As we start the season of ‘budget tourism’ here are some hints of how not to look like you’re a visitor to London. Well, apart from that old chestnut of what side to stand when travelling on an escalator.
Converse with a cabbie
If you decide to take a ride in a black cab, don’t ask the driver’s opinion of that precocious Swede Greta Thunberg. At £55,000 the electric cab is near twice the price its predecessor was a few years ago. In an attempt to make London the world’s greenest city, perfectly serviceable cabs are being ‘retired’ and replaced by luxury electric limousines.
Join the queue
That popular tourist hot-spot, the waxwork emporium on the Marylebone Road where thousands queue outside waiting for a chance to take a selfie with Michael Jackson or David Beckham, not with Rolf Harris who curiously is now absent. Those possessed with forward-planning have even stumped up extra to bypass the queue, little do they realise the highlight of the visit is mingling with others while standing in the most polluted place in London. This busy road has three-and-a-half times the EU limit for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas linked to asthma, lung infections and other respiratory problems, in fact, the Baker Street/Marylebone Road junction has no equal, it’s a chance to really take home a long-lasting London souvenir – emphysema.
We’re just are not interested
Don’t ask what the Royals are up to, where they live or ask if they have met. The newspapers talk of little else, as Harry and Meghan changed their domicile to the cooler climes of our colonial cousins, insisting we don’t mention them, or their Instagram posts.
Eat 1960 culinary delights
Described in the Guardian by David Mitchell as “rarer than the Siberian tiger, all that we have left of a proud heritage of serving shoe leather with béarnaise sauce to neon-addled out-of-towners”. Only tourists would be wooed by that red light district-esque glow, order a very OK ribeye and have the whole of Leicester Square ogle you through your floor-to-ceiling glass cage, followed by that perennial favourite, Black Forest gateau, go there to experience the last vestige of the British tradition of culinary incompetence.
Enjoy the authentic London climate
Queue up to get an upper seat on a tourist bus. Sit in the rain in your complimentary, and monogrammed, thin plastic cape, whilst advertising the bus operator, enjoying the bracing rain driven by the latest hurricane with a curious moniker.
Experience Magnificent Desolation
Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon could be a metaphor for the Emirate Air Line, that Boris vanity project offering overpriced cable car trips from one deserted east London location to another wasteland. But tourists can use it to get away from the crowds.
Walk on the wrong side of the street
Look, Londoners never walk down the east end of Oxford Street. Most locals probably don’t know about the pop-up shops that proliferate this end of the street. Bootleg counterfeit perfume, Union Flag suitcases, Beatles condoms and Harry and Meghan mugs, or for the less discerning, Prince Andrew pizza cutters.
Take selfish selfies
Whatever do not try to have your picture taken beside the Queen’s Guards. They have a job and tradition to maintain. At the most inappropriate moment could start walking over you should you impede their progress. At Trafalgar Square, there are floating Yodas just waiting for the hapless tourist to be photographed for the price or their next beer.
Be taken for a ride
So you’ve been to see Mama Mia! Now you need to get back to your hotel. There are a plethora of choices: cab; bus; tube; walk; or a Boris bike. But there is one Londoners would never use – rickshaws. These Chinese takeaways have absolutely no regulatory checks, but I suppose these would be of little use when experiencing fission of fear being transported up a one-way street against the traffic flow.
Cockneys might be famous for not having an ‘H’ in their vocabulary, but for everyone else its ‘CE’ that’s absent. All the words that contain it: Leicester Square, Gloucester Place, Worcester Park. Nope, those two letters don’t really exist.