London has been variously described as loud, noisy, dirty. Compared with Delhi, I found it calm and clean, and I found the silence among the crowds fascinating!! It wasn’t my favourite place in England, but I didn’t exactly dislike it as much as Birmingham. It’s true what they say about the English—they really don’t stare!
Some people call them stand-offish and unfriendly; so I must have been having an incredible patch of luck to find almost everyone I came into contact with polite and willing to help. I did idiotic things like go down the wrong way in the Tube and then turn around and weave my way back through incoming rush-hour commuters. At first I stood on the wrong side of the escalators. I had an embarrassing run-in with an Oyster machine in public, which kept spitting out my money (in fact, I got so flustered, that I forgot to count the number of notes I got back; an old lady returned by £5 note!).
And despite what people say about the frighteningly confusing Tube, it is fairly easy if you keep your wits about you and do not let yourself be pushed along with the bulk of the crowd. I can now nod and join in conversations that figure terms like “Picadilly Line” and “District Line”, and can actually use the correct names of the routes instead of mumble, “… uh… so I get off the red route here and find where I can catch a train to the purplish line… is it?”
When I returned to London after visiting relatives, Sumaira took me out for a sort of sightseeing. We got our pennyworth out of the DLR—the Docklands Light Rail, part of the London Underground route. These are, as the name implies, light trains that run automatically, without a driver. Only, during rush hour there is an attendent who regulates speed and opening and closing of doors. So we had a silly time sitting in front, pretending to “drive” the train!
She took me to Canary Wharf and I duly admired the business centre, posed for photographs, read the giant Reuter’s screen, and splashed around in the rain. Then we went to Greenwich and admired the Cutty Sark. We walked along the banks of the Thames (well, not exactly banks, some distance from it), waiting for it to get dark so we could go to Tower Bridge and admire London at night across the Thames.
I never did end up doing the London sightseeing bus tour. I wanted to see the Science Museum, which I did, and am glad I did. I also just had to go and see the books and CD shops in Oxford Street. Fortunately, it was evening by the time I reached and had limited time there, for that place would have surely been the cause of finanical ruin!
My last full day in England was one of the most enjoyable, oddly enough. I pulled out of the sightseeing tour, and Sumaira and I had an exceedingly lazy day, lying in bed and watching an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. We were total slobs, and even ate in bed! At the end of the day, we unanimously decided that that was what holidays are about, and renounced the holiday police who decree that one must go out and “sightsee”!