8 Little London Observations

It’s the little things, as I’ve always said, that make London (and all cities for that matter) unique urban landscapes. These little things detract from the postcard experience (or may add a new dimension to it). It’s the tiny architectural details – the door knobs and paint splatters that largely go unnoticed. It’s the odd rubbish left out for collection that makes you look twice. It’s a random bit of clothing left behind or a funny little sign.

Here are eight of these little observations picked up by LLO readers and contributed to the Flickr pool:

Coffin Cupboard.Photo: Coffin Cupboard by Dennis Owen

Photo: Warning by Steve Reed

How much is that doggy in the window
Photo: How much is that doggy in the window by Takphoto

mind the poo
Photo: Mind the Poo off of Park Road, West Ham by Judy

Ted's Full Frosty Snowman In Richmond - London.
Photo: Ted (Baker)’s full Frosty snowman in Richmond by Jim Linwood

On Blackheath
Photo: On Blackheath by Dave McGowan

Photo: Tile by Steve Reed

GWL Dubious Topiary in Kensington Palace Gardens - W2
Photo: Dubious topiary in Kensington Palace Gardens by Malcolm Edwards

Cold, Smoke-Tinged, Silent Night

I stood in a long queue in Ealing Broadway Station after work yesterday for this morning’s Heathrow Connect tickets. A group of 15-20 carolers were singing Silent Night and shaking cans of charity change. I waited and watched people walk through the barriers or down the steps, in from the cold.

People had such varied reactions. A few brave and festive souls joined in and sang along, a couple of them stopped to watch pretending to be preoccupied with digging through a handbag, some smiled quietly to themselves, others looked completely miserable and a lot of them walked by pretending not to even notice as is a typical London reaction to most things that would strike up curiosity in a smaller town like in upstate New York where I grew up.

When Jingle Bells started, I walked up the steps into the chill of Winter London air tinged with cigarette smoke and kebabs from the shop on the corner. I tossed my scarf around my neck for the walk home and thought about all the different ways London can get under people’s skin.

Tube Tales for a Thursday

The dynamics of a tube ride always amuse me. Here’s some random observations (I live and work on the Central Line at the moment, so they are mostly there.):

Sunday afternoon, Northern Line: An exceptionally tall couple cosy up with Dogalogue, a catalogue of dog holiday cards, gift wrap, clothing and games that benefit guide dogs.

Sunday evening, Central Line: A small child leaps into his mother’s lap, throwing his skinny arms around his neck. He says, “Mummy, I love you!”

Tuesday morning, Central Line: It’s always interesting to see so many people sitting so close together but going completely different places, leading completely different lives and getting lost in their own little worlds on the tube. There are people reading books of all genres, magazines in dfferent languages, knitting scarves, playing sudoku, digging through handbags, putting on makeup and listening to iPods.

Wednesday morning, Central Line: A bag covers a piece of gum stuck to the seat across from me. A woman comes by, bends down to lift the bag, puts it back down and walks on. This occurs over and over until the seats are full except that one and the people around me chuckle quietly to themselves each time. Finally, a girl lifts the bag and seeing that there are no more seats, puts it back down and sits on it.

Thursday morning, Central Line: A woman precariously balances her handbag, an apple, a coffee and a make-up case on her lap while tring not to poke out the eye of the man next to her with her elbow while she applies her mascara and people pile in to stand around her. I was waiting for disaster, but alas, she is a pro.

Whirlwind London

It is a short two minute walk from the tube to work, but suddenly I felt I was excitedly overwhelmed by the busy sidewalks, the goings-on of a big city. My mind started buzzing away with observation:
Sirens screaming, a man in paint-splattered overalls carrying a ladder, a child crying, a woman’s breasts bouncing in a tight shirt, an elderly couple holding each other up as they shuffled along slowly, a mad flock of pigeons swooping for crumbs, kids on bikes, a jogger weaving by, a car honking horns, someone jumping over a puddle, umbrellas shaking off drips of rain, flashing orange lights of a work truck, a woman sitting in outside a sidewalk café laughing over a glass of wine, a man sitting on the sidewalk outside of Tesco selling the Big Issue, a street vendor with flowers, a man runs across the street calling someone’s name, a chugger tries to persuade someone to sponsor the children, a woman drops a cucumber out of her bag and bends to pick it up, a workman shouts to a friend over the noise of a machine, a woman points to something in the window of Oxfam, ashes falling on the tips of her shoes, a motorbike coming to a stop, a child on a scooter, a mural on the wall, a walk across a car park full of chatting groups of students, the slow drop of rain water from the door frame onto the mat and always somewhere, somehow, a sacred moment of stillness.
Today I saw a woman accelerate backwards into the front of a parked car. At the sound of cracking plastic, she met my eyes and sheepishly looked away. Then the printer was steaming like hot breath on a winter day because my office is arctic. They have replaced my favourite American bagel shop where the guy makes me smiley faces out of BBQ sauce on my chicken melts with a Cards Galore. Not even a unique card shop. On my way home, they made an announcement on the tube: “Woman, don’t let your child ride a scooter on the platform” two seconds before a Central Line train trundled in at lightning speed. On the way home, a teenager asked me, of all people, to buy him cigarettes. I didn’t. I don’t do people after 5:30 on weekdays. 
How was your day?

The Little Things…

Waiting for the bus, midweek: The light whisper of untied shoelaces brushing over bare skin on the top of my foot. The owner of the disregarded laces sauntering by with his friends, jeans slung low and belted around their thighs, hoods up. It made me wonder if he’s ever been touched that lightly and sensuously; how he was clueless to the tickle and sensation he swept across a stranger’s skin.

Living in London – this massive, multicultural concoction of faces, languages, religions, traditions, attitudes; so overwhelming at times – I feel most alive when I pay attention to the little things, engage the senses.

This blog is a catalogue of little London moments in the form of words or photos. Feel free to share some of your own in the comments, no matter where in the world your observations are from.