Last week I went up to the top of the Shard for the first time.

Three years it took me.

Three years to get round to seeing the view from Europe’s highest building, which is two years and 363 days longer than it took everyone in London to turn “getting taken up the Shard” into a phrase you can no longer say out loud without someone finishing the sentence with “WHEYYYYY”.

But last Thursday night, I made it. I went. I took myself.

Right.

To.

The.

Top.

(Well, almost.)

shard-view-top

JO, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?

Part of me reckoned that if I hung on long enough, eventually I’d work for the sort of company that would whisk me up there for a Christmassy treat and give me Champagne for free.

Also proximity to all them bloody tourists stopped me, to be honest, and the assumption that on a nice clear, sunny, perfect up the Shard-y day it’d be too busy, and I’d have to queue. And on a rainy day, there would be no queue, but also… no view.

And aside from birthdays – which, despite my many attempts to stretch them out for as long as humanly possible, still only come around once a year – and romantic occasions, of which I have none, ever – there wasn’t ever really an occasion or willingness to pay £25 to go.

Until everything changed.

Until they made it silly not to.

Until they made it pretty much free.

love-london-card-2016

Maybe someone looked around and realised this London attraction was lacking in…Londoners.

Whatever the reason, this year View from the Shard sold 2,016 annual “Love London” passes for £20.16 (yep, you’ve got it, you’re seeing the theme).

So for less money than it costs to go up there once, you can go up there whenever you like, as many times as you like – as long as you live in London.

The only downside is you can’t book, but because booking anything too far in advance makes me extremely nervous, the idea of turning up unannounced – no occasion, no expectation, no planning ahead – appealed quite nicely.

So a couple of weeks ago, I joined the queue just in time and bought a card.

Then last Thursday night after work, I used it.

And entirely unexpectedly…

….that view ended up being really, really good.

view-from-the-shard-looking-east

It’s like when a plane does that really good descent over London on your way back from holiday, but with bigger windows.

The very top floor is open air, and it’s also where you get the best photos.

But after a while I couldn’t feel my fingers so I went back down to the warmer level below, found a seat by the window, and looked out over the city for a bit.

shard-looking-west-at-night

Thing is, although lots of people have shown me pictures of the Shard, and I’ve read blogs about it, and I knew it was there – no one had really mentioned how nice and calming it is being so high up with everything so tiny below you.

So even though your immediate reaction is to take a load of photos the whole time, I thoroughly recommend putting the camera down for a bit, putting some music in your ears, and just watching the city do its thing.

shard-west-at-night

So I think I’m just going to see how many times I can photograph that view over the course of the year. That means beautiful aerial views of London are going to get pret-ty commonplace around here over the next 12 months.

But the best thing is: the next time I go up the Shard (wheyyy) and look down on this expensive silly but brilliant city, it’ll be free.

Last week I went to see Daughter at the Kentish Town Forum.

They’re a band fronted by Elena Tonra, whose voice is the aural equivalent of securing a free seat on the tube during rush hour when you’re a bit hungover.

Yep: she’s that good.

I did my usual thing of buying two tickets without checking if anyone wanted to come first, because successfully getting tickets for gigs in London is stressful enough without the added suspense of waiting for a double blue tick to decide your fateand because someone is bound to want to go and see some live music if you tell them it’s free, even if It’s Not Really Their Cup of Tea Or They Think They Might Have Something On That Night Not Sure Can I Let You Know.

And that person is usually Harriet.

me-and-harriet-aged-80

Me and Harriet 40 years from now

Harriet and I have been gifting each other gig tickets for about two years.

Not only is giving and accepting free tickets with other people a good way to see live music that you otherwise wouldn’t, but it also ensures that your friends consider you a valuable addition to their social circle, a bit like if you’ve got a mate who also happens to be a lawyer, or has a dog, or works in McDonalds, or can swipe you freebies from the make up counter at Selfridges*.

*if you would like to be this friend, pls let me know

The gig also coincided with Harriet’s 30th birthday, and I knew her ideal way to celebrate would be an evening of gloomy, slightly depressing yet relatable music, accompanied by several hundred pints of beer and an ill-advised G&T nightcap in the only pub still open at 12am in Kentish Town on a Thursday.

And to be fair, I wasn’t wrong.

daughter-at-kentish-town-forum

Once inside, we managed to find a spot 100% unhindered by tall people.

This area was also seemingly free of Annoying and / or Noisy Bastards, who often have a habit of positioning themselves near me at music events.

We also made friends with a girl who was either Finnish or Flemish, and was there on her own, and therefore had no choice but to listen to Harriet talk about her love of Copenhagen and save our space on trips to the loo.

And oh, the music was really good.

