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London changes during the summer. The flavour, the rhythm, the pace – and the manners too. Whatever happened to pavement etiquette? Last week was just the beginning and after being knocked off the pavement, walked into, forced to constantly sidestep and stop dead in my tracks – and worse still, propositioned from open car windows as if every woman is fair game and a professional street-walker. I feel the need for a soapbox.
People loiter everywhere, distinct in their large, ungainly, ambling groups. Annoyingly immovable and unaware, they stop-start on the sidewalks and intersections – and you can work out where they are from with their pavement etiquette:
Our friends from the Middle East – absolutely no concept that the purpose of a pavement is to allow people to travel in both directions by foot from one place to another – they have zero experience of walking anywhere as their home towns are way too hot. Large, immovable objects who don’t know how to do the pavement dance, you know, the little sidestep that allows everyone to proceed unharmed. Requires private medical insurance.
Gaggles of English teenagers, released for the summer link arms in tight formation shrieking and skittish, unpredictable. Way too excited to exercise any common sense and quite used to trampling all over each other in the close proximity of hoards of others in their school corridors. Requires extreme caution.
Our friends from the US – distinctive in their chino shorts, backpacks, white socks, sneakers, water bottles and pocket-sized A-Z’s. Perfectly equipped for a trek, one suspects they are using GPS, which gives them an air of purpose. Can almost be forgiven for stopping dead in their tracks whilst they unforgivably argue loudly about directions and compete even more loudly about how many European cities they have ‘done’. Requires earplugs.
Foreign students and visitors led by pack leaders – entire busloads disembark and flood the pavement in tight formation so as not to lose any strays, creating a total block forcing one to walk in the street, which encourages those pesky people in cars to proposition you in languages you can’t understand. Requires crisscrossing of streets and a pepper spray for the people in cars.
Foreign residents – those people who open up their homes in London for the summer to escape wherever they come from. And out come their cars too – mostly rather expensive ones with the roof down, designer everything, music turned up to nightclub levels. They sit in the traffic competing with all the other mobile nightclubs, dark shades, smoking, nonchalant – an attempt at cool, whilst blasting away. Requires a sense of humour and global music tastes.
So what do we do? Book that flight, export ourselves in bucket loads and go and annoy the residents of other cities. A fair exchange perhaps?