Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peter's Hill

The thing about London, as everyone knows, is that nobody talks to anybody or even makes eye contact, right? Yet I never seem to be able to sit for five consecutive minutes in the capital without some character wandering over for a chat. Possibly it’s to do with my face – it might be more guileless than I’d wish.

At Paddington on Friday morning as I tucked into my bacon butty (courtesy of the West Cornwall Pasty Co franchise – a top tip if you arrive in London early and unbreakfasted), a faintly Dickensian-looking chap with a plastic bag and a cowpat hairstyle settled next to me and told me many things about the business of buying train tickets to Slough. And in the evening, as I nursed a hilariously expensive Budvar on Peter’s Hill (St Paul’s bulging to my left, the Millennium Bridge to my right, a swarm of humanity between: ah, Gemütlichkeit), a well-oiled Cockney treated me to a story about his wife’s failed attempts to purchase an electric fire, during the telling of which he suddenly got up and trundled off to the loo, returning three or four minutes later to continue at the exact point – as far as I could tell, to the word - where he left off, as if there had been no interruption. Such encounters seem to happen to me all the time in London: I think the trick – or the trap, depending on your disposition – is to look like you’re not in a hurry.


worm said...

I seem to attract 'talkers' too. it's like they can sense when I'm near. Maybe we just look like nice people. Or perhaps it's our aftershave?

David said...

See, now I thought that it was being an American in London that led to these encounters. Londoners seem convinced that I could be quite a reasonable chap if they only explained to me, slowly and carefully, everything that is hidden from Americans by our corporate media.

Unlike New York, where one avoids these things by scowling and carefully avoiding eye contact (next time you're in New York, take a minute to admire a crowd of people at the same time trying to project an air of tough indifference and carefully not looking at each other). In London, what seems to work best is putting on a wide smile and being super-American.

Brit said...

I don't complain, mind. It's all good material for the book I'll never get round to writing.