It’s physically impossible to be alone in London.
Not “alone” as in oh, I feel so ALONE – haha! no! You’ll always have that.
I mean you’ll never find yourself lacking in a defined amount of space or time that is amazingly, gloriously, joyously, incredibly, brilliantly lacking in other human beings.
Because in London, other human beings are everywhere.
So instead you have to make do with finding little areas of the city where it feels like you’re alone, and then spend a vast amount of time imagining that happy day when London resembles the beginning scenes from 28 Days Later.
(Minus the whole everyone’s dead in the aftermath of a terrifying killer virus apocalypse bit.)
Finding a bit of space in London is reaaallly difficult.
In deciding to live here, you essentially gave up all rights to your personal space between the hours of…well… all the hours.
For starters, if you’re 20-50 something and single, you’ll probably have to houseshare with at least 58 other people in order to afford a place to live.
But even when your housemates are out, the flat’s empty and it’s just you, a packet of Monster Munch and back-to-back episodes of Dinner Date for company, you’ll still find yourself surrounded.
That’s because every living space in London is actually eight houses stacked on top of each other, which means your life will be forever soundtracked by the click-slam of your building’s communal front door, a patter of footsteps above, below, and either side of you, and snippets of distant, drunken, passing conversations punctuating the day and night.
Naturally, this won’t apply if you live in Hampstead, Knightsbridge or one of those posh new developments along the Thames, because in that case your neighbours will all be in Russia.
Ah, London housing. Happy days.
But although it’s impossible to be alone, it’s also really easy to be on your own.
By this I mean if you want to spend the day rolling solo, bothering no one and having no one bother you, then London’s pretty much the best place to do it.
One of my favourite weekend things is seeing a film upstairs at the Prince Charles, because on a Sunday it’s always half full with other people who’ve pretty much just hung a “do not disturb” sign around their neck prior to leaving the house, too.
Likewise, London’s bookshops are always pretty busy; they’re the only places where you can legitimately loiter, talking to no one, gazing at shelves, or sitting around on the floor for hours on end without raising any suspicions.
Eating alone isn’t even a big deal now either.
The whole no reservations, communal seating or sit-at-the-bar malarky means you’ll probably even get to consume actual food on an actual chair without having to eat your own actual fist in a two hour long queue first, which definitely wouldn’t happen if you turned up at any remotely popular restaurant in Soho with mates.
My point is, we’re all in the same boat. Or tube carriage. Whatever.
London always gets called out for the fact that no one talks on the tube, aside from sporadic tuts, sighs and calls of “MOVE DOWN, YOU BASTARDS”.
And perhaps it’s a sign you’ve lived here too long when you can’t come up with one single reason why that might be a bad thing.
But it’s not like taking public transport is an active choice for most of us; we don’t wake up and wonder whether we’ll drive into work today instead.
Our silent tubes are more an implicit agreement: it gives fellow Londoners a bit of space in a city where we have none.
So the next time you want a bit of time to yourself, rest assured. You might be surrounded by other humans, the bus will be packed and the museum will be too.
But don’t worry.