Weird stuff happens all the time in London.

Pillow fights. Goat races. Nutters running 26.2 miles around the city.

You sort of get used to it.

A lot of the time you just don’t really take much notice – you might give it a second glance, make a mental note to tell your colleagues, draft a tweet.

But such is the volume of weird stuff that by the time you get into work or open up your Facebook or Twitter account to tell the world about the weird or annoying stuff you’ve seen, something else has come up, or a tube line has gone down, and the man with a box on his head just doesn’t seem that important any more.

But today, lots of Londoners saw a man being walked like a dog along the street. And collectively, everyone just went…

….eh?
dog man

On the grand London Weird Stuff scale of things, this was rating pretty high.

So much so that Journalists from all the big newspapers have been busily carrying out relentless investigations to find out who the man is, and why he’s being led around Farringdon on a lead.

dog man 2

At time of writing, no one knows the full PR / advertising agency or product launch story behind it. The city is temporarily baffled, stunned and confused by the man on a lead.

But one thing’s for sure – this is London, which means everyone who cares now will have forgotten about it by the time they get to the pub at 5pm.

And thank god for that.

Have a good one all, and good luck to everyone who will also be crawling to work on Monday after running the London marathon.

Update: The Dog Man of Farringdon Mystery has been solved.

Reaction: no one really cares. 

Want this sort of stuff by e-mail? Subscribe here.

This week’s Problem On The Internet is all about stranger shaming.

At the centre of the debate is a Facebook group where users can post photos of women eating on the tube. It invites comments from the 19,000+ members as long as they “do not swear, do not abuse, affront, aggrieve, bad-mouth, blaspheme, call names, curse, disgrace, dishonour, disrespect, insult, mock, molest, offend, outrage, quip, ridicule, smear, sneer, taunt or tease.”

Google it if you like. I’ll wait here.

Ok?

And we’re back in the room.

original women who eat

Now, it’s long been noted that Facebook user comments are second only to YouTube user comments in their propensity to make you want to bang your face repeatedly into the nearest wall.

Numerous studies have shown that if you give people a Facebook profile, a keyboard and space to comment, generally even the most intelligent person will lose their ability to capitalise words, use spacing, master punctuation, utilise common sense, or check grammar without offending at least three people and writing the word “lol” in the process.

Myself included.

That’s just how Facebook rolls.

So no matter the original intentions behind your collection of publicly, surreptitiously taken images of women eating food on the tube – whether it’s merely observational, genuine curiosity, an “art movement”, your friends’ pub conversation gone mainstream, or an exercise in misogynistic stranger shaming – if you’re inviting comments, and those words make a person feel cowed, bullied or uncomfortable, then clearly there’s a problem.

And that problem will probably end up being discussed and argued about by the media.

Eventually, your “art movement” will be labelled a “bizarre craze” and reported in papers around the world, as if taking photos of women eating on the tube is something that People Do in London, instead of being something that 19,000 People Do on Facebook.

annoying things

There are many blogs and feeds that document life on the tube without being creepy.

The brilliant People on the Tube, my long standing favourite Dogs on Trains, and of course Tube Crush to name but three.

And, yes this blog has, on occasion, featured people (but mostly dogs) that I’ve found amusing or interesting, even annoying on my commuting travels – the above image is taken from the She Loves London Facebook page – but usually without showing faces and only ever to demonstrate a wider point which, I hope, hasn’t to date offended, identified or pinpointed one individual person.

(That said, it’s something I’ll be even more conscious of in the future.)

But WWEOTT mainly makes me and a lot of other people uncomfortable for the same reason a female version of Tube Crush would – because reactions to photographs of women on the internet are generally laden with more sinister undertones than that of men.

Just ask the Mail Online.

That said…

…let’s also consider that just over the road in Tumblr-land there’s a blog entitled “Men Taking Up Too Much Room on the Train”, where, more often than not, the focus of the photo is a bloke’s crotch (yup, see above) – which, arguably, is just as weird as showing women’s faces, and often shows the mens’ faces too.

