The company I am (currently) working for offers software consultancy to our clients – which makes me a contractor without the salary – and has this annoying habit of sending people to various places to do amazingly tedious work. A few weeks ago I got sent to do some bug fixing in Visual Basic (groan) in London. After I got over the shock of having to do such menial work, I got myself booked into a nice 4-star hotel and took the train down on Monday morning with no small amount of dread.
I’d always decided that I wasn’t going to work in London. I’m no fan of cities on the whole, and having visited London a few times I was in no hurry to return. It amazes me when foreigners come on holiday to Britain, only ever see London, and then go home saying what a wonderful time they’ve had. I know people who’ve lived in London their whole lives and have never ventured further away than Brighton! How can a city with a population larger than Scotland be anything other than miserable? Think I’m building up to a massive change of heart? Stay tuned…
The work was, to be fair, pretty tedious. Our client was working towards releasing a piece of VB software to their client that was bought from a third party, who wrote it to do something completely different, and didn’t sell them the documentation or complete source code. Phew. Well, coming from a strong C++ background as I do, it was never going to be very challenging anyway. I was there to just do as I was told and fix whatever bugs appeared during testing. So that was work, and work’s never that interesting at the best of times.
I managed to get booked into the Thistle Marble Arch Hotel in Marble Arch – which was nice. I find I can’t stay sane in a hotel without a gym (I’ve got my own kit at home and the thought of dishonouring it by not staying in shape while away is too much to bear). So I’d spend a bit of time working on my 3000m time on the rowing machine (current p.b. is 11’23” which ain’t bad for an ex-swimmer who’s never really rowed before).
As I’ve got older I’ve become less interested in the pubs and clubs of towns (not that I really was in the first place), and more interested in the places to eat. And this is where London scored it’s first victory over me. Living near Bradford as I do, I’m partial to curries, and eat rather a lot of them. But that’s just amateur stuff compared to the sushi, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese and other various meals I’ve had down here. No need for room service or fast food – there’s too much quality to choose from. Score one for London.
Then my cousin (who lives down here) took me on a tour of places like the British Museum and the National Art Gallery (I was never prepared for how awestruck I was to stand in front of actual paintings created by Monet himself, I’m still in shock now). Then there was the London Eye – couldn’t be bothered to go up it but it looked impressive in the mist. Stuff like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the normal landmarks like that don’t impress me one bit – I’ve been to Las Vegas and the ruins in the Bekaa Valley, I know what impressive is. However, score two for London.
And, I’ll say this, there are a lot of good looking women in London. Score three then.
While I was walking around in a light jumper, Scotland and Yorkshire were being lashed by torrential rain, wind and cold. So, reluctantly, I’ll give another point to London on that front.
Trouble is, if you like running in the countryside, hiking, mountain biking, or, in fact, anything outdoors at all (other than hailing a taxi), then London is not good. It’s okay in the winter, the days are too short to be bitter about wasting evenings, but come summer time I’d be gutted. And driving to the countryside doesn’t count – there isn’t the terrain (not until Wales), and it defeats the whole point if you have to drive there! Deduct one point.
One thing I’ve noticed on both the streets and the tube is the perpetual state of misery that people seem to be in. The slightest thing makes people explode with rage at other people (magnified tenfold on the tube). Maybe it’s because I’m so laid back and have a strong ethos of enjoying life, but that just seems a lousy form of existence. Deduct another point.
Picture this. I’ve just had another winning day in the office – fixed several bugs and on a roll. I take the tube back to my hotel. Get into my room, drop my bag and switch on the TV. After ascertaining that there’s nothing worth watching (is there ever?) I realise I need to blow my nose. I proceed to do this only to empty the contents of a coal scuttle onto the tissue. Pollution. You may not notice if you live in it all the time, but I do! Deduct one more point for that.
So a point in total.
I know London has an amazing nightlife, loads of famous people, great places to eat, sights worth seeing and has a really vibrant atmosphere. But it’s just not my cup of tea. Nice place to visit and spend a bit of time in, but I’m happy (for now) living where I am. Maybe as I get older and more cynical I’ll change my tune.
Of course, I’m only scratching the surface of what London has to offer, and am probably biased from spending years saying “I’m not going to work there”. For a city person I’m sure it’s nirvana, and they’d probably hate the sort of places I love. But hey, that’s just my opinion!