A friend of mine once told me about this fact about London; ‘if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life’. From my experience of London so far, this is proven to be very much the case. London mirrors life in the sense that you must take the good, bad and the ugly, just as in life in general.
In a city that accommodates a population that is twice the size of Ireland, everything a student or tourist could want is available. To put it into perspective, the social facilitates in my home town of Wexford includes, groceries, a couple of shops, a barbers, church and a couple of restaurants. And not to forget to mention a few pubs to drown your sorrows in. In London, all these facilities are contained on one street, never mind a suburb.
London is quite famous for its sense of humour. This is very much epitomised by the singing lift that I encountered in the Royal Festival Hall. When I walked into the lift, I spent ten to fifteen minutes going to every floor for one very simple reason: for every floor, there was a scaled note sung by a pre-recorded choir. The higher the lift went, the higher the octave sang, ‘Level One’. London has been designed down to such a fine detail that it finds the way to make the most mundane activity entertaining.
London is the only city in the world that boasts several free museums. To be honest, I am not one for appreciating the aesthetics but at least going to the museum allowed me to make fun of some of the statues. For example, when I looked at the pharaoh statue in the British museum, I could not help but the notice that the Nemes Headdress of the Pharaoh made him look like he had a pair of springer spaniel ears! The highlight of the day at the museum was the fact that I was able to skip queues by the virtue of having a wheelchair. Honestly, it makes you feel like royalty.
However enchanting London can be, it hasn’t always been plain sailing since I’ve arrived. For example, if a restaurant is too small and cannot accommodate a wheelchair, you can’t just skip the queue there! One night, I tried to get in an Italian restaurant by the name of Spaghetti House. Judging from the naked eye and my experience driving a wheelchair, my instincts told me the wheelchair would fit within the restaurant. However, as I entered the premises, the wheelchair moved to my blindside out of vision and the manager, instead of moving to address me, spoke to my personal assistant. Constituently, I was told via my personal assistant that I was not welcome in the restaurant and the only way for me to eat there was to sit out in the cold and eat there. Naturally, I was upset and frozen on the spot, I agreed and left the restaurant. I had been especially angered that the manager had addressed my personal assistant rather than me directly. If there is one thing that I have learnt from this experience: whatever standard of manners that you have been accustomed to, do not expect or assume that people hold the same standards abroad in all cases.
Also, finding your way around London can be daunting at times. Even with Google Maps, it can take a few walks around a particular area before you find a shop, a pub or a nightclub that you are looking for. In the beginning at least, when moving to a new city, the best thing to do avoid ad hoc decisions. As cliché as it might seem, planning in a big city is pivotal. Unlike Dublin, or Wexford, or wherever you come from, I can guarantee that deciding to go places on the spot will land you in trouble in any major city.
To finish off, life in London has been a riveting experience for life training. The lack of familiar friends to fall back on forces you to learn survival skills that may have been less developed without this opportunity. As I said in my previous piece, if you get this opportunity as well, grab it with both hands.
Conor Lynott – Sports Editor