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

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

Share
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.

k.guest@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project