On Saturday morning I was walking towards a set of crossroad traffic lights on Upper Street, North London when, with minimal warning and indication, a small lorry, northbound but obviously finding itself heading in the wrong direction, cut across a BMW in the inside lane to turn left so that it could circle a handy mini-roundabout and then turn right to go back south again. It was a pretty silly manoeuvre but, since traffic was moving slowly from a standing start at the lights, one that was unlikely to cause serious damage had there been a collision. The driver of the BMW honked his horn and swore a bit, just as any driver in any city would.
But this is London so that wasn’t enough for him. Instead of driving off, he stopped square in the middle of the road, blocking both lanes, to continue his gesticulating. There he remained, cussing expansively the while, as the lorry turned and trundled unwittingly back towards him. If they were surprised to find him waiting for them, the lorry’s two eastern European occupants didn’t show it. They merely looked on impassively as the BMW driver – a black man of medium build and maximum ferocity - got out of his car and snarled up to them. “Yo Bruv,” he began, banging on the cab window. “What kind of move was that bruv?” Thereafter he was considerably less polite. The haranguing lasted for several minutes as the traffic piled up, hooting and hollering, behind the parked car. The haranguer was as oblivious to this rage as the lorry’s haranguees apparently were to him.
Eventually he got back in his car and drove on. Whether or not he was satisfied with his work I cannot say. The traffic jam behind him followed. When the lights changed the lorry drove on. And I walked off to get the Tube to the National Gallery. This wholly pointless scene took place at 9.30am on a lovely sunny autumn Saturday in salubrious Islington.
If you lived in London all your life you might have no conception of how nuts the city seems to visitors, of the sense that it is forever teetering right at the very edge of complete nervous breakdown.