I sometimes look at cyclists on London’s roads and think “really that’s the most dangerous way of travelling ever”
But I am wrong…
On Turkish roads you rarely see cyclists, I can see why, it would be beyond foolish.
Aside from the lax attitude towards seatbelts (the first Turkish taxi I got in laughed at me when I asked why the seatbelts were fastened back to the seats and therefore just “for show”) and car seats, the roads are really crazy. I will forever have one car journey scored into my mind, luckily it was pre-baby but none the less there were 8 squeezed into a car (2 in the front passenger seat) and I suddenly realised we were in the middle lane. That might not seem like a big deal but it was a 2 lane road, it’s just sometimes the Turkish approach is to try and squeeze in between the 2 cars actually in the lane…
It was one of many seemingly terrifying journeys in the 12 years I have been travelling with the Turk, winding roads, minimum speed limits, shoddy and poorly maintained elderly vehicles, I’ve seen them all. It’s one of the things that really panics me about the Turk taking our son to Turkey by himself, usually when I’m there I am the one voice trying to instill some idea of self preservation back into the driver.
I’m no wuss, I’ve tuk tuk’d around Bangkok, I’ve seen cars with dents in their roofs in Cairo, I’ve countered giant rats in Kuala Lumpur, but there’s something about the danger in a country I am intrinsically connected with that makes it more worrying.
The car accident deaths are pretty high, I have always been paranoid about it as there were specific warnings about car travel in Turkey on the FCO website for years until recently. There were 8,758 road fatalities last year, and that’s around 12 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, in comparison with the 3.5 in the UK it seems high, but it’s actually only slightly higher than that in the US, a place where I always feel road safe!
Ok so you may have seen my earlier post which was a slightly tongue in cheek look at being a Londoner, so in contrast I thought I would share with you some things I really love about London, because I do love it, I really do…I’m not moving and you can’t make me.
- The weather – seriously, London has better weather than anywhere else in the UK* FACT. It’s always* warm and doesn’t seem to bear the brunt of some of the worst rains and storms even when they pass close.
- Public Transport – yes it may be expensive, smelly and hot, but on the whole it’s reliable and runs at reasonably good times. At my mum’s if you don’t drive you don’t go out…seriously, there’s actually a bus route that only runs one way into town…
- The people – it’s always said that Londoners are so unfriendly, but I don’t think it’s true. I’ve always known my neighbours really well, after all they see you in your PJ’s, you often live on top of each other and we’ve rarely had any issues** But it’s not just neighbours, during the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings there was a real comradeship amongst strangers, directing people how to walk to places they have only seen from underground before, offering lifts, sharing support.
- The shopping – Forget your Bond Street or Kings Road (well don’t forget exactly…) we have our very own high street in one borough of London, if I want something a bit posher I walk to the posher high street. Not just chain stores, but the boutiques, little nooks and cranny’s and more recently farmers markets which are popping up all over.
- The art – you might find it hard to believe but there’s some amazing street art in London, you can do your very own tour around. Sadly my local Banksy has recently disappeared, but the splurge of art that has replaced it is really interesting.
- The parks – I don’t care where you live your parks cannot beat ours. In addition to the big ones (I love St James’ and have spent many happy lunches in there…back in the day when I used to not desk eat) I can walk to 5 lovely parks within a short walk, it’s pretty darn amazing.
- The pay – yes ok so everything costs more, but I get a little uplift for working in London and it makes me feel special…
- The centre of attention – strange as it sounds I get a little bit excited when something close to me happens on the news. If it’s local news then only if it’s proper close, but anything London on the national news has me talking about it like an expert using my “local” knowledge.
- The variety – who needs to eat in the same place week after week or drink at the same watering hole? Not me*** when there’s such a wide choice around not only my local area, but the next area too; and the next; and the next (get the picture?!)