Anyway. Wherever you stand on the issue, next week two rebel Facebook groups (including the bluntly named, “Women who eat wherever the f*ck they want”) are hosting a lunch party on the Circle line to, err, encourage women to eat on the tube.

Untitled2

Or, if like me you just think that anyone eating on the tube – male or female – should be banished to the fiery pits of the Northern Line, then you might want to opt for the more gender neutral approach:

men women

Either way, I think the last words on the subject should be given to this article on the Londonist – as I can think of no better way to say it, and I agree wholeheartedly with the final sentiment:

don't be a dick

Amen. But photos of dogs. That’s ok, right?

As much as we all love this city, I don’t know one Londoner who doesn’t also love leaving it.

Temporarily, of course.

No one’s saying you’ve got to pack your bags and actually go and live in Singapore or Switzerland or Boston or whatever (don’t be mental), but because living in London is like being in a bubble – a really expensive bubble where no one can afford houses and cocktails are £8.50 – every so often it pays to get out of the city and see what the rest of the world has to say about life.

And usually, it’s “£8.50? Sod that”.

suitcase tube

While some people might choose to escape London for the English countryside – Epping Forest or Kew Gardens or something –  I decided that a week in the French Alps, followed by ten days on a beautiful island in the Philippines would be a much better idea.

And you know what? It took upwards of 20 hours by plane, perilous road and boat to get there, but in the grand scheme of good ideas, this was probably the best one I’ve had in ages.

beach

During this time of relaxation, reflection and slathering on Factor 30, I had plenty of time to ponder all the ridiculous reasons we have for living in a drizzly, expensive city like London when there’s a viable sunny alternative a mere 20 hours across the world – see above – where cocktails are 60p and the sea water makes London Fields Lido look like a muddy puddle.

I did also consider the practicalities of changing my blog URL and title to “She Loves London But If She Could Swap It For This Beach Then She Probably Would” dot com, but concluded, over a mango Mojito and a plate of fresh tuna, that it just didn’t have the same ring to it.

And so reluctantly, after ten days in paradise, I came back.

flying into heathrow

The niggling question of “why do I live here? Why do I write this blog about loving London when I could be writing one about how much I love a beach? WHY? WHY?” followed me all the way to Heathrow, through the pit of despair that is baggage reclaim, and lasted right up until I walked into arrivals and threw my suitcase into the capable arms of Mohammed.

And trust me, if there’s one person you want to see after a 13 hour flight, it’s Mohammed.

Without him, I’d still be in Heathrow, hammering on the doors of a grounded Singapore Air A380 wailing “take me back, please, I’ll do anything, just take me back”.

For Mohammed was a chauffeur, and chauffeurs hold signs with your name on and make everything better.

They also help you remember why you live in London and write about it, because when you do, you get limousine companies like Blacklane asking if you’d like a free ride sometime and kids, in my moment of need, that time was now and that chauffeur was Mohammed.

And he had water bottles in the armrest and everything.

limo from airportWe drove through London at 7am, zooming through Hyde Park, Kensington and Knightsbridge, past Kings Cross and over to Dalston, and in between putting the world to rights I wondered how many blog posts I’d have to write, or which member of Made in Chelsea I’d have to kiss, in order to get driven everywhere, forever more.

Then I was home, and Mohammed was gone, and the post holiday despair returned.

But it didn’t last long.

Because there are many lovely beaches in the world, but where can you walk down a busy street and see a man casually walking his ferret along the pavement on your lunchbreak?

ferret on strand

London, that’s where.

So with all that beaching and holidaying out of my system, normal London service will now resume.

The blog is also now on Instagram, where you can see ferrets, dogs, disappearing buildings and dubious tinned meat from Dalston’s Turkish shops on a daily basis. Follow: @SheLovesLondonBlog

Instagram

When you work in the same place for a while, “regulars” crop up along your commute.

