I love London. Let me qualify this: I love certain areas in London mainly in zone 1 and some in zone 2, so pretty central. I used to live there and I still spend quite a lot of my free time there, hence my affection for this area. This does not mean to say that there are no other areas that are nice, enjoyable or worth visiting. There are many, a huge number of which I have never been to.
I have many friends in London, and even more acquaintances. With friends things are great, as you don’t really need to say anything specific, you can switch off, if they are the right kind of friends. With acquaintances it is a bit more complicated. We meet, consume calories and culture together, discuss what has happened since last time, enjoy it, try to guess where things are going and then go our separate ways again. This is pretty standard, it happens everywhere. Now, for those of you wanting to join in, or are new in London there are a few things that you need to know when such conversations in and about London come up, so you don’t …sing out of key, as it were. Much like playing music, there are certain scales which, if you follow, you really can’t go wrong, you’ll sound like you are Westminster born and bred. Here are the main five tones of the minor London pentatonic according to me:
Tone 1) When conversations move to the direction of property and its prices (and they unmistakably will) this is what you need to be saying:
Example a) A friend has rented a new place and they are paying £2000 a month rent for what, to an unknowing eye, appears to be a rather small 1-bedroom flat in a really old building, in Kensington.
Right thing to say in rest of the world: “Are you out of your f***ing mind?”
Right thing to say in London: “Oh, I know, I have this friend who lives near there (here, it is advisable to input name of exact street, as it apparently makes the whole thing sound more …naturalistic), and he’s got this fabulous flat, £3,000 a month (you must always go up in the rent amount to offer the feel-good factor), his firm is paying for it (careful, this bit doesn’t always help the feel-good factor 😉 , I know, well, it’s South Ken, isn’t it?”
Tone 2) Meeting new people in a restaurant nobody from the group has ever been before
Right thing to say in rest of the world: “The decoration looks great, I like these butterflies in the wallpaper design”
Right thing to say in London: “Oh, but have you been to (insert name of other new and trendy place), it is amazing, the chef is this amazing (insert nationality or region, the furthest from England the better, i.e. Patagonian beats Mexican and combinations score even higher) and they do this fantastic (name of dish, obligatorily not in English), amazing!” Extra points when these are in fusion cuisine restaurants, like Thai-Californian, more bonus for using the correct abbreviation – for example ‘Japanic’. Wry smile.
Right thing to reply, if you are the other side in this conversation: “Oh, yeah, I love this place, I’ve got his friend who is an astrophysicist and I always meet him there, he knows the chef and they always offer us free (name of fancy cocktail). Here, optional, namedropping “Apparently, David Coulthart goes there a lot, I haven’t seen him, but I’ve seen (other d-list celebrity), he is much shorter than he looks on television”. Note: No friends with normal jobs can ever be mentioned, as other people around the table may think you are a normal person yourself and quite unLondony for that. Astrophysicist just about makes the cut, but you should aim for the likes of ‘nuclear enrichment expert’ with a few sprinkles of art ‘writer/composer/designer’ for good measure.
Tone 3) In most cases you’ll need to have at least one London-based and one worldly contemporary debate/conversation and people with great skills can bring them together: “Have you heard about this new (scientific development) happening at (some place abroad)? Apparently they will be piloting it here at Imperial College, they’ve secured £20m from the Clinton foundation and they will cordon off a big part of Richmond Park and they will (insert something rather absurd, preferably unheard of, for example ‘plant Siberian aubergines‘)
Tone 4) On holidays
Conversations on holidays need to be divided between short breaks and long holidays: Short ones (up to 3 days) should not be classified as holidays even if they are trips to New York but should always come with a twist.
Right thing to say in rest of the world: “I only had three days so I went to the seaside house of this friend of mine, and just spent the whole day by the beach”
Right thing to say in London: “This work colleague is a member of a holidays club and they get access to exclusive offers of discounts at these fantastic places. So, his wife just left him for this huge African guy, Somalian I think he is, and he said, “do you fancy going to Aruba for the weekend?“, so I said, “why not, man?”, the place is literally floating on the sea, I mean it is built on a wooden deck and the sea is underneath you, it is unbelievable.”
Adjust appropriately for longer holidays.
Tone 5) On traffic and being late
Right thing to say in rest of the world: “I am sorry (guys, darling, mate, everybody) for being late, there was a lot of traffic”
Right thing to say in London: “I am sorry, it is FRIDAY traffic (generally only applicable of Fridays) or ‘The northern line is down, replacement service, nightmare’ ‘Two lanes were closed as there were maintenance works for the Olympics’ ‘Regent street was closed so the taxi had to go around (insert place) – pick a deviation but don’t overdo it, Lewisham is too far if you are going from Soho to Notting Hill. Make it specific and offer anecdote too. “There was this old lady on the bus who was cursing the driver for being the antichrist, all the way from Oxford Circus to Bayswater” and close with “I could have walked the whole way here quicker”
That should keep you going for a night out. I’ll watch the Wimbledon final now. More to follow