I have lived in a flat in central London for 10 weeks now and am reflecting on differences to my life style.  There are lots; no grass to cut and weeds to pull up, no Edwardian house to maintain and clean, no more trips to Henley in my Mercedes SLK with the roof down, no more messy hobbies (goodbye wobbly fish!), no more games of ping pong in the games shed at the bottom of the garden, no more grandchildren dropping in unannounced, no more morning walks across fields listening to skylarks.

Lest this sound like a list of regrets, here are some plusses about life in London. More reading time, 24 hour shopping (no weekly trips to stock up Waitrose – I’m sure they will have noticed the drop in revenue), fascinating morning walks in historic places saying ‘good morning’ to monuments (they never answer!), daily swims (our apartment block boasts a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym in the basement), lots of spontaneous visits to theatres and art galleries, free London transport, lots of guided walks, Wren churches, croquet at Roehampton (20 minutes away, Waterloo to Barnes), unlimited people-watching (some mighty odd people with extraordinary dimensions!).

And then there are my new, utterly pointless, games made possible by living in London.  Here are two. Each morning I venture out early to buy my wife a banana for her breakfast and to get The Times.  Incidentally, even buying a single banana has been an interesting experience.  I have discovered that the price of one banana varies from 60p to 19p.  The most expensive are Whistlestop and Marks & Spencer and the cheapest Sainsbury and Tesco.  Naturally, I buy my wife’s daily banana at the latter two where, fascinatingly, the self service payment machines have subtle variations and where buying The Times if you have a token requires assistance – thus defeating the object of self-service.

Back to my game.  Clutching a single banana and my copy of The Times my journey home takes me across the concourse at Waterloo Station.  My game is to walk at a steady pace and in a straight line through the mass of morning commuters and see how often I have to take avoiding action or break my step.  So far the lowest score is eight and it has been as high as 23.  So, my challenge is to get below eight.

My other game is to loiter on Hungerford Bridge (my wife says I’ll get arrested) and write down snatches of the conversations I hear as people walk past (I can only cope with conversations conducted in English!). Goodness knows what to make of this eavesdropping – I keep thinking it might make an insightful sociological study but…….?  Here are some verbatim quotes, together with my initial speculations, collected between 11.30 and 12 noon this morning.

‘The novelty wears off after a while.’  (Doing what? – we’ll never know)

‘Was she the older or the younger one?’  (That you had an affair with?)

‘That’s weird, really weird.’  (What was weird, not just weird, but really weird?)

‘Did he really get down on one knee?’  (To ask for her hand in marriage or to apologise?)

‘And that’s the last word he spoke.’  (What was the last word? – I nearly ran after them to ask but realised it would blow my cover)

‘Second time round should be better.’  (Doing what?)

‘And then he came real close.’  (Welcome or unwelcome?)

‘I’ve got an early start tomorrow.’  (On a Sunday?)

‘She’s a harmless person, if you know what I mean, but a moaner.’  (Moaners are not harmless!)

‘That’s why I’ve got an emergency plumber.’ (?)

I’ll persist with both these games and report back later.  Is my new life in London better than my old life in Maidenhead?  On balance, probably yes but the main point is that it is very different.


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