Daughter have that knack of making the entire audience do a collective happy sigh within the first few notes of each intro, and even though the new album is, well, new and unfamiliar – somehow it already seems like you know each song.

Plus, it’s always a good thing when everything performed live in front of you sounds exactly like it does when you listen to it in your room, in bed, gently weeping at the fragility and unfairness of life in between episodes of Making a Murderer.

There’s just something about her music that you can relate to.

It was later the next day on Wikipedia that I found out why.

The reason it all seems so real to me is that the lead singer Elena is from Northwood, which is just one tube stop from where I grew up in the suburbs of London.

So now I’m even more sure that when we eventually meet and become best mates, it won’t just be a shared passion for beautiful music that bond us, but also our painful experiences of a youth spent waiting unknown amounts of time on cold platforms for Metropolitan line trains in and around north west London.

met line

Just another normal day

 

Ah, that familiar zone 5 existential crisis. It all makes so much sense.

Does anyone actually enjoy their commute?

Obviously, no one enjoys getting up for work in the morning, no one enjoys being seated within close proximity to other humans at 8am (or any other hour of the day, come to that) and no one enjoys spending upwards of £80.90 per month on what is, essentially, a daily exercise in self restraint.

But after getting slight cabin fever over the Christmas break, I realised there can be a certain tiny little pleasure in the routine, the familiarity; in joining the collective mutter of discontent rippling through London twice each day.

And anyway, it’s not always that bad.

We’ve all felt a little bit superior when the doors of a packed train open just in front of us. We’ve all been the lone figure who splits off from the slow moving hoards, takes a shortcut, and arrives on the Central Line platform 5 seconds quicker than anyone else to the sound of rampant applause inside their head.

Then there’s the nice thing of having 40 minutes to listen or read or watch, uninterrupted. It was October 2014 when I started listening to Serial and realised I can easily ignore the people and chaos around me. Just plug in, look out of the window, and listen to some brilliant journalism, a mini documentary or some true stories on my way to work on a podcast.

I’ve subscribed to a lot since then, and unsubscribed from far more, but these are some podcast recommendations for your journey to work (and here’s how to listen).

The Moth Radio Hour

Length: 50-60 mins, (each story is around 13 minutes)

mothradiohr-webAfter reading the book The Moth: this is a true story, I started listening to this podcast, before seeing The Moth live at Union Chapel in Islington and having a brilliant evening. Basically, getting up in front of an audience and telling them an amazing true story in 13 minutes takes skill and guts, so that on its own has to be worth a listen. Especially good for short commutes, because you can listen to the stories in 10 minute bursts.

Listen here.

This American Life

Length: 1 hour

Probably the best and most well known podcast on the list, this is an hour long radio show hosted by Ira Glass. If you listen to Serial, and liked it, then hurrah! These are the women and men behind it. Each week there’s a few different real life stories based on a chosen theme. It’s really good.

This American Life

Originally aired 11.27.2015

573: Status Update

Most of the time, the updates we share about our lives are small and inconsequential. This week, status updates that interrupt daily life. We hear two friends talk about how one of them has become rich and famous. And an entire town gets a status update on itself.

Reply All

Length: 15 – 25 mins

This is “a show about the internet”. Each week, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman investigate something weird or a strange story from the online world we all increasingly live in. One of my favourite recent ones is Episode 44: Shine on You Crazy Goldman, where PJ finds a website for people who are too high on drugs, and tries out microdosing LSD. Not typical, but a nice intro if you haven’t listened before.

Death, Sex and Money

Length: 25 mins

This podcast focuses on honest discussions of things everyone thinks about at some point throughout the day: relationships, money, work, family issues, and features both celebrities and us normals. Usually pretty thought provoking, especially the series they did 10 years after Hurricane Katrina last summer, and this one on living alone.

Strangers

Length: 30 – 50 mins

A fairly new addition to the list, but I love listening to these stories about love and kindness which Lea Thau manages to present without the cringe factor that usually goes with that sort of thing. This is a good one called “Falling Slowly”.

Radiolab

Length: 1 hour

Another favourite: this one’s all about science and big ideas, but they explore it by hearing personal stories. They recently did an end of year wrap up of their most popular episodes, so start with that. Otherwise, it’s been going for years, so there’s a huge catalogue to listen to when you’re all up to date.

Snap Judgement

Length: 50 mins

It takes a little bit to get into, because the presenter usually does a bit of a story told to music at the beginning before they get into the actual thing. But even if you don’t listen to anything else, click on this episode about the bloke who found hip hop legend J Dilla’s “Lost Scrolls”. It’s amazing and if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye on the bus, you’re dead inside.

Criminal

Length: 20 mins

A good short one if you’re lucky enough to only spend 20 minutes getting to work. As the name suggests, each episode tells one story with a criminal theme. I liked this recent one about an officer and his new police dog. Obviously.

