The rooftop bars are closing, cough medicine is on sale and London has decided to give autumn a miss and head straight into winter.
October is not being kind to London. The temperature is dropping faster then we all hoped, the darkness is inexorably creeping into our daylight and everyone is sharing their sickness on the tube. For those not familiar with the tube, it’s a system basically designed so people can spread their cold and flu as efficiently as possible. I have a vague recollection that seasonal adjustment can induce sickness in us and given that England decided to completely bypass autumn, the ubiquity of the cough makes sense. Commuting to work is already a test of people’s nerves and our faith in humanity. Now it is also a test of your immune system. Sounds melodramatic? Well, you try changing platforms at Liverpool St Station at 8:30am on a workday in London. There are no such things as ‘comfort-zones’ on the tube in peak hour.
But I don’t want to be totally negative and ‘British’ about it. What is nice about London right now is that we are entering the final two weeks of the Rugby World Cup. This means pubs are at bursting point across the city and patriotic banter is at an all time high (at least amongst Antipodeans resident in the capital). Being an Australian, it is a particularly pleasant experience, especially given the trauma of dealing with an English Ashes victory. Sports and the pub. Sure, the monarchy and Parliament are important to the UK, but they are nothing compared to the institutions of the pub and sports.
London is not just gripped by sports and flu. It is also being overrun by international students. Nearly 103,000 students pour into the capital at the start of the academic year. They all need a place to live and a bank account to open so it’s best to avoid flat hunting in September (although that’s exactly what I did). And while I was once an international student and I love the energy they bring to the city, they contribute to the already unclear social walking etiquette. Do I walk on the left or the right side of the road? Don’t ask anyone in London because they have no idea. And that lack of clarity is even more confusing since they have impressively rigid escalator rules. If you stand on the left, you will be killed.
But what’s most impressive about London is the abiding sense of permanence. I’ve always got the impression that London is an eternal city. Despite the constant road-work, the frustration of the commute and the overcrowded paths, London knows its importance. You are but a fleeting visitor. Long after you leave, St Pauls will still be there and Big Ben will be keeping the time as it oversees the capital. But it might not be ringing for a little while.