London Calling


I love London and I love people watching. I’ve been in the big smoke since Wednesday and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

There are millions of people here, but this is a lonely city. Nobody speaks. Or smiles. Head down, hurry on. It’s like the polar opposite of Glasgow.

This morning I’m in Canary Wharf. Coming from Aberdeen, it’s like a different world! The tube was mental busy! People everywhere, packed to the gunnels, the ubiquitous iPod headphones on almost everyone. No-one talking, smiling, making eye contact. Quite sad really. What were they all listening to? I’d like to tell myself it was my interview with Scott Douglas on the Quiet News Day Podcast (no 47), but it probably wasn’t. At least not everyone.

Like busy little ants they all streamed out of the train and scurried into their towers, off to sit in front of a computer screen for 7.5 hours in service to the queen ant. When did we stop speaking to each other?

I’m now sat in a Costas, buried deep underground. And incredulously, in this always connected world, in the capital of high commerce, without a phone signal (cheers O2), no 3G, and no wifi. How does that work?

Ah, so that’s it. This is where people talk! Deprive them of their connectivity and they have to! It’s like some big social experiment. Big Brother, before Channel 4 got their hands on it! But still everyone ignores the guy on his own. Billy no mates.

Costas is full of people in business suits, looking important and talking intensely to one another. Buy! Sell! But at least they’re talking.

And me? Well, I’ve succumbed too. It’s dress-down day in our office at home, where i’d be in jeans & a t-shirt. But here I am, in the city that never sleeps, and I’ve got my suit on. I’ve even got a tie (I need to make a good impression this afternoon – big, BIG, opportunity!).

And when no-one would make eye contact or talk to me on the tube (they must have thought I was a fucking nutter!) I stuck my headphones in. And listened to QND 47. Quite like that guy McGill, sounds like a dude!

8 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. hehe – I go to London quite a lot, and always, always get asked for help on the underground or in the street – I think I give off a glow of non-London approachability. (This could go against me – ‘mug her, she looks too soft…’)

    1. I got asked for help on the Underground yesterday too! Must be our smiley faces 🙂 Fortunately no-one mugged me…..

  2. Ceases to amaze me. Society seems to be crawling inwards. We are social creatures, aren’t we?

    Is social media a breath of fresh air, or in danger of magnifying the issue? Topic for another time, perhaps…

  3. hey Ali, I think you summed up the difference between Glasgow and London really well. we all enjoy going to London, but also enjoy leaving. it’s a place to do business and then leave. in Glasgow business is matured through trust and relationships are genuinely forged. I am sure you enjoyed your London trip. but equally glad to get home to some friendly faces. – on that note I will see you on Wednesday to welcome Diane to the friendliest city in the world!

  4. Lived there from 2004 and just left last month. Your description could not be more accurate. Full of people to busy to realise what’s important in life. I never thought I could leave London, but when you do, by god do you realise how lonely a place it is. Haven’t missed it – yet.

  5. I lived in London for 3 years and initially found it lonely and strange. Over time I made friends and really started to enjoy the place. Sure the tube is a conversation wasteland and many people are too busy being busy but just under the surface of that exterior is an amazing place full of amazing people doing some amazing things. I recently returned from a visit there and I discovered just how much I miss living there and how much I miss the people I spent that time of my life with.

    As an adult, I’ve never lived in Glasgow but I’ve had way more *unfriendly* moments there than I ever had in London.

    In many ways, it’s probably unfair to compare the two cities. Both are fantastic and both have their quirks. On saying that, London would be my choice any day of the week though.

  6. Thanks for leaving your thoughts guys. Interesting. I’m kind of with Mark on this one. I love the buzz of London, but not on my own. For me it’s about being with friends, workmates, or loved ones to get the best out of the city. Otherwise it really is lonely. Joanna and I are back in two weeks for a long weekend. We’ll enjoy some walks, amazing restaurants, see a show or two and we’ll have a wonderful time. Then we’ll come back home to Bonnie Scotland 🙂

  7. I agree with Mark. I lived down in east London a few years back and I always found it very friendly and I felt a hell of a lot safer than Glasgow.

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