Serial

Length: 1 hour

I’d harbour a bet that even your most elderly relative probably knows about Serial by now. But if by some miracle you haven’t listened to the first series which investigated, week by week, the story of a teenager called Adnan who was in prison for murder (rightly or wrongly, the debate still rages), then start there. Otherwise, as you were: frantically refreshing every Thursday.

logo

Freakonomics Radio

Length: 1 hour

cover170x170

I dip in and out of this one, usually when I’ve exhausted all the others. I particularly liked their shows on education and the new one is on the gender pay gap though, and there’s a lot to choose from.

Archive here.

Invisibilia

Length: 1 hour

This one hasn’t released anything new for a while, but the first series is really worth listening to. It’s another one by the folk at This American Life and Radiolab, and is all about investigating our hidden (or invisible) emotions, our deepest darkest thoughts, all that good stuff. Start from the beginning, there’s about 10 episodes to catch up on.

Want more?

I also dip in and out of MISSING (20-25 mins), Love + Radio (54 mins), Longform (1 hour), Hidden Brain (20 mins) and TED Radio Hour (55 mins).

If you listen to podcasts on the way to work, tell me, educate me, let me know which ones.

That way, along with stories about our awful commutes, we’ll never run out of things to say at a party.

London’s been pretty good this year.

Put simply, 2015 was the year I decided to start making the most of London, beyond the pubs and hangovers (although there have been plenty of those, too. I’m not dead).

I started playing tennis on Saturdays. I did a bit more yoga during the week. And when I wasn’t lying on a mat, breathing, I went to lots of events and gigs. Not the huge stadium jobbies, but the little ones; or, at least, anywhere that doesn’t cost £50+ per ticket and sell binoculars at the bar.

Thing is, you usually remember a gig. You might remember it because it was very very good, or because it was bad, or because you were excited, or mildly disappointed, or because you’d had a crap day followed by three incredible hours in a magical, strobey, packed, loud, laser-filled room.

And if you’re 5ft 3, you will also remember, in exacting detail, the thread count of the t-shirt belonging to the very tall man who stood in front of you.

So, in order of gigs attended since January, here’s who I saw this year – and why it was good.

1. Ghostpoet at Chats Palace, Homerton (28th January 2015)

ghostpoet at chats palace
Ghostpoet did this show in a no-frills, library-turned-arts centre in the middle of Homerton. And you know, it’s these little venues – full of history, converted from something else, saved and staffed by the local community – that make seeing live music in London so bloody good. And Ghostpoet was excellent: he tested the new album on us, threw in some old favourites, and basically, all hail a venue that’s at capacity with 250 people in it. That’s 10000 less people to get in my way.

2. TOKiMONSTA at Oval Space, Hackney (12th February)tokimonsta oval space

Oval Space is another really cool venue next to the huge, imposing gasholders by the Regent’s Canal. We went to see LA DJ / producer TOKiMONSTA, and what I’m about to say isn’t a reflection on her, honestly, because it was really good. But it was one of those nights where you say, 9 months later, “Remember that Thursday when we went to Oval Space and got really pissed and danced loads? That was a really good night.” and sort of forget who you were dancing to. The photo is blurry, and rightly so. No time for photos when you’re dancing yourself better.

3. Jon Hopkins at Brixton Academy (24th April)jon hopkins brixton academy

This man. This man. Musician / producer behind what’s been the soundtrack to most of my waking activity since 2013, Immunity. Brixton Academy is also one of my favourite venues in London, so mix that with some mesmerising music, lasers and strobes, massive projections, and a slanted floor (seriously, the tall people, they find me every time) and you’ve got a pretty much perfect night. PS. Jon, call me. 

4. The Prodigy at Alexandra Palace (15th May)the prodigy alexandra palace

Is this how it ends? I wondered, between the hours of 12am and 2am, is this how I go? Crushed between a sweating mass of men raving to Smack My Bitch Up? Turns out, the average audience at a Prodigy gig is now either 32+ (Jilted Generation, your time) or under 20, and young enough to be most of the other half’s children. In fact, one woman in the loos had ticked both boxes and was there with her son. Either way, when this is the result, you can’t really complain. A+ show, Keith. Keep it up.

5. Kwabs at Somerset House (17th July)sunset at kwabs somerset house

I hadn’t listened to much of Kwabs’ music before, but then that’s the best thing about seeing anything and anyone at Somerset House. Whether it’s a film or a gig, or people falling on their arse ice skating – the setting is so beautiful, and atmospheric, and has a magical way of timing the good bits just for when the sun starts to set a lovely pink colour, that you’ll end up having a really good time anyway. And so I do not remember much of Kwabs, but I remember that is what we did.

