monologue.
“It’s our fault. This is the world we built. We are all responsible, every single one of us. We can sit here all day blaming other people, we blame the economy, we blame Europe, the opposition, the weather and then we blame these vast sweeping tides of history like they’re out of our control, like we’re so helpless and little and small. But it’s still our fault.”
And she’s right. We all play our part. So I’ll be attempting to head into next week with a smile on my face, some more compassion in my commute and a much stronger deodorant – who’s with me?