Swedish Girl In London

London Life: Bright Lights, Big City. Now what's on TV?

Monday, October 10, 2005

London Q&A

Things people tell you when you say that you live in London:

1. “But isn’t it really busy?”

There are three replies to this one:

You say cheerfully: “Yes, I love the big-city buzz”, suggesting that only urbane & cool people like yourself can take the pressure of high-powered London life;
or “not really, it can be quite peaceful if you just know where to go”, making it clear that only urbane & cool people like yourself can find those little havens of tranquillity.

Both of these sound a bit obnoxious, of course.

I normally go for the third option, which is to agree whole-heartedly and then tell horror stories about how you have to shoe-horn yourself on to the tube in the morning, normally departing with one extremity still flapping around on the wrong side of the door.

“Commuters are like old-time factory workers,” you say proudly (obnoxiously?). “You can tell the old ones by the number of fingers they have lost.”

I don’t know why this option seems so satisfying.

2. “Aren’t there a lot of Swedes?”

I say no, they don’t believe me, and possibly rightly so. It’s just that I never seem to come across any Swedes.

London Swedes, are you just an urban legend? Which leads to the disturbing, metaphysical question: Do I actually exist?

3. “Aren’t you afraid of terrorism?”

To which my only truthful reply would shamefully be: “Too right I am!” Of course, I don’t tell people that. “Oh,” I say airly, “you’re much more likely to die crossing the street –” probably fooling no one.

The statistics are true, surely, but since I am more scared of ghosts (that probably don’t exist) than burglars (which I have been told do), logic isn’t likely to persuade me. Kamikaze-like crossing of streets in rush-hour traffic will continue to seem like low-risk behaviour to me, while a harmless gentleman with gym bag sitting next to me on the tube sets off the primitive red alert.

Well, what can you do? (Insert fatalistic, Jewish shrug.) My strategy is to sit next to people who are eating tuna melt sandwiches. I feel that they are less likely to blow themselves up, for some reason.

4. “Oh, how lovely!”

And aren’t people who say that lovely too.


At 2:52 PM, Blogger The Pale Green Woman said...

In my youth (late 80s, that's 100 years ago, roughly) I spent six months in London. Missing home terribly of cource, and when I missed Sweden the most, I went to Bayswater and Hyde Park on Sundays. All the Swedish tourist had left their hotels, wandering about aimlessly, waiting for their buses to the airport. I walked around listened to Swedish, felt lonely, aah how depressing. Then I went to Kew Gardens little pine forest, it was almost like home. God I was really pathetic. And I have no idea where all the swedes are in London, come to think about it. Just wanted to tell about my pathic life I guess. Sad.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Swedish Girl said...

I know. Living in foreign lands can do strange things to you. I actually got a tear in my eye when I found a copy of Torbjörn Fälldin's autobiography on a Billy shelf in IKEA.

And then I got annoyed at the same IKEA for placing the dots over the wrong letters. Who has ever heard of Böllnas?

(I realise that only Swedes can appreciate how WRONG that is...)


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