6. Knife Party at Brixton Academy (Halloween / 31st October)knife party at brixton academy

Putting aside the potential pitfalls of marketing an event called Knife Party in Brixton, we should probably acknowledge the disconcerted feeling of walking out of the tube to find fake blood dripped on the pavement and what look like victims of a zombie apocalypse stumbling down the main road. I think we were the oldest at this gig by about five years, but that’s ok. We danced. We sweated a lot. It was fun. I got to wear my skeleton onesie again. Also, I have never seen so much traffic on the way home at 5.30am. Seriously, London. Take a break, you’ll wear yourself out.

7. Lapsley at The Dome, Tufnell Park (4th November)lapsley at the dome

Fun story: the last time I went to The Dome was a Saturday when I was about 16, for an indie / rock night, and my friend’s parents picked us up at 3am at the end. This time, it’s Wednesday, I’m 31, me and Harriet drink our weight in cider then go up the road for an ill advised night cap, then get an Uber home. Hangovers ensue. When will we learn? We will not learn. Conclusion: Lapsley is very talented. And me and Harriet have no regard for a school night.

8. Talib Kweli at the Jazz Cafe, Camden (19th November)
talib kweli at the jazz cafe

Where to start? This was the best gig of the year, maybe one of my favourites ever. Seeing a hip hop legend who’s worked with pretty much every producer and artist you love is one thing, but also seeing him on this tiny stage at the Jazz Cafe with only about 400 other people is another level entirely. After a few gigs this year where the crowd was… not unfriendly, but perhaps indifferent, this time it definitely felt like we were surrounded by like-minded, chatty, happy people who were all there for exactly the same reason: for good times and amazing music. Mr Kweli was on for about 2 hours, did a big encore, and we went home with Get By in our heads for the next week. I loved this night. I loved it very much.

9. Four Tet / Chvrches at Alexandra Palace (27th November)churches alexandra palace

Disclaimer: we missed Four Tet because I was eating a pie. In other news, Chvrches were good – I think we decided that Lauren Mayberry’s stage chat was endearing (some in our group said “annoying”) – but… ah, I don’t know. Despite it being a sold out show, and the tunes being good, and her voice being amazing, the atmosphere was a bit flat. Then again, the last time I’d been in Ally Pally I’d basically feared for my life, so maybe this was a safer alternative.

10. Elliot Moss at Moth Club, Hackney (4th December)

elliot moss at the moth

Getting into Moth Club involved walking through what is essentially the bar area at an old folks home, going through more doors, and then entering a sparkly glitter ceilinged alternative universe. If that sounds unlikely, welcome to Hackney. Anyway, after a week of binge-listening to Elliot Moss I now knew at least four songs, which enabled me to dance and even sing along with assured competence. My mate Yas was right. I did like his music. It was an excellent end to the year.

And so endeth 2015. Thank you to the friends who came with me to gigs, and the friends who made me their +1s too.

Here’s to 2016. Here’s to more music. Here’s to London.

Happy New Year.

If you like photos of London, you can also find me on Instagram, where there are barely any selfies of my face, which makes a nice change. And if you’ve got Spotify, the playlist for all these gigs is here.

My dad became a freeman of the city of London a few weeks ago.

Since this happened some people have asked me what it means. The short answer is “I’m not completely sure”, the long, vague answer is “he gets to go to dinners in really old halls and talk to other butchers” and the best answer is “don’t know but once a year he’s allowed to herd sheep across London Bridge”.

The latter is some sort of bonkers tradition that’s been going on for ages. As in, 13th century ages.

As far as I can tell, the main purpose of the sheep drive is to baffle tourists, give Barbara Windsor and the sheep a day out, and raise a fair whack of money for charity.

And this year I went along, because if your dad offers you the chance to herd sheep across London Bridge, the only possible answer is “yes, yes, of course, when?” – so that is what I did.

So because we’re now Certified Sheep Drivers, I see it as my duty to guide fellow Londoners through the process of herding sheep across London Bridge, should you ever need it yourself*.

(*Not a ridiculous idea. Stranger things have definitely happened.)

1. Befriend a Freeman of the City

Hang around at the Guildhall and collar a good one when they come out. They exist in three varieties: haired, non-haired, and hatted. Lady versions (not pictured) are also available.

pick a freeman

2. Note your arrival time instructions

Also make sure your own flock have enough food for the day before you go out, because they can’t come.

sheep drive instructions

3. Make your way to Famous London Bridge ™

tower bridge

4. (Um, the other famous London Bridge)

Look for pointy glass + sheep

london bridge with shard and sheep

5. Find whoever’s in charge around here

Captain dog of the sheep parade at your service, how may I help you

sheep_dogs

6. Stand near some important looking people 

If in doubt, look for the people wearing hats. Important people are always wearing hats. If the people wearing hats also have a sticker with the same number as yours on it, even better.

