Some guidelines for all those rural visitors to London

Nothing will please Londoners more than 300,000 people in Barbours marching through their streets
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The Independent Online

Out here in the country, people are great believers in the concept of multi-tasking. They clear the autumn timber and make a marvellous village bonfire for Guy Fawkes night. They exercise the dogs and keep the rabbit population down. It is a question of combining the business of stewardship, of which we hear so much these days, with some good, honest, old-fashioned fun.

Out here in the country, people are great believers in the concept of multi-tasking. They clear the autumn timber and make a marvellous village bonfire for Guy Fawkes night. They exercise the dogs and keep the rabbit population down. It is a question of combining the business of stewardship, of which we hear so much these days, with some good, honest, old-fashioned fun.

So when they march, they party too. The last great demonstration in London is now generally regarded as not only a useful political statement but also an outstanding social occasion. Old friends met for the first time in years. Impromptu dances – the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow and the like – broke out in Trafalgar Square. New relationships were formed in bars, hotels and under the rhododendrons in Hyde Park. It was all the greatest possible fun.

But, of course, there is a serious side to all this activity. Many people from the country had never visited London before and found themselves caught up in various misunderstanding with the locals, having failed to grasp that people behave differently in great cities to they way they might back in the village.

So, before this weekend's great Party for Liberty and Livelihood, it may be worth putting down a few simple guidelines to city life for the more unworldly visitor.

It should be remembered, first of all, that Londoners are essentially warm-hearted people although, being rather shy, they may not like to show it.

Nothing will please Londoners more than the idea of 300,000 people in Barbours and gumboots marching through their streets, blowing hunting horns but they will expect you, the visitor, to greet them rather than the other way round. Avoid the crisp "Morning" or "Not so bad today, is it?" that might work in the country in favour of a cheery "Yo!", a high-five slap of the palm, followed perhaps by a jovial bear-hug. They will immediately respond to this show of good spirits.

Londoners are surprisingly enthusiastic about traditional sports but many of them choose not to hunt foxes, whom they invite into their kitchen and feed steak, preferring spontaneous tally-ho situations with cats. If you are bringing your dogs – and, let's face it, they deserve a party, too – make sure to put up a few cats in back gardens to provide some sport for the locals.

While in central London, you may come across fellow dog-lovers squatting in the pavement or in pedestrian walkways in the underground, their dogs curled up at their feet. If they hold out their hand to you, give them a dog biscuit – always a more popular gift than money which can cause embarrassment.

Talking of which, one of the most insulting things you can do in London is to attempt to tip a taxi driver. Cockneys are famously proud about not receiving charity but, having a marvellous sense of humour, they like to make a joke of this by saying at the end of a journey "What about the bloody tip, then?". An easy quip like "A tip? They say Queen's Rhapsody's a good thing in the 2.30 at Haydock" always goes down well.

Equestrian visitors will be delighted to learn that there will be plenty of chances to meet London horse-lovers on Sunday. Whenever they have a big audience, policemen love to show off their riding skills by appearing on horseback. Quite often, their horses need a bit of warming up to show their best turn of speed, so a loud noise behind them, or a slap on the hind-quarters, will be much appreciated.

Those gathering in Hyde Park will notice that games of Sunday football are taking place. When you see a group of young men kicking a ball about, bear in mind that football is a social rather than a spectator sport. Nothing will please the footballers more than if you decide to join in, kicking their ball away as hard as possible and perhaps sending one of the dogs off to retrieve it.

Nearby, at Hyde Park Corner, stand-up comics gather on Sunday afternoons to hone their skills, standing on soap boxes and practising their latest routines. Frankly, some of them are not that funny but, if you are passing, it is regarded as good manners to linger for a minute or two and hoot with laughter at anything they say.

For those staying late, London clubland offers all kinds of enjoyable diversions. A form of late-night fox-hunting, for example, is often organised by the more enterprising young men who are to be found hanging around these venues, looking for sport. Here, as in the country, the fox is colloquially known as "Charlie", so all you need to do is approach a partygoer, or perhaps the jolly giant standing at the door of the club, say "I'm looking for some Charlie", and leave the rest to him.

If someone should mutter something to you about having a toot, just pull out your hunting horn and give him a blast of "Gone to ground", full in the face. He'll love it!

terblacker@aol.com

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