Tuesday, January 24, 2006
London Is Cool,But Very Pricey, Man!
Travel guide,"Lonely Planet" has recently reported that London is one of the coolest capitals of the world but horrendously overpriced. I entirely subscribe to this view.
My first visit to London was in 1979 more than 25 years ago.I stayed in a hotel in downtown and one night's tariff was just 10 pounds. It had cost me almost that much for a cab drive from Heathrow airport to the hotel then. Last October when I was in London, I decided to stay at the Zetter,a swanky hotel in the heart of London and it cost me a bomb. I went to Sheffield by British Rail and a second class return fare for a 150 mile journey was about 75 pounds.The tube used to be very cheap those days.But now it has become very expensive.Averagely,bus fares are cheaper by almost 50% but then they do not have the coverage of the underground network and the speed. Taxi fares are prohibitive and then if you are not lucky you might be driven by a drunken and foulmouthed cabbie.I had a bad experience one early morning at Heathrow when I wanted to go from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2. It was not a very long ride and I tried to negotiate the rate with the taxidriver.He was annoyed that I wasn't accepting his fare offer and asked me to ****off. Racial feelings are strong particularly with the lower strata of society.Price of a cinema ticket is about 6 pounds and you will be minus by about 45pounds if you decide to dine in a fine restaurant! A friend of mine told me that an ecstasy pill costs 4 pounds,a gram of cocaine for 50 pounds and about 20 pounds for an eighth of marijuana.! Isn't that one hell of a sum for getting those fancy trips!
Like New York,London is a pot-pourri of multilingual cultures.That gives it a definite character.No more the old days when there were only Mom and Pop pubs offering beer and fish-n-chips.There are a plethora of restaurants offering international cuisine and London is an epicure's delight. Though London has a population of about 7.5 million it is certainly not bursting on its seams. It has a huge floating population and the Government's earnings from tourism are very substantial.The annual Nottingham Hill carnival drew 1.2 million visitors last year. Grime music is making inroads into the mainstream. Hooded sweatshirts(deemed to be the source of all evil) and male anorexia are in fashion. Antisocial behaviour and youth violence engaged the British parliamentarians in long debates.British writer Zadie Smith has this to say about her homeland: "When I think of England now I just think about the England that I loved,and it's just gone.It's the way that people look at each other on the train: just general stupidity,madness,vulgarity,stupid TV shows,aspirational arseholes,money everywhere.It's just a disgusting place,it's terrifying. Maybe I am just getting old." Perhaps she has a point.
For the Indian diaspora,London is like a second home. Many have amassed a fortune by dint of hard work and oozes of luck. They are mostly Punjabis,Sindhis and Gujeratis. And no visit to London is complete without a shopping binge at Oxford Street.
Come June and that will usher in the Wimbledon Annual tennis tournament. Held in 'very British' style. I am not going to miss it out. The tennis and the strawberries with cream. And with a little bit of luck a place in the 'box'. All the thanks must go to l and h for shifting residence to London.