They’re in the same place, at the same time every working day, and if a week or so passes and they’re not there, you start to wonder where they’ve gone.

On my walk along the Strand every morning and evening, I’ll often recognise the people going in the opposite direction.

And every area of London has its characters – those who are a little bit odd, or eccentric – who everyone seems to know.

Not to speak to or say hello, or even acknowledge the fact that you pass each other every single morning without fail, but more as an internal nod, “oh, YOU again.”

There’s one old man who always seems to be around on the Strand.

You might recognise him by his huge beard and hat, but mostly you’d know him because he’s usually pushing this along the pavement:

bike front

If you look really really carefully underneath all the mountains of bags, you’ll see it’s not a pile of rubbish that someone has inconveniently strewn across the pavement on Adam Street at all.

It’s actually a bike.

overloaded bike

The Bag Bike has been a resident on Adam Street – without its owner – for about two weeks now.

No one knew where the Bag Bike’s Owner had gone, just that he’d left his Bag Bike behind and it was blocking the pavement.

Despite this, no one dared get rid of it.

No one tried to nick it (pro tip right there, London cyclists).

No one tried to dismantle the bags.

First it was parked up at the top of the road, and then someone moved it down to just outside our office, where people wandered by and marvelled at it, and took pictures (mostly me).

Until eventually and inevitably, someone took strong, affirmative action against the offending article.

By, err, writing a note. And leaving it there.

notice for bike

You might think this an ineffective use of time, but it’s a well known fact that underlining words and using CAPITAL LETTERS makes whatever you’re asking for happen more quickly.

And like magic this morning, three days after the note was put up, the bike was gone.

The Bag Bike Man had returned!

bag bike leaving

Photo diligently snapped and e-mailed round the office by my esteemed colleague Jenny

 

This sighting and movement has prompted questions in the office such as:

1) Where has Bag Bike Man been for the last two weeks?

2) Is the Bag Bike Stick of Wood a new, permanent addition?

3) Did word get to him that his bike was under threat?

Either way, it’s good to have you back, Bag Bike Man.

And on behalf of the commuters on the Strand – we’ll see you around.

Ps. SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG

It was worth a try.

There are several ways you can tell that an area has reached Peak Gentrification.

Aside from the crazy increase in house prices, there’ll be new artisan coffee shops, delis, baskets of brioche bread, sour dough sarnies lying about the place and liberal usage of the word “organic”. 

TimeOut will write that the trendy moustache and beard wearing hipsters absolutely adore shopping for vintage finds in the area’s pop-up ramshackle car boot sale, and the streets will be full of young, affluent people who, between sobs, will tell you they’ve just paid £600,000 for a 1 bed flat above a kebab shop after getting caught in a sealed bid.

But for me, the surest sign that an area has achieved peak well-heeled status is when people start to form an orderly queue at the bus stop.

I mean, look at this.

Just look at it.

polite queuing for bus

This is the scene every morning at a bus stop on Southgate Road in N1. Here, the commuters queue for their bus; come rain, hail, storm, or tube strike.

At the bus stops before and after – Stamford Hill, Dalston to Old Street – there are no queues. But here in DeBeauvoir the bus shelters are empty, and there is a clear ‘get to the back of the line‘ policy happening.

The only other place this seems to happen is in Canary Wharf, where everyone pretends they are still in a bank even after they leave work.

Canary_Wharf_tube_station_queue

I suspect this Southgate Road queue business is probably something to do with the fact that the bus is always too full to let people on once it gets here, hence the need for the “I was here first, I deserve the bus more” thing.

It’s all very British.

Personally, I prefer the rules further up the road in Dalston, where commuters advocate a much more effective “My elbows are sharper than yours, and I’ve got a bus arrival app so technically I saw it coming first, and god damn it get out of my way, this one’s mine, bitches” approach to boarding a bus.

bundle bus dalston

What can I say? It’s not pretty, but it works for us.

