Katy Guest: It's the tourists I feel sorry for

A day later and Michelle Obama would have seen London at its worst

Related Topics

The current London tube strike, expertly scripted as if it is another episode in the hilarious sitcom starring Boris Johnson as the joke Mayor of London, and still rumbling on as we go to press, has brought out the best and the worst in Londoners.

Tales of stoicism and determination were still being recounted as latecomers struggled in to work at 4pm yesterday. One colleague took three hours and 20 minutes to get to the office, carrying an overnight bag and a three-foot fish kettle. Another walked the entire length of the Central Line. Somebody's husband, a builder, was last seen carrying a fireplace from Soho to Islington over his shoulder.

Most people bore a sense that they had beaten the system by managing to come to work at all. People who regularly use overground trains reacted much as Ray Mears would do after the apocalypse.

Transport for London helped out desperate commuters by laying on a handy website about alternative transport around the capital. It comprised a map of London with all the underground routes erased and dozens of helpful icons scattered all over it which could be roughly translated as: "Walk or get a cab". Alternative transport? Alternatives to transport, more like.

The people I felt most sorry for were the tourists. But I always feel sorry for tourists in London. Imagine arriving on your holiday to find it filthy and raining with no instructions in your language at transport hubs and a population that entirely resents you for being there. Then add public transport and the fact that a pint of lager costs as much as your national debt.

The rail replacement bus that I took from Victoria to Kensington was packed to the gunwales: half with folk who were heading for the shops of Belgravia and had never taken a bus before in their lives (who takes a bus to Chanel, for heaven's sake, and please can they not do it again?); half with bemused Japanese visitors who could not understand how to work the ticket machines, or why they were standing among a mob of gnashing people being shouted at in the drizzle.

We loved the old gent who directed the Colombian couple to Harrods. We hated the sharp-elbowed posh ladies who grappled their way on to the bus before complaining that they were jolly upset and that all of this commuting had quite spoiled their morning browse around the V&A. Try having a job. Most embarrassingly, Michelle Obama was in London this week with her children, which has been a little like having a favourite relative to stay in the middle of a petty but vocal family row. A day later and she would have seen this country at its absolute worst, and been lucky to get anywhere near Westminster Abbey without somebody poking her in the eye with a wet umbrella.

Yesterday's papers reported that Indian rickshaw drivers are to be given lessons in being polite and not ripping off tourists in time for next year's Commonwealth Games. Somebody had better start now if we want to teach Londoners' decency before the 2012 Olympics. In the meantime, I salute my friend who stayed home for a sneaky lie-in before hiking into work with his tube strike excuse, only to find that the Northern Line was working all along. Busted – but still in one piece. That's the true London spirit.


React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific