Last night, we went out for a meal and a few beers with friends. We went to my favourite restaurant, The Bleeding Heart, near Farringdon, then for a couple of beers at the Compass by the station. Both the restaurant and the pub were reasonably busy, in a covid secure way. It struck me that London is a very resilient city. My life has seen all manner of terrorist outrages, designed to cower us into fear. All have failed and it seems the same is true of Covid. The Terrorists don't really understand our mentality. After the Borough Market outrage a couple of years ago, I made a point of going back the first day it opened. So did everyone else. It was packed. But there are things that strike fear into our hearts, things we do avoid like the plague. Here is my list.
1. Rail Replacement Services.
When you get to the train station and find it is closed for engineering works, and you have to get on a smelly old bus, that takes ten times longer. I am sure there is a car park full of buses from the 1930's specially reserved for this vision of hell.
If you work in London and you hear a few flakes will be falling, you know you are doomed. It seems that as the first flake falls, trains, buses and cabs all cease to work. You know that if you don't get home immediately, before the 'snow arrives', you are doomed to stay exactly where you are. The very worst thing is when you are in a gig and it snows unexpectedly and you find yourself completely stuck, in the middle of the night, on the other side of London.
3. The opinionated Taxi driver
Most taxi drivers are great, but occasionally you get one who is to the right of Ghengis Khan and happy to shout about it at the top of their voice. I had one a few weeks ago, moaning about Sadiq Khan. I'm not a fan of Mr Khan, but this bloke was a total racist. I wish I'd walked to St Pancras in the rain, it would have been more fun.
4. The roving pub bore.
If like me, you are partial to a cheeky, sneaky beer on the way home, reading the Evening Standard, you will be familiar with this. You find a nice quiet corner, and then a rather inebriated soul catches your eye and comes over, asks if you mind if they join you, then proceeds to bore the pants off you. Generally such characters have an uncanny knack of knowing all about subjects that you have no interest in, and talk at you until you can manufacture an escape.
5. The pub loo.
Most men my age need to visit the pub loo on a regular basis, however, it is rare that we need a sit down. When we do, this is the most strange and unusual punishment known to man. For some reason, many pubs don't invest in toilet seats, paper or cleaning for the cubicles in the gents. When you get caught short, it truly is the most degrading and horrible experience.
6. Flying ants.
There is one day a year when the ants arise from the ground. You cannot escape them. London is awash with these pesky insects. They get in your hair, up your nose and in all sorts of other places. Then they disappear just as quickly as they appeared. Where do those big fat ants live for the other 364 days of the year?
7. Drunk Man United football hooligans on the tube.
You must have been here (and I know there is a small tad of hypocrisy in me saying this). You get on the tube to go and see your Aunt Mable who lives in Swiss Cottage on the Jubilee line. You've decided to see her because Manchester United are playing in the Cup final and you want to avoid it like the plague. After tea and cucumber sandwiches, you get the tube back to Queensbury, but you have made a fatal mistake. The train pulls into Wembley Park and ten thousand drunk Manchester United fans alight, all singing and swearing at the top of their voice, making their way back to their house in Pinner or whatever other London suburb of Manchester they live in, singing rubbish songs in bad Mancunian accents. It is true of most clubs fans if you don't support them, when the tube pulls up at the station by the stadium after a game. The only small mercy is when you see a train full of fans you don't like after their team has been thumped. Now that is a good feeling!
8. The bloke with the loud headphones on the tube
You are on the tube and as it pulls in, you hear this horrible, tinny cush cush cush sound. You see the bloke in bad clothes grooving away. As the doors open, you just hope that he moves up the other end of the carriage. You see that look of fear on all of your fellow passengers face. If he chooses the seat next to you, you know you will be in a foul mood by the time you get home.
9. The Juke box hog with awful taste.
I love a good juke box and will generally put a few tunes on. However there are some souls who will put 30 awful tracks in a row on. So you put your quid in and you realise that you will be back home, tucked up in your bed before they ever are played. Instead you are subjected to a whole lot of audio garbage which ruins your evening.
10. The train vomiter.
I'm pleased to say I've never been the victim of this particular scenario, but I have seen a terrible site. I was taking a packed Thameslink Friday night special about twenty years ago. I go on and was disappointed to see that there were no seats. Then I spied two spare. I moved towards them, but realised why. The guy sitting opposite was rather inebriated and was a very sour shade of green. I did a swift risk assessment and decided against sitting there. There were two rather pretty young ladies, who sadly did not perform the same risk assessment. They sat down, oblivious to the threat. As the train decelerated towards Kentish Town, the inevitable happened. The vomit fountain erupted and showered the two poor unfortunates with half digested kebab and stale special brew. I have genuinely never felt so sorry for anyone in my life. I am sure the poor loves are still in therapy for PTSD.
I have long thought that you could make a rather good comedy show based on this list. There is much humour to be had out of these situations, once you have safely escaped the scenarios.