So, is this the most civilised bus stop in London? Or have Posh Bus Queues become a thing near you too?

From this summer, you won’t be able to pay cash fares on buses any more.

The reasoning behind this can basically be summarised as:

“well chaps, we’ve held a consultation and two-thirds of 37,000 survey respondents have said they still want cash fares on buses, but we’re going to ignore those people and scrap them anyway because when you think about it – oh, you know what, it’s late and I can’t remember my point. Jagerbomb?”

Now, I am one of those 37,000 people who said “actually, I rather would like the choice to pay cash”, which means TFL is ignoring me, and that makes me a little bit annoyed.

This is why.

Number one: no Londoner with a brain willingly pays cash over Oyster. We know it’s more expensive, therefore 1% of people are using cash out of necessity.

Number two: sure – they’re introducing a “one more journey” feature, which means you can get the bus even when you don’t have enough money on your Oyster card.

But what if you don’t have an Oyster card, and there isn’t anywhere open selling them?

Oyster card and holder

Let’s imagine an entirely hypothetical situation.

Say there’s this one girl – let’s call her Jo for arguments sake – and she lost her Oyster card 8 times in one year, and now once again she finds herself at 2am on Waterloo Bridge, scrabbling around in her bag, patting her pockets and realising oh, bugger, it’s gone again.

Then the bus comes and instead of just being able to pay her way home in cash, she’s a bit stuck because that’s not an option.

(I know, who loses their Oyster card that many times? That would never happen. What an idiot.)

on the bus

TFL think they’ve solved this by training drivers to be more lenient towards “vunerable” passengers at night.

By “vunerable”, I am asumming they mean “pissed, Oyster-less females”, but even so, this doesn’t really fill me with confidence.

Because as anyone who has taken the bus regularly in London will tell you (and I’m not sure whether TFL’s policy makers are included in this, I’m guessing not) – bus drivers are humans.

Humans tend to get a bit cynical and ratty at the best of times, let alone when its 2am and they’re trying to transport 200 drunk people from Waterloo to Dalston while they’re all singing a rude version of “Kumbaya”. 

I mean blummin’ hell, I got an earful from a driver for wanting to get off at the front of the bus once because it was too packed to get through to the back doors. Know what I mean?

So basically, I’m not convinced that training will prevent the bus driver from not feeling all that charitable towards the girl who has “lost” her Oyster card, if he’s just had an earful at the stop before.

Simply put: how will they be able to tell the bluffers from the genuine idiots who lost their Oysters and just want to get home?

Londoners, it looks like we’re going to have to work on our “vunerable” looks. Either that, or just stop losing our Oyster cards. What do you reckon?

Last month, while in between flat shares, I moved back to my parents’ house in Pinner. 

No one usually knows where that is, so for the initiated, Pinner is basically a small village in Zone 5 on the Metropolitan line, marked below for ease of reference with a large black arrow.

This is where Pinner is on the tube map.

Yes, that’s right, London has a Zone 5. 

It also has Zones 6, 7, 8 and 9, although there’s no evidence that these actually exist in real life.

In fact, these Zones may as well just be part of a forgotten realm on the Crystal Maze circa 1994 for all the rest of London knows about them.

Proof that Zones 6,7,8,9 don't exist.A journey into central London from Pinner usually takes about 5,387,234,632 hours to complete.

At one end, you’ve got Aldgate in the City of London and at the other, whimsical, Never Never Land-sounding places like “Chesham”, “Amersham” and “Chorleywood” in and around Zones 7, 8, and 9.

So, just to reiterate:

Someone on Twitter says: "The metropolitan line is a myth, just so so long"

Most people who live in Pinner commute into central London for work.

This was what I did back in 2002 BT (Before Twitter), when my work mostly consisted of temporary secretarial jobs.

In these roles, my main function was to provide administrative support including, but not limited to:

  • replacing the fax paper
  • sending out company wide e-mails with the subject line WHO HAS MY HOLEPUNCH?
  • sending follow up e-mails 5 minutes later that read DONT WORRY FOUND IT.