important people wearing hats

7. Follow important looking people across the bridge

There they go! Setting off into the unknown, embarking on their mission, their destiny! Follow them! To the sheep!

find your spirit animals

8. Locate your flock

You will know it’s them because it’ll look like someone’s put down a nice carpet.

sheep

9. Stride with purpose behind sheep

Remember to look menacing, occasionally shout “come by!”, and make sure the crafty one on the left doesn’t run off. Aaannd smile for the camera.

herd the sheep

10. Receive signed certification of your sheep driving abilities

Frame it, put it on your wall, then make a website and start charging for your niche new consultancy service.

certificate of sheep

11. Remember to thank the organisers.

They’re having a tough day.

the organisers

If you also want to find out more details not covered by this highly informative blog post, trot over to the Worshipful Company of Woolmen who know loads about this sort of thing.

Hope you find this guide to driving sheep across a bridge useful. If you know of any sheep in need of herding, let me know.

Space makes me feel a bit weird.

It’s not space’s fault, it can’t help being a vast expansive uncharted mass of darkness that makes everyone who looks at it and thinks too hard do a mind-shrivel into a never-ending hole of circular questioning and self-doubt, and it can’t help being an omni-present reminder of our relative insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe.

It’s not Kim Kardashian for gods sake, it didn’t ask for this level of introspection.

Give it a break, it’s just space.

"Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever"

Space so deep

Even so, I’ll even admit to getting a little bit nervous when the topic of space comes up.

Because it might start with an innocent observation about the angle of Orion’s Belt, but it never stops there, does it?

You point and say something like “oh look, is that the Plough? That one?” and gradually the conversation turns and then you’re feeling a pull, a weight, an irrevocable tug.

And that, my friend, is your mundane constellation sighting gently reminding you that it’s all so infinite and endless, and the stars you’re looking at don’t even exist any more and haven’t been around for ages because it’s many light years and much distance and so oh god, oh god, where are they then, where did they go, it’s all just so big.

Russian Lunar Lander in the Science Museum

Lunar lander: massive, like space


So I try not to think too much about stuff…out there.

Far better to put space into a neat pile along with electricity, and phones, and Skype and things that I know exist, understand in theory, and as An Adult I should have a rudimentary scientific understanding of, but I don’t really, because how is my voice getting from here through a bit of wires and plastic to France again?

How?

Actually don’t worry, let’s leave it, it doesn’t matter.

Tell me later. Or don’t.

Let’s just have a cup of tea and eat some cheese.

spacecapsule

This is where the first woman in space lived for like 3 days

And likewise, I know – in theory, and from pictures and news and astronauts on Twitter – that people go into space. 

That humans and dogs and monkeys have been fired into the vast expanse around us on rockets, and that people are currently in massive, dark, neverending space right now just living there, investigating planets and moons, watching hurricanes tear up the Earth from thousands of miles away and floating around in special trousers, because there’s no gravity.

No air. 

I’ll say that again: There’s NO. AIR.

So until you see space pods, and a cosmonaut’s kitchen table, and their trousers, and Russian lunar landers right there in front of you, it all seems a bit unreal.

A bit too much like it happened on TV or in Christopher Nolan’s shed, instead of actual real life in 1957 with a bloke called Yuri Gagarin and a spacecraft called, of all things, Sputnik.

Two Russian cosmonaut space suits at the Science Museum London
But now all those sorts of things are in the Science Museum. 

Before getting to London, these capsules and gadgets and things were only ever in two places: Russia, and space.

They got here by sea and road, and the really big items like the LK3 Lunar Lander had to be dismantled and put back together again inside, with the rest of the exhibit built around them.

And I felt pretty privileged to be in an empty Science Museum, sans all those people who sometimes make museums a bit of a faff, and able to see it.

The best sort of exhibition is one that tackles the things that make you intrigued and also a bit nervous about your place in the universe (see also: dinosaurs and dead people) and this is one of those.

Inside the empty Science Museum in London at night

Big old empty Science Museum

So if you’ve got even a passing interest in space travel, or the Russians, or mad decompression trousers and circular space pods, then Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age is a pretty good thing for you to see.

And if, like big massive infinite vast neverending god what is out there it can’t just be us can it not with all that space, you prefer your museum without many people in it, I noticed that the Science Museum is open late on Fridays until 8:45pm, so maybe give that a go.

Or don’t. But don’t blame me when the conversation about space comes up and you can’t contribute in a meaningful way.

Thank you to the Science Museum for inviting me to have a look around.  The exhibition is on now and runs until 13th March 2016.
Bonus fact because you got this far: A cosmonaut is what the Russians called astronauts, ‘cos they allllways got to be different. 