- The opportunity for culture – ok so a confession is that I am not really a culture vulture, but a broad
narrowpoll of friends a friendput this at the top of the list. The museums, the theatre, to be fair even if I don’t use them I do like the idea of being able to get to them at a moment’s notice (plus have done impromptu breastfeeding & nappy changing in many a random museum or gallery…)
*based on no scientific facts ever…FACT
**apart from the neighbour that stole our bike computer thing, and that time we had to save our neighbour from her abusive husband and then me be stuck inside calling the police when he tried to break in…and the Turk sat outside in the snow round the corner…oh or the morning of my birthday one year when we got woken up by a drunken man continually pressing our buzzer to get into our drunk neighbour’s flat….and that noise complaint we had about loud music.
***this is mainly because I have a child and no childcare, but that’s not helpful to the point I’m trying to make
I love London, I’ve lived here since I went to university and now I am a grown up lawyer with a job and a reason to commute, it’s very exciting. I thought I would share with you the benefit of my 15 years as a Londoner just so you can make sure you understand the rules, whether you live here or just visit:
1. Don’t dawdle, dither or hesitate – this applies particularly if you are stood at the top of an escalator; getting into a lift or entering the platform of a tube station. If you stop I will walk into you. I won’t apologise because it was your fault (just so you know).
2. Everyone is important – if you are in London, particularly if you live there, you clearly have important business to attend to. It is important, if you find yourself in London without important business to attend to, that you behave in a manner which indicates that in fact you do have important business to attend to. We are in London, we are not here to enjoy ourselves, we are busy, act like it.
3. Hand accessories are essential – please don’t allow yourself to be seen empty handed, it isn’t a good look. If you really can’t bring yourself to be engrossed in a paper, your phone/tablet/kindle or a book then please buy a coffee. It is essential that your hands are occupied at all times (please don’t slow down your pace – you are in London, you should be able to multitask). If you do resort to coffee kindly make sure that the brand adequately reflects your personality – if we see you with Starbucks in hand we will understand that you are a ruthless tax avoidance approving business shark, if you have a cup with an advert for ethically sourced organic beans we know you are likely to stop for Chuggers and can use early avoidance strategies for the moment that you start to hesitate towards them for a chat.
4. If you need a taxi please only use black cabs. These should be flagged down in as dramatic a fashion as you can muster. If you don’t flag with a flourish then the cab driver will know you are not a true Londoner and probably won’t stop. Please ensure that you remortgage your property in good time to pay for the aforementioned cab rides.
5. People standing on the street should be avoided at all costs – Chuggers, people handing out samples/religious literature/free papers or big issue sellers. It really doesn’t matter, you are busy, you are a Londoner, please avoid eye contact and take early evasive action.
6. Your food should be branded – please don’t bring along food from the supermarket, you won’t be allowed to mix with real Londoners. All lunchtime food should be extortionate and from a reputable and accepted luncheon supplier. Don’t bring lunch to your desk, you saved sufficient time from avoiding Chuggers and Big Issue sellers to ensure that you can take an adequate lunch break.
7. Pay no attention to other road users – this applies whatever your method of travel. Cyclists and pedestrians should pay no heed to traffic lights, they aren’t for you, cross whenever you see fit. Pedestrians should particularly aim for the ‘halfway run’ [the process by which a pedestrian runs into the middle of the road to demonstrate that they do understand the rules of the road – but then walks the remainder of the distance to the pavement to indicate that they don’t care]
8. Children don’t belong in London – London is for grown ups and should remain that way. If you do fall pregnant please do not expect other Londoners to treat you any differently, the stairs at tube stations are there for a reason – to make it more difficult for preggies to carry wheely bags onto trains. Similarly they serve to dissuade buggies from entering the public transport system. If you feel you must
waddle walk slower than normal please don’t leave the house.
9. Work friends are not real friends – whilst it may be fun to laugh and joke with your colleagues, please don’t try and take this further by discussing meeting up at the weekend and please remove all former colleagues from your Facebook page when you leave a job, you will need the space for your new work friends.
10. Customer service is generally unnecessary – for those of you who work in the service industry please remember that in London we don’t value customer service. Please reflect this in your approach and ensure that you delay serving Londoners for as long as possible – if you are able to arrange it so that you are engaging in a conversation with a co-worker instead of serving us in a timely manner that would be appreciated. Don’t worry we will still leave a tip on top of the added service charge, we are Londoners, that’s just what we do.