As a result, commuting was often the most interesting part of my day.

And over time, going back and forth between Pinner and Baker Street, I learnt that the Metropolitan line is different from most other routes into London, with its own quirks, rules and idiosyncrasies.

The hill running up to Pinner Station

For example, Pinner Station is at the top of a steep incline.

As a result, most commuters begin their day with an up-hill sprint, which starts when they see their train coming over the bridge and ends in frustration as they get to the barriers only to realise, breathless and sweating, that they’ve got no money on their Oyster card.

Repeated slaps of plastic against reader are often followed by cries of “No! Wait! No! No, oh, bugger” as the train slowly departs in front of their very eyes.

They have every reason to be upset, because this is Zone 5. The next train won’t be along for…oh, who knows?

No one.

No one knows. 

Birds fly overhead. Fog envelopes the track. There are no trains.

Have you seen the Samuel Beckett play called Waiting for Godot?

It’s about these two blokes who just sit and chat while they wait for someone called Godot, but it’s pointless because they don’t know when he’ll arrive.

Waiting for the Metropolitan train at this end of the line is a bit like that, except without the talking.

People just stand in the same place every day (the exact spot where the doors will open, because this is the stuff commuters know) staring up the tracks, waiting for two lights to appear around the corner.

Several Northbound trains come and go.

Birds fly overhead.

An empty crisp packet rolls across the rails.

Nothing happens.

From this, we can safely conclude that Samuel Beckett’s famous play was probably based on his experiences of waiting for a Metropolitan line train.

when will the train be no one knows

Also, the digital countdowns don’t work at Pinner station.

So rather than being told when the train is going to arrive, you are instead provided with ways to pass this unknown quantity of time instead, such as solving as the impossible maze puzzle which just appeared on the wall one day (below, left), which is either:

a) a work of art

b) just for fun!

or

c) a cruel metaphor for the journey you are about to begin.

Again, no one really knows.

It’s just there.

A maze puzzle on the wall next to the tube map

When the train finally does pull into the station, there’s always a race for a seat.

You might think that suburban life allows for a more relaxed “no, after you” approach to getting on a train, but then you’d be very, very wrong.

On the Metropolitan Line before 8:30am, where not bagging a seat means standing for a whole 5,387,234,632 hours and not getting on at all means waiting until Godot knows when on a freezing cold platform with only maze puzzles for company, things can get prett-ty fighty on the Semi Fast to Aldgate.

Twitter: "Crowded on metropolitan line after delays. Man just headbutted woman to get on. Thrown off by other passengers. Unpleasant."

But here’s some advice.

If you don’t get a seat – and you won’t because Metropolitan line commuters are like Robocop in their determination to GET THE SEAT, MUST GET THE SEAT, STARE STRAIGHT AHEAD, DON’T CARE IF YOU’VE GOT CRUTCHES, SEAT IS MINE, SEAT ACQUIRED, POWER DOWN – you’ll have to make do with other options.

So, those in-the-know tend to aim for the bit between the seats.

Arrows pointing to the space between the seats. Bum goes here.Or, they go for the wobbly bit between carriages.

Not only is this bit fairly comfortable as a resting post, but – and this one’s for you, Pilates fans – it’s also quite a good way to maintain core strength.

#balanceball

Man resting against the side of the train

After a day at work, there’s more fun to be had on the way home.

Because for some reason on the Metropolitan line in the evening, everyone has this strange compulsion to stand up prematurely when leaving the train, like “Ooh, I’m getting off at Pinner in 3 minutes. Better get into position.”

So instead of remaining seated until, you know, they can actually get off, commuters instead start queuing up from the second the train leaves North Harrow, taking their position by the doors.

First one person makes the move. Then a sort of competitive edge takes over the entire carriage and before you know it, five, six, eight, ten people are waiting in front of this prime disembarking spot, despite having a good long while until the doors actually open.

