THE BLOG
22/07/2011 18:35 BST | Updated 21/09/2011 06:12 BST

"Maybe It's Because You're a Londoner"

Coming from a country where people are generally a bit more chatty (no blarney stone references please), I've found it odd not saying hello to people when I enter a shop, though I am now accustomed to the ensuing look of panic if I smile at someone on the tube.

For anybody living, working or passing through London these days, the title phrase of this piece is a common sight in tube stations. For anyone who hasn't seen it, this tagline comes from the CBS Outdoor Londoner campaign, apparently demonstrating to the world how fab and forward thinking Londoners are so everyone should, like, totally advertise to this demographic. And yes, London is a terrific place to live.

There's a lot on, pretty much all the time; if people watching's your bag then London has some truly unique characters to satisfy even the most demanding of street-side social anthropologists; if culture's what you're looking for, the city's bosom heaves with museums, galleries and exhibitions, a great many of which are free. These are, for me, some of the greatest points about living in London. It's one of the only cities I've ever lived in where, having hurriedly put on two different shoes one morning, I easily passed it off as an ironic fashion statement. Dammit, I garnered praise that day!

But this campaign takes London loving to a whole different level. The premise of the campaign is that ordinary London-folk can submit their take on why they love London, which appears on posters around the city along with "universal truths" about the UK's capital and its inhabitants. Examples of which are predictable; St. Londoners' commutes are longer, they earn more, have loads of cool gadgets and lead the way in opinion. If that's true, surely us Londoners can take a break from rescuing kittens and fighting crime to spend some time leading by example?

Yesterday evening, at leaving work o'clock, Southgate tube station was closed, with that all-too-familiar euphemism of "someone under the train." For me, this didn't affect my journey too much, as I cycle (okay, okay I get the bus) but as I stood in line, the resulting crowd got ever more agitated. The woman next to me struck up a conversation, "Terrible, isn't it?" she said, I nodded in agreement and was about to chip in when she went on, "I mean, it's rush hour and people want to get home - is it too much to ask that they do this at a better time?" I stared at her, agog.

Was she actually suggesting that this poor, desperate person, whilst making the decision to end their own life, should have said to themselves, "Oh hang on a minute, best not. Half past five on a Wednesday is a touch inconsiderate of me. Hmmm, let me see. 11pm on Sunday, yes, that'll do." Obviously, this response didn't come to me at that particular moment, because after all, comebacks are a dish best served cold. Oh wait - hang on, that's not right. So I mumbled my dissent, or maybe I said descent - who knows, adages aren't my strong point (not from London, you see) and stalked off to another bus stop.

Later that evening I thought about the differences between London and the rest of the UK. I was genuinely appalled at the attitude to the tube incident that evening; as I'd sat on the packed bus, over and over I heard people on the phone to friends or family, apologising that they were going to be late because of "some idiot chucking themselves in front of a train." I also saw pregnant ladies and elderly people struggling on to the bus and being completely ignored by all but two people who offered their seats.

Coming from a country where people are generally a bit more chatty (no blarney stone references please), I've found it odd not saying hello to people when I enter a shop, though I am now accustomed to the ensuing look of panic if I smile at someone on the tube. Mind you, coming from a country where the actions of a few are still spoiling it for the many; the fact that you get smiled at on public transport may be of poor recompense. So yes, nobody and nowhere's perfect. I choose to live in London after all and for the most part I absolutely love it - these posters endeavour to showcase all that is great about the city (and maybe show off a teensy bit) so I won't let a bit of after-work impatience sully its good name too much.

Let's face it, if your commute is a long one, you won't want to be delayed; if you have plans with friends, your annoyance will show when you give them a call to explain your tardiness. But spare a thought maybe, for the friends of yesterday's tragedy, waiting for a call that never came.