21 October 2009 (Wednesday) - A Trip to the Wicked City

On average, work requires me to go to the University of Westminster a couple of times a year. I say “on average” as today was my first trip up there for three years. Things started as usual. The price of the tickets quoted on the Internet bore no relation to the actual price of the ticket. Reality wanted three pounds more. I took the train to Charing Cross and then rather than taking the tube (four stops) I walked to the University along Charing Cross Road and then up Tottenham Court Road. I don’t like London, and this was confirmed as I saw all the homeless people sleeping in the alleys along Charing Cross Road. My plan was to pop into some of the bookshops. “Murder One”, (one of the better bookshops) has gone. It’s not there any more. Neither is the Virgin MegaStore or HMV. Which was a bit of a problem, as I had this naïve idea to get some Xmas pressies.

I contented myself by looking in some of the electrical shops along Tottenham Court Road. There are a lot that specialise in mobile phones, computers, cameras, that sort of thing. And all have names that end in –tronics. Presumably because that sounds electrical-ish to people who speak English very badly. The assistant in one shop wondered if she could help me. I said I was browsing for ideas for the wife’s Chrimbo pressie. That foxed her. So I explained that I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but was looking for something for my wife’s Christmas present. She asked if it was a present for a special occasion. Christmas, I told her. She then asked if it was a present for a special person. The wife. She asked if *he* was special. I resisted the temptation to reply with “no, just some fish featured fat bum who hangs around the house generating laundry”. Instead I made my excuses and wandered to the next shop.

The next shop didn’t employ any native English speakers either. Neither did any of the electrical shops. Or the gift shops. Or the market stalls. Or Starbucks, where I stopped for a Frappuchino (!). And then I realised that everyone walking past who was using a mobile phone was gabbling away in every language under the sun except English. As I walked past the Scientologists place I saw they had a stand with their equivalent of the Bible on display. In Chinese, Polish, Arabic and (again) everything except English.

I realise the last time I touched on the topic of multi-lingualism I got anonymous hate mail. So let me be clear. I’m not advocating neo-nazi policies (as my critics would accuse me), it just seems amazing that so few people in England’s capital city have English as their first language.

And then I nearly got arrested.

For any of my loyal readers who’ve never been to London, never use a public telephone. They are actually quite shocking. Most of the phone boxes in London are festooned with postcard adverts. All put there by ladies of loose morals (or their associates) advertising their services and their mobile phone number. And these adverts aren’t shy in describing exactly what services these ladies of loose morals offer. And the pictures on these postcards leave little to the imagination. Some of them are rather disgusting. So, faced with filth in every phone box, I thought I’d take a couple of these “calling cards” to post into the chokey with the next letter. It’s odd how these things always seem to be a good idea at the time.

As I picked up a couple of cards, a snotty young constable cornered me in the phone box. Arrogantly he demanded to know what I was doing. As I explained, I saw a look of amazement on his face. “You speak English” he said. So I again explained what I was doing. He told me it was illegal to put up these adverts in phone boxes, and how he is expected to remove them and destroy them. Bearing in mind how close I was to being nicked, I thought it prudent not to point out how poor a job he was doing (if the amount of adverts up and down the road was anything to go by). I asked if I could keep the two postcards I had. He said no, took them off me and ripped them up. He then warned me that if he caught me putting up any more mucky adverts, he’d arrest me. He then marched off down the road with a rather self-important manner. Silly constable! I walked up the road to the next phone box and took two mucky adverts from that one instead. I shall post them into HMP Slade next Monday. I just hope “Norman Stanley” appreciates what I went through for him today…

1 comment:

  1. did you explain your neo-puritanical views to him? I'd have loved to have been there, i would have larfed my self sick.