This is London

‘Our weather is going to be quite changeable this week. You can expect one wet day to be followed by one dry day, in fact. We did get a report of a tornado. Now, don’t worry, it’s nothing like those you see in America, but it gives you an indication of how windy and rainy it is up there in Northern Scotland.’
—BBC Radio 4

I borrowed a bike yesterday and rode around the giant Monopoly board of London. I love being in storied cities, where each new street is like being introduced to the dear friend of a dear friend. ‘Ah, Royal Albert Hall, I’ve heard so much about you.’

On the Portobello Road, I heard a man actually say ‘tickety-boo’. In Holland Park, I was busy smirking at uptight Englishmen averting their eyes from the bare-breasted babe reading a newspaper on the grass, when another yelled ‘Nice awws, dawling!’ at my sweatpants. In Little Venice, a woman puttered by on a moped making notes on two large clipboards attached to the handlebars. She was doing The Knowledge, the three-year preparation for a London cab-licence, where candidates are expected to know the location and traffic rules of every street in the city. (Opinions on immigration and ‘anging are optional.)

Signs in the Tube advised people on staying polite in the scorching heat (which is perhaps 75 degrees). In South Kensington, hanging on the railings:

   ”Polite Notice”
Please do not park your car here. It is a driveway.
   Thank You.

I’ve just finished Jeremy Paxman’s entertaining The English. Sitting here, listening to wonderful Radio 4, I’ve grown fond of the English again. Any country that loves wordplay as much as these people do is fine by me. That they can maintain the ‘grandeur on a human scale’ that previous generations built is so much the better.

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