For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.
Wish you were here (08.05.09)
If you go on holiday to London don’t, I repeat, don’t buy me a souvenir as a memento of your visit. The poor tourists who come to these shores face a bewildering array of souvenir crap to purchase.
But it doesn’t end with the legitimate shops which proliferate on our capital, walk across Westminster Bridge and you are confronted by the delights of figures made from bent wire, a busker playing the bagpipes or whistles to imitate birdsong, being sold in full view of the police outside Parliament.
Do you want a T-shirt with the worn joke on the front “my Dad went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”? Well, if you received that, thank your lucky stars. You could receive a cardboard policeman’s helmet, or how about a Union Jack umbrella. If you really want to stand out in the crowd try wearing a fur top hat in red, white and blue.
If this is not to your taste, go upmarket to the Buckingham Palace gift shop there are expensive reproductions of the Queen’s china, just like she uses at 4.00 every day for afternoon tea.
There is something to be said for receiving a tea towel, naff, but useful, if only to mop up after the cat, and admittedly some Buckingham Palace gifts are tasteful, even if of dubious practicable value. They at least have the virtue of giving one a warm Regal glow, when partaking of one’s afternoon tea.
But who would treasure a gift of this rubbish. Forget receiving a postcard of Big Ben; send them a 20 year old picture of a spotty punk rocker.
These shops are so revered by the middle classes; they even had a competition instigated by The Institute of Architects to design a replacement souvenir shop when Hungerford Bridge was being improved.
But London isn’t the worst, not by a long shot, I recently went to Italy, and coaches have to pay over £100 just to park for a few hours in these tourist traps. At Pisa (of leaning tower fame) you run the gauntlet of dozens and I mean dozens of Africans selling fake designer goods, and the authorities had the temerity to put up a sign that read “it is illegal to purchase fake goods; offenders are subject to a €1,000 fine. Maybe London isn’t so bad after all, anyone want a die cast model of a taxi, going cheap.