It’s one of those days where everyone remembers where they were.

Working from home in your baggiest t-shirt, making frequent trips to the fridge to slice off chunks of cheese; traversing three zones on blistered foot; queuing, more queuing, offering advice to passing strangers and queuing some more, then staring at the pavement from the top deck watching pedestrians walk faster than the bus you just waited 45 minutes to get on.

Last month, for one day only, London was turned inside out.

And even if you don’t know where you were, you know where you weren’t.

For it was a tube strike, so you absolutely, 100% definitely not on the tube.

And now, bloody hell, it’s happening again.

Angel station tube strike

Chances are you knew where everyone else was, too.

Especially if you happened to be sitting within firing range of That Person On The Phone, loudly doing a verbal status update to the entire top deck of the 38 and their mate from south London “oh, it’s just a nightmare, yeah, I’m on the bus, no, it’s crawling, I’m on Essex Road, it’s gridlocked, well, no, well, I told them I’m going to be late, it’s just an absolute nightmare, ridiculous”.

You knew where your workmates were too, because you walked into your office kitchen to find a smattering of brave colleagues gathered around a hastily assembled camp fire, making tea and warming their hands over the flames, sharing stories from the 8am queue situation on the Liverpool Street frontline.

waterloo bridge in a tube strike

And you know what you were also doing that day, don’t you?

If you weren’t queuing or faffing, you were probably taking full advantage of the situation.

The Unaffected Few were leaving work early to “get a head start on the madness”, rocking up late because there were “delays” without so much as an email, sent, naturally, from my iPhone.

And generally going about the chaos marvelling at the people – so many people! – all of them blinking like baffled moles forced above ground, and not entirely sure what to do with the streets and bus routes and signs in their way.

Central reservation warriors

So go forth into the tube strike, and be bold!

Realise that you could actually walk to work in the time it takes to get the bus each day, which you’d totally do if you weren’t working from home in your pajamas, eating cheese.

Casually rock up to a normally fully booked restaurant because it’s been besieged with cancellations

and

Brazenly stride down the central reservation on Waterloo Bridge like it’s a goddamn pavement because mate, it’s a tube strike, you can do this shit today and no one, but no one cares.

Enjoy your day above ground, London. For soon all this chaos and the excuses it gives you will all be gone. 

There are things you know when you’ve lived in London for a bit.

Not just the obvious stuff like standing on the right, walking as fast as humanly possible at all times, or forming orderly queues everywhere (unless you’re at a bus stop or waiting for the tube; in which case please form a restless, passive aggressive crowd instead).

What I’m talking about are the unspoken things that you just don’t do – not because there’s signs or announcements or years of etiquette telling you not to – but because as a Londoner, you simply know this city better than everyone else.

Put simply, you’re wise to it. They can’t fool you. Whatever it is, you already know it’s futile.

So get ready to look smug, shake your head despairingly and roll your eyes. Because never would you ever…

1. Change at Bank.

Oh, Bank Station. Where all that separates you from your next train are 50 spiral staircases and an estimated ten miles of mind boggling, vaguely signposted tunnels to oblivion and maybe, possibly, at the very end of your sanity, a Central line platform.
bank hungover

2. Call Holborn or Bloomsbury “Midtown”.

A while ago, they put up a load of orange flags, hired orange-clad power rangers and set about rebranding Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury into a fashionable, funky, rejuvenated orange coloured area called “Midtown.”

Four years later, I can officially report that as a direct result of all these marketing efforts, the areas once known as Holborn, St. Giles and Bloomsbury are now known as… Holborn, St. Giles and Bloomsbury.

Glad we’ve sorted that out then.

*slow clap*

Rangers in Midtown which is actually Holborn

3. Feed the pigeons (/ squirrels / tube mice).

I’m pretty sure London’s sizeable vermin wildlife population are doing ok without your discarded Pret-crumbs, and London’s human population can do without pigeons ambushing us in Soho Square on our lunchbreak. Thanks tho, save the whales ‘n’ that, peace. xx

don't feed the pigeons

4. Use the zebra crossing at Abbey Road.

Less a zebra crossing, more a prolific no-go area for two reasons:

– If you’re driving, you’ll be stuck for hours waiting for tourists to finish reenacting the Beatle’s famous album cover.

– If you actually want to cross the road, there’s a high chance of getting hit by a car that can’t be bothered to stop for tourists reenacting the Beatle’s famous album cover. Spend five minutes watching the Crossing Cam and see for yourself.

abbey road

Abbey Road: no ordinary zebra crossing

5. Shorten it to “Carnaby”.

London’s re-branding departments strike again, this time trying to give an entire area behind Regent Street a collective term it doesn’t really require or need. What’s wrong with plain old “that street just off Carnaby Street near Miss Sixty”?

