Friday, April 22, 2005

Old ladies versus 'youths'

It seems to me that an inevitable part of living in a city is not merely the fact that you encounter large numbers of strangers on a daily basis, but that the relationship you have towards them shapes your very understanding of human worth - both theirs and yours. Take for example the indignant reaction of people in queues when someone pushes in. Previously a line of individuals unconcerned to communicate with each other, but then transformed by exchanges or mutterings about the taboo that's just been broken. Even if such exchanges fail to shame the person to go to the back of the queue, they are still very important because they reassure you that by and large the social norms that keep us civilised are being kept to because anyone that breaks them is chastised. You might cast a judgement on the person who pushed in as inconsiderate and selfish and in distinguishing yourself from such behaviour such incidents help to reiterate your sense of self worth because you wouldn't behave like that!!

So imagine the blow to my ego when an old lady the other day accused me of having bad manners. I was trying to get a newspaper from the counter of a shop and didn't realise until I had it in my hand that this old lady's purse was resting on it. As I slipped it out from underneath realising in the process what was happening, I said "Oops sorry". The response was a decidely frosty - "Be careful you don't knock my money to the floor."
"I said sorry", I pleaded but she wouldn't listen. "Bad manners, that's what it is", she muttered. I tried harder this time - "Look, I'm sorry, I was tired and not concentrating properly, I apologise" but she wouldn't turn to look at me and just walked off.

I had barely recovered from this assault on my perception of myself as a decent human being when I ran into some more trouble shortly after getting off the bus as I walked home. A male 'youth' sped past me on a bicycle, dressed in tracky bottoms and a hoody (you know the type) and I could hear his friends behind me making barely intelligible noises which indicated that I was in their way. Refusing to have my right to walk on the pavement taken away from me I just continued walking. As these kids managed to navigate round me I was greeted with, "Wots the matta, you def or sumint, didn't ya 'ear?" I'm afraid I find it very difficult not to respond in these situations and so I yelled after them "You should be riding in the road, not on the pavement!!!" to which came the following reply eloquently shouted from across the road - "Wot d'ya say BITCH!.......Wot d'ya say BITCH!......."

By now I was seriously starting to have reservations about humanity and wondered if the incident with the 'youths' was some kind of divine retribution to make up for the incident with the old lady.

Today however I managed to have two pleasant exchanges with elderly women and so my faith in myself has been restored!!! One was a kindly lady at a bus stop who obviously deemed me approachable enough to ask me for the time ....."Oh, is it really that late love, oh I've spent too long in Ilford, can't go where I where I was thinking of going now, no it's too late, oh isn't it windy, it's too windy isn't it, it was too hot the other day, now its too cold, I'm waiting for the 145, what bus you waiting for love? Oh we must've just missed one....Oh it is windy isn't it?" and so on and so forth.

The other old lady I spoke to less than an hour ago and greeted me with the words "Hello cherub" and so now I'm positively glowing with delight. OK so this one was my nan so I guess it doesn't count, but it's still nice to hear!! My nan's lovely, I miss my nan.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The River Rodent

Today marked an important turning point in my essay work, I actually started to do some and the inevitable happened - procrastination was promptly replaced by panic!!! Panic has now subsided as I've spent the last few hours being very industrious and am now taking what I think is a well earned break during which I would like to reflect on my trip into work this morning.....

..... For once I actually managed to catch the W19 bus which is an achievement because they only come every 30 minutes and so it's crucial you get the timing right. As most of you are well aware, perhaps poor Lindsey more so than others, timing is not my strong point and so most mornings I fail miserably to get to the bus stop on time. Usually I end up getting the 145 into Ilford instead which is OK but takes longer and involves a longer walk, whereas the W19 drops me neatly off right by my place of work - Becketts House. Today however I managed to get the W19 and although it was more by accident than design because I was even later leaving the house than usual, the point is I travelled a different route to work - a route that meant walking across the River Roding........ you may be forgiven for thinking that there isn't a river in Ilford, even though the name gives it away, - it's not exactly in the commercial bit of the town centre and it's hidden under two busy roads; the choked up Romford road from Stratford and the A-road flyover thingy that zooms in from Barking direction and touches down at Redbridge roundabout. But the river is there, buried underneath the tarmac, its banks barricaded in by monstrous conrete and metal. It is an ugly dumping ground for litter, shopping trolleys, and other such urban faeces. In short it is an unloved stretch of water that seems to be present only in so far as it is clearly a transport inconvenience because there are limited crossing places for motorists. It is because of needing to cross the river that causes the bottleneck into Ilford from Romford Road and whilst I hate the pollution this causes and the angst of the drivers at rush hour I can't help but smile smugly to myself at the fact that even in our cities, nature still keeps us in check.

So, I was walking across the Roding in my zombie-like state this morning, only to be shaken from my reverie by a rustling sound coming from small patch of grass by the side of the river. I turned rather startled, to see a creature sat on a branch of a young tree. Blurry eyed I initially thought it was a squirrel but then quickly realised it was actually a rat!!! Suddenly I gained the ability to move fast and hurried into work. Realying my trauma to people in the office I was promptly informed that there's a woman who throws bread down there to feed the pigeons, but then the rats suddenly appear and there's a kind of showdown between the rats and the pigeons for the food. I am thinking of starting a campaign for the immediate distribution of "Do not feed the rats" signs, what do you think?

One final thought - my blog is entitled - "Where London Ends", a topic I think about a lot especially in relation to having been brought up on the edges of London in dreary suburbia. Is Ilford part of London or is it really Essex? Well, if the rodent population is anything to go by the debate is settled!

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Creating a blog - another distraction from university work. Procrastination has never been so fun!