Welcome to London! The first athletes taking part in the London 2012 Olympics arrived at the beginning of this week, and huge lorries ferrying the press packs and their paraphernalia are blocking up all the roads, all amid the security row taking place in Westminster. Who’s to blame? How did it all come to this, just a couple of weeks before the games, when there were seven years during which preparations could have been made?
But, dear friends, fret not. London is well prepared. What with regular helicopter flights under cover of darkness, missile sites dotted around the main stadia and plenty of signage designed to empower you when your coach driver doesn’t know where s/he’s driving you on the controversial Olympic superhighway, you’ll be fine. And believe me, nothing has been left to chance. We are prepared to the point of having rehearsed the one skill Londoners are all born with: the art of queuing.
As Londoners, we live well in chaos, so I decided I would do my bit to help you see beyond it and reassure you about attending the Olympic Games if you are visiting our beautiful capital for the first time. Perhaps you have been reading recent press reports about four-hour queues at Heathrow and are considering whether or not to request a refund of your Games ticket or to exchange your flight for one to warmer climes. Allow me to give you a preview of our wonderful Olympic city. As you can see from the photograph above, we are a generous nation. Someone with insider knowledge of the whereabouts of a secret queue-free passage to the opening ceremony decided to give us a wink and a nod. As I am a typical, sharing Londoner, I am posting the tip in case you missed it.
Now without further ado, it is with great pride that I present to you the safest doors on the London Underground system – otherwise know as the “Tube”. In some cities, the presence of graffiti may insinuate an element of danger – the threat of unrestrained self-expression, perhaps even over-enthusiastic boredom. But never fear.
Just above the aforementioned door, is a plethora of information. At your first meeting with this noticeboard, you may find yourself in a minor state of breathlessness. But you need not panic if you made a mad dash for it and only just managed to squeeze into the Tube carriage as the doors were closing. You are in the prime position to access everything you need to know about travelling on the Tube. And you will quickly learn never to jump hastily onto a train again. Please pay attention to the following scenario, with careful reference to the above photo.
It is possible that your spontaneous and successful dive onto an overcrowded train triggered a dangerous passenger emergency during the brief instance of which, you most certainly should not be found smoking. The likelihood is that you trapped your rucksack in the doorway thereby causing the train driver to reopen the doors and make an announcement to all passengers, warning them against doing what you just did. This inevitably results in a delay, thus unleashing the combined fury of the native London commuter monster onto yourself. But fear not.
The emergency alarm is right next to the door, just above the average eye level, in case you should miss it as you become mesmerised by the beautifully worded signs around it. If you are unlucky, you may look where I just advised you to look, and find a sign taunting you and telling you that the alarm is located next to the door opposite. You may look in vain, as it will possibly be obscured behind the head of an unfortunately tall and uncomfortably contorted fellow passenger. But shall we trouble ourselves unnecessarily? Best not. In such an unlikely situation, should you become overwhelmed and thus less able to stand, you would not be able to reach up to pull an alarm anyway and there are dedicated seats available for those who find themselves in such a condition.
Do bear in mind, not to settle too comfortably in your seat however. Should it transpire that another traveller was hapless enough as to have activated the emergency alarm, s/he may need your seat more than you. Regulate your breathing as the train driver announces that “the train is being held on the platform due to a passenger alarm being activated”. A silent Londoner does not indicate a happy Londoner. Prepare yourself to witness the glares, the rolling eyes, even an involuntary hiss or a fuming grunt.
Do your utmost to avoid causing a delay during the Olympics. The likelihood is, before you considered making your small contribution, the commuters around you were already running late due to signal failures, leaves on the track, adverse weather conditions or somebody deciding that strolling along the track instead of getting onto a train might be more likely to get them to work on time. That is before throwing into the mix, the extra zillion people expected to turn up for a few weeks to watch athletes competing for speed.
Remember, nobody actually hates you.
On a side note, using the emergency alarm as a support for standing upright invokes a penalty in much the same way as travelling without a valid ticket. It is polite to avoid committing both of these offences, even if you feel safely smothered under someone’s armpit.
Of course. Should you invoke a penalty fare, you may become once again overwhelmed, and need to lower a window for ventilation. Please however, be aware that this does not constitute an emergency of the kind that requires the opening of the door, ever.
I hope that this post will reassure you that London is an extremely safe and welcoming city. If in any doubt, remember the great British maxim:
Disclaimer: The above post is not to be taken in all seriousness. Please be advised that under no circumstances should you attempt to access the secret passageway to the Olympic Games.
In all earnestness, if you are indeed a visitor, please be as warmly welcomed in my city as on my blog. London is full of people from all over the world, and I suspect that is part of the reason why nothing runs immaculately. But then I wouldn’t change anything if it meant forfeiting the city’s mixing pot of ideas and dreams that is always brimming over… If you hear someone speaking a language other than English, they are just as likely to be a Londoner as they are to be a tourist. I love living in London, for all its foibles. And hey, we paid (and will be paying indefinitely) for the Olympics so we might as well try to enjoy them (I’m saying this ahead of the ranting I will no doubt be doing in a week or so). I’ll probably catch some of it on the telly if I don’t spend most of it trying to get to and from work.
Do you have any Olympic plans? Will you watch the opening ceremony? Will you be following any of the sports or rooting for any of the athletes?