6. Walk between the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines at Green Park.

Wars have been fought, lost, re-fought and won again in the time it takes to change lines at Green Park station.

Instead, go with the advice of London transport geek Diamond Geezer, who says: “It’s probably quicker to ascend to the ticket hall and come back down via the main escalator instead.”

It is also probably quicker to go to space, but your monthly travel card won’t cover that.

changing at green park forever

Green Park station, aka The Never Ending Story in tunnel form. Image: Matt Buck 

7. Eat bagels in evening dress on Hackney Road.

If you’ve walked past any new housing developments in east London recently, you might have seen billboards promoting activities that your average Londoner would never do.  I mean perhaps people eat bagels in evening wear in, like, Notting Hill, but in Hackney, this doesn’t really tally with the current vision of casually dressed hungover people in pyjamas eating kebabs at 10am on a Sunday. But hey, don’t let that reality get in the way of your terrible marketing campaign, Mettle and Poise.

mettle and poise stupid

wtf is she doing

 

8. Spend the day staring at the inside of a hat.

Again: people on Kingsland High Street don’t tend to spend much time gazing at the inside of their flatcaps, despite what Time Out might have you think. But with the arrival of these new £500k one-bed flats, clearly all that is set to change.

staring at hats

wtf is he doing

 

9. Sit on the pavement on Kingsland Road.

Seriously, are you nuts? Trust me, Dalston Curve, you don’t want to advertise this behaviour. Stand up, woman. You’ll get kebab on your coat.

kingsland road billboard woman

why is she sitting on the floor

 

10. Queue for an escalator.

Big shout out to TFL staff member Leon at Brixton tube station. He was on a one-man morning motivational mission to get commuters to walk down the one working escalator for the last seven months while disastrous queue-forming repairs were carried out. Your local community salutes you, sir.  tfl social shamer tube man brixton hero tube man brixton believe tube tweet brixton

11. Ask people who don’t live in Battersea to come to Battersea.

No one knows where it is, and no one can get there except for you. Abandon ship. journey to battersea

12. Pay £75 for Secret Cinema 

Look, no one’s saying you shouldn’t go to these excellent immersive cinematic events. You totally should. What I’m saying is for gods sake, let’s just make it a nice round £100 per person and be done with it. In other news, still tickets left, guys. star wars secret cinema

13. Get involved with the “PR stunt of the day”

“We’re building a rainbow out of television screens on the Southbank to celebrate National Banana Day and new shiny technology, we’d love you to be part of the magic! There’s something for everyone!”  pr-stunt-of-the-day

And finally…

14.  Stand on the top deck.

Hell hath no fury like the “No standing on the UPPER DECK or STAIRS PLEASE” announcement. It’s a folly reserved for Tube Strike refugees and tourists. Although, as everyone knows, there is a way round it.

no standing on upper deck

 

So there we have it.

If I’ve missed anything crucial, let me know. Otherwise, as you were, London. You may get on with your day.

God, I love this time of year.

We’ve officially gone headlong into those precious few weeks when the city warms up and the daylight stretches well into the late evening.

Just for a little bit, you can dangle your legs over the concrete sides of a murky canal on your way home from work and remember why exactly it is you live here.

Bookbarge on the Regents canal

The Bookbarge on the Regent’s Canal

All it takes is a little sunshine, and suddenly you understand.

You’ve got an answer to all those doubts that plague you in your darkest moments for the rest of the year (mostly in the comment sections of the Telegraph).

See, the sun comes out and you realise:

This is why you pay the highest rents in the country, why you live in shared housing while everyone else gets their own two bedroom flat and a dog, why you suffer through transport strikes on dark, rainy evenings, and why you still manage to get up in the morning when all that greets you outside are other disgruntled faces staring at you through a red, angry mist of commuter rage.

And you know why you bother, don’t you?

grays inn

It’s not just the fact that everyone’s a bit happier.

Or that you can finally arrange picnics outside without having a Rainy Day Contingency Plan, or that you now have a legitimate excuse to go to the only pub in Farringdon with outside space at 11:55am on Friday “lunchtime” to make sure you “get a table”.

No no, it’s because every summer, the city completely outdoes itself and puts on the sort of events that make you wonder if everyone here just lives on another planet entirely.

who needs glastonbury

An actual sentence in an actual email

We might have massive parks, and rooftop bars where you’ll probably only have to queue for an hour or two before getting in, and an enviable festival calendar where you, yes you! can pay £5 for a Red Stripe.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

You only have to peruse a copy of TimeOut London to discover some sort of pop-up event that you quite literally would never, ever want to do at any time of year, but could probably be pushed to do in the summer.

supper tub

“supper tub”. This is not a drill

Gone are the days of cocktails sipped alfresco on temporary wooden decking or a fake beach.

