Monday, November 01, 2010

Why people move away from London

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.

9 comments:

David said...

My Hero.

Gaw said...

Not so bad. At least he didn't wave a gun around.

worm said...

The Great Wen

Recusant said...

The Reason People Stay in London:

English market towns on a Friday and Saturday night. I've been more fearful for my life in Melksham, Pershore, Newbury and Trowbridge than I ever have in Merton,Peckham, Newington or Tottenham.

Brit said...

True Recusant, but I think what struck me about this incident was the fact that it happened at 9.30am on a really lovely Saturday morning. There didn't seem to have been enough time in the day yet to build up that amount of rage.

Nick Cohen said...

Brit,I am calling you out on this one. I live off Upper Street (you could have popped in for tea). There are no mini roundabouts in the vicinity.

Brit said...

Oh that's nice. No comments for years and then you pop on to call me a liar.

I called it a 'mini-roundabout' for the sake of brevity. I suppose it's really a sort of island outside the Business Design Centre thingy and the Hilton. There's an underground carpark there.

I would have loved to have popped in for tea; perhaps I will next time as Gaw lives just round the corner. How much would it have cost me? :)

mahlerman said...

I'm with you Brit. It is not even gender specific, any more than it is geographically so. It can happen on any day of the week, at any time, with weather clement or otherwise. It can happen in Bury St Edmunds or Brixton. It is a sort-of fury, that seems to have been building up steadily over the last couple of decades, and it is too pat to put it down to the daily torment of urban traffic. In my work, I cross and re-cross London, sometimes several times a day, and it is a rare day that I do not witness, or from time to time become part of, an incident such as the one you describe - and it puts me in mind of Picasso's remark 'The World today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?' And that was then!

zmkc said...

If you'd lived in London all your life and were as old as me you would know it was not always like this - which would make you much sadder to witness the uncivilised behaviour that has become the norm all over London. (I know I sound like Colonel WD Joynt (Retd), The Laurels, Carthumpton, Gloucestershire)