Could it be true that, wherever you are in London, you're never more than six feet away from an American tourist? On certain days, usually a sunny Saturday, and particularly if I go to one of the parks, I'd believe that. Boris Johnson doesn't. He's just allocated £75,000 for a brand new USA Day in the capital – while also cutting back on funding for Black History Month, Africa Day and other Jewish events.
The Mayor has defended the decision as part of a drive to bring more US tourists to swell the queues of Madame Tussauds and the Fifth Floor café at Harvey Nichols and Lei-cester-shire Square. I could have sworn that Chuck and Marlene and their giant children are already happily holidaying here in their droves, standing on the left side of the Tube escalators just for kicks, and needed no further enticement. I also had the strong impression that they came to London to see British things – the more Union-Jack draped, by-royal-appointmented and authentically-historical, the better.
Johnson has been criticised for sacrificing events which celebrate the cultures of sizeable communities who actually live in London in favour of the American bonanza. Actually, if I were mayor, I'd scrap all those mass-attendance celebration days, simply because I'm staunchly against anything that disrupts the transport system. (How about No Tube Delays Day? Or Cleaner Buses Day?)
But Boris's USA Day is a particularly pointless event. Do tourists really want to jet into town for a long weekend, only to find that their own culture tricked out into an all-singing street parade? We all know how fond Americans are of their own country, but I suspect even they would rather be left alone to contemplate the waxen Royals in Madame Tussauds.
Ordeal by parking ticket
There it was, flapping in the breeze behind the windscreen wiper, nestled in a plastic bag, a rite of passage. My first parking ticket. It's barely six months since I passed my test; two months since I acquired a (shared) car and a resident's parking permit. So, I'm green. I'm not fully aware of the risks, of the ways in which owning a car in this town can turn around and bite you in the back pocket. And now I am also £60 worse off.
I never really had a chance: the sign warning that a parking bay would be suspended for one day was little larger than a pack of cards, and affixed about eight feet up a lamp post. I only found it after looking at the small print on the parking ticket, which announced I'd been fined £120, or half if I paid within two weeks.
I've learned now that a car parked in London is nothing that you can take for granted. Like a vulnerable pet, it must be checked on, pampered and protected, even when it's not going anywhere.