I’ve left myself wide open to ridicule today. I’ve blown my cover and had to admit to not really being a Londoner.
Of the millions of people who work in London, only three people and one dog actually live there, but still there are about a billion cockneys. No one really knows how this is true – it just is.
And so, like all my commuting colleagues at work, I refuse to admit that I’m not an actual bona fide Cockney. It’s not too tricky, there’s no big list of rules you have to tick off. You don’t even have to do the old rhyming slang, personally I wouldn’t be able to spot a dog and phone from an apple and stair if you shoved one up my bum with no lube. (yoinks – hope my Mum has stopped reading this!). I know genuine Cockneys with Brummy, Mancunian, Scottish and French accents, this does not matter because they all know the rule.
To put it simply – tourists & commuters need maps, locals don’t.
Stand looking at a tube map for more than thirty seconds and you are a tourist. Buy one of the little maps from the machines on the platform and you are not only a tourist, but probably can’t speak English, so us Cockneys can merrily tut away at you for clogging up the platform (as tutting can clearly not be understood by foreigners). Asking for directions is practically the same as standing on a podium and shouting “I know not where I am, please steal something from me!”
And so you see how it goes, a proper Londoner needs no map. A genuine local knows exactly what tube he needs without the need for checking he is on the right platform; only a brand spanking new commuter would do that. Occasionally you will see a Cockney stood near a tube map apparently texting with his phone held up directly in line with the map. Maybe he will be doing his shoe laces up or reading a free paper in an odd looking fashion – but he will NOT be looking at the map.
What happened to me today then? I’m gutted; I’ve been well and truly caught out.
I set off for a walk at lunchtime to find a little gadget shop that I’ve heard about. Richer Sounds near Liverpool Street Station is one of those little independent shops that are a man’s paradise. Top of the range HI-FI equipment, Televisions, DVD players, and the list goes on. It’s the kind of place that really ought to have frosted windows and a discreet entrance round the back for the gentlemen to use. There is some really sexy stuff in there.
As part of my current training program requires me to get a new TV, I thought I ought to use my lunchtime pro actively and go and check out the options. Knowing what this shop is like, I put on my long Mac with the cut out pockets and set off to find the place.
When I arrived at the store it was to find it completely closed down. There was a map to their new location on the window and it wasn’t too far away. I decided the best option was to let my photographic memory take charge and so I glanced quickly at the map. Reading it carefully would have confused things in my head, and because I’m a local I know the streets anyway. So I glanced quickly at the map and took a mental photo. I must have got right around the corner before I remembered that I do not have photographic memory.
So, with no actual idea about where I was going, I pointed myself in the general direction I perceived the new shop to be in and set off. I twisted through a few back streets heading towards the sun.
Twenty minutes later I had to put my hand in the air and admit two things to myself. I had no idea where the shop was. I had no idea where I was. I looked about and discovered that I was by Spitalfields Market. I’ve often heard of this place but had never been here, and was quite impressed as its pretty cool. Try as I might I couldn’t work out my orientation though. I had no fixed point of reference to head towards. Knowing that Spitalfields was not all that far from where I was supposed to be did not help when I couldn’t actually see the relation between the two points on a map – because there wasn’t one.
Two policemen, a traffic warden, a vicar, two Pearly Kings and a man carrying a large board that had “I’m a walking A-Z stop me and ask directions” on it walked past. I quickly averted my gaze and looked knowledgably at the shop next to me that was clearly my ‘local’ newsagents; I failed to notice the shelf full of London maps. I walked up and down for another twenty minutes before finally realizing that I was lost. I took a deep breath and committed the biggest sin of all.
I telephoned for help.
I phoned my mate at work and got him to talk me back to safety using Google maps. I heard the change of tone as his phone was put on speaker. I could literally hear him waving at all the others to come and listen. The normal office background noise died down as they all quietly walked over and sniggered.
Everyone now knows the truth, I am a commuter, and might as well go the whole hog and call myself a tourist. I may even have to buy a hat with a Union flag on it and a Harrods bear – why not.
I know what you are thinking, why didn’t I just use the GPS app on my phone? Well there are no apps on my phone, I’m not saying it’s old but I have to carry the battery in a separate bag, I’m not saying it’s old but when people text me they have to write their name at the bottom, because my phone doesn’t do it for them (I’m here all week folks!).
So I did the walk of shame back to work and didn’t even get to ask to see the extra hard plasma televisions behind the counter. Gutted!