This summer, inside is the new out.

Urban pop-ups are the new festivals.

And, my friends, Ariel liqui-tabs are the new jam jar.

pop up launderette

It’s not all party, party, party, though.

You can also find no end of new and exciting ways to explore your local area.

Starting with the signage.

dalston type

And if you’re a bit nostalgic for your school days?

Don’t worry, a new pop-up will transport you back to the one bit about school that everyone hated because it smelt like dog food and old sandwiches.

That’s right, get ready to take your seats in the school dinner hall for the ironically non-student friendly price of £55 + admin fee.

Obviously.

School dinner pop up will serve fish fingers

Or are you a homesick Australian?

If so, again, London’s summer pop-up bonanza is coming to the rescue with an “urban beach” in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

So yep. Be homesick no more, Sydney-siders: East London’s version of Bondi overlooks a canal and everything.

answer to bondi

 

Seriously. London: just stop.

sex toy supper club

So who needs Glastonbury? Not us.

It’s summertime, the sun’s out, and we’ve got Trevor Nelson playing in a launderette while you chill in a hot tub eating peruvian food in Hackney Wick.

It’s going to be great.

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Let’s talk about night buses.

For the uninitiated, night buses are pretty much how everyone under 35 gets home after 12am.

It’s well documented that people over that age don’t leave the house after dark, or if they do, and by some huge critical error they miss the last tube, they’ll pretty much only travel in a black limousine or Uber XL and that’s just how it is.

The truth is they’re missing out, because night buses are a London institution.

A world unto themselves, everyone’s got a night bus story because they have the potential to be either the very worst or very best thing you’ve ever encountered at 3am, depending on:

1) how much you’ve had to drink

2) whether the person sitting next to you is awake, asleep, vomiting, singing, or trying to chat you up

3) whether you fancy them 

Case in point, my mates Beth and Alf actually met while waiting for a night bus in Dalston. Three years on from that blissful journey they can now hold up their very own baby human as proof that the 243 to Waterloo can successfully get you home and help you tick off some life goals at the same time.

So quite frankly, cheers to that.

on the bus

It wasn’t always like this though.

If you’re the rare type of Londoner who once lived in the north west area of Zone 5 before moving more centrally, perhaps you too can relate to a time when night buses were absolutely not the first resort.

They were the very ultimate last resort, and for good reason.

(Knives)

Back then, nights out in London always involved going somewhere a bit crap because you didn’t know anywhere better than Storm in Leicester Square, or Jewel in Piccadilly Circus, or even worse, Cargo in Shoreditch, but on top of that you’d always have the massive hassle of getting home to suburbia, via either

1) The Last Tube

= night spent in a state of low level anxiety, alternating between power-drinking, obsessive time checking, and attempting to calculate whether you could have one more vodka before catching two tubes and the last Metropolitan line train from Baker Street at 11:54.

2) The First Tube

= brilliant idea at 2am; becomes markedly less brilliant when the club shut at 4am, leaving you and your waning enthusiasm outside Farringdon station in the cold for a two hours before boarding what would inevitably be a Sunday rail replacement bus service back to the sticks.

3) Cab

= half an hour of running up and down High Holborn trying to locate a black Vauxhall Zafira before your phone battery gave out, then sinking into a Magic FM induced coma on the A40 clutching a box of cold chips you weren’t allowed to eat.

And if all those failed, then there was always one final choice:

4) The N18

= two hour bus journey through the bowels of North West London.

Choose this, and you’ve basically opted to spend 45 minutes searching the sky for Nelson’s Column – the drunk Londoner’s compass point in the days before the Shard  – and making your way to Trafalgar Square ready to commence a two hour hell-traverse through Stonebridge, Harlesden, Sudbury, Wembley and Harrow on the Hill.

In short, no one would choose that.

No one.

Trafalgar Square N18 night bus

Photo: Nico Hogg (Flickr)

But once you live in central London it’s a different ballgame. 

Journeys are shorter; more convenient.

Play your cards right and a night bus will get you home, or at least to the next bar, with a new group of temporary party mates.

Besides, as anyone in east London will tell you, you haven’t really lived until you’ve got a story about that time the entire top deck of the N76 erupted into a Disney singalong led by a man known by his friends as “Pesky Dave”.

But in all the journeys home on the local night bus, none have ever come close to what I’m about to show you.

Because a few weeks ago, I shared my night bus home with this.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london

I can’t remember if this photo was before or after the dog chased the rabbit around the bottom deck of the bus at full speed, darting under seats and generally running amok.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london3

All I know is that the moment this dog and that rabbit got on the same seat will remain etched in my memory forever.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london2

 

See? What did I tell you:

Night bus + Life goals = Complete.

Seen something better? Tell me immediately. I need to know.