Archive for December, 2015

Things I think about London

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2015 by helenperkins

The water is poisonous here. Or at least it tastes that way.

It makes this weird scum on the top of a cup of tea – kind of like the algae on a pond which gets too much sun. I had to switch to bottled water when I realised I was unconsciously avoiding drinking and was slowly turning into a human crisp.

I’ve been making notes about the capital since moving here in March 2015, comparing it to the Lake District, where I lived for four years before that.

Other negative features of the city – I will start with them – include the fact that everyone gets sick here all the time because there are so many people and so many germs.

Also, on a vexing domestic point, every building in London seems to have installed these kitchen taps that fire water at you. It’s like each tap hides a Force 400 Power Hose. More than once, I’ve come away from the washing up looking like I’d actually clambered into the sink.

Then there’s the anger. People get angry in London – and they lose their top over almost anything, not just the taps. They get angry at the fact the next train is in three minutes. Angry at the fact that everyone else is so angry. Angry at umbrellas and the pavement and being tired and the temperature and the bus driver.

This city is a therapist’s merry playground. And a therapist could charge about a million quid because everything in London costs about a million quid. London is like Fight Club – but this time it’s Skint Club. Unless you are a successful hedge fund manager, you are constantly finding yourself in Skint Club. But the rules of Skint Club are that no one talks about Skint Club, or else someone might get angry.

But, then, London.

London is a city of a million chance meetings, ranging from the terrifying, to the glorious and often the downright surreal.

I ran straight into the world’s most blue-eyed boy on a platform somewhere on the Northern Line, about a week after I arrived here. Blue, the colour of a child’s crayon.

He was maybe 16 or 20, dead freckly, maybe Italian or Spanish or something. He followed me onto the train just to say hello – thankfully not like a creepy teenage stalker hello, just literally to say hi.

We sat across from this drunk couple. She had her legs over her boyfriend, who was wearing a fancy dress cowboy hat and was making some pretty heavy promises to her, loudly, which were heard by everyone in the carriage.

“You can tell this is a late train,” the boy said.


“Nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

And then I got off and ran up the steps.

So yes. This, everyday. London.

You can meet all imaginable kinds of people. Life drawing models, musicians, hi-tech geek wizards, the Swiss guy who sells the world’s finest coffee out a little espresso van in Peckham.

I met Sylvan, the staff guy who says goodnight to you when you get off the train late at Brockley Station. And met Barry, a man who stands at the end of Queens Road almost every day with his ancient little white dog ‘trying to get him used to the sound of the traffic’. He used to be taught English by Chris Tarrant.

London is like this big drunk trifle. It’s overwhelming if you make any attempt to swallow it whole – there’s far too many places and people and things. All that custard.

So everyone here makes their own, special, personal mousey route. You pick your half a dozen friends. And I did. There’s the one who initially described herself as ‘the result of an accidental condom split’, the one who told me a story about a lizard that still creases me up and is surely the single best story-teller I will ever meet, another who has saved me with wine and merry chatter a hundred times now, and who has the ability to cut through nonsense like she has laser eyes. And you go to Battersea Park, where it’s quiet and there are beagles. You find your way to the Velasquez paintings in The National Gallery. You work out your Northern Line and you stick to it.