But that’s not all.

The race to get off the train first begins.

These keen beans then launch themselves out the second the doors open and proceed to sprint.

Off they go up the stairs like suited greyhounds, over the tracks to the ticket barriers, cheered on by a loud, involuntary cry of “RUN, FOREST, RUN” (ok, this only happened once).

You could argue they’re running to “beat the queue at the barriers” or “get to the car park pay machine first” but then there’s never really a queue for the exit barriers at Pinner, and does any of this exertion actually save you more than about 30 seconds of time if you then have to stop and fumble for your Oyster card anyway?

Nobody knows.

But I do know that after a while of wondering what the hell, why is everyone getting up so soon and what’s with all the running, you too will be overtaken by this compulsion to get up and race off the train, without every really understanding why.

Rushing up the stairs at Pinner station

Hopefully this answers a few questions that will inevitably pop up next time you’re commuting on the Metropolitan line from Pinner, and you’ll be able to sit back, relax and enjoy your journey safe in the knowledge that this is just how Zone 5 rolls.

At least until you hear those golden words “This train will be terminating at Harrow-on-the-Hill” anyway – but that’s another story.

Use the Met line? Commute on it? Do you race off the train every day?

Er, Why?

Subscribe to more nonsense by e-mail | Share the love on Facebook

Remember that amazing colour video I posted last year of London in 1927?

Course you do. You hang on this blog’s every word, and don’t try and say you don’t.

Anyway, point is that some clever monkey called Simon Smith has done a split screen of that video with footage he took last year, so you can compare what London was like then and now.

In his own words:

During the 1920s, cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene travelled across the UK with his new colour film camera. His trip ended in London, with some of his most stunning images, and these were recently revived and restored by the BFI, and shared across social media and video websites.

Since February I have attempted to capture every one of his shots, standing in his footsteps, and using modern equivalents of his camera and lenses. This has been a personal study, that has revealed how little London has changed.

Thoughts: bet police officers are quite pleased they don’t have to stand in the road waving their arms about any more.

That looked like a rubbish job.

Seen something cool in London? Shout at me on Twitter

Credit: London in 1927 & 2013 from Simon Smith on Vimeo.

They brought London’s homes and offices festive cheer and a pine fresh scent over Christmas.

But then, come the 8th January, this happens.

abandoned christmas tree in Farringdon

Poor unwanted trees littering the city streets.

There must be a better future for these trees.

There must be more to their life than lying alongside an empty shopping trolley on the pavement in Farringdon.

There must be a way to get these trees off the streets.

Or at the very least, there must be a poster campaign opportunity with accompanying hashtag.

#SaveTheTrees

christmas tree abandoned in Farringdon

 

Contact your nearest Norway Spruce Rehoming Centre for details on how you can make a difference.

Centre piece for your kitchen table? Cat scratching post? Leave your suggestions below for how we can #SaveTheTrees.

 

Have you liked She Loves London on Facebook? I post about useless stupid London stuff like this on there too.

This morning the entire mass of everyone ever in the world descended on the London transport system for the Annual Back to Work After Christmas and the New Year Day 2014.

Apparently around the UK, this day is also known as “Blue Monday”.

But if you live in London you’ll be familiar with it as “the day everything always breaks all at once.”

For those heading towards the tube, the morning looked a bit like this:

on the tube

And for those on the buses, well – our morning looked more like this:

on the bus

And thus the New Year properly began, and it was back to business as usual in London.

However, ALL IS NOT LOST.

You don’t have to let Blue Monday win. We could all follow the example of this man, who was spotted capitalising on the unusually high amount of commuters on the streets by holding a placard with his requirements on it, and attempting to find a girlfriend.

Bravo that man.

So if you know a brunette who fits the bill, be sure to put her in touch with Gerald. Spread a little cheer.

Welcome back to work, everyone. See you in the gym tonight?