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Feb 04

Londoners Life 23 – by Phil Ryan

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Yes the cold snap is starting to hit London. Weather forecasts predict us being hit with snow flurries very soon. And we all know what London does when 2 centimetres of snow arrives! And just as we were coming to terms with the white death we then then got more scares over an oil depot going into receivership. Now we get stories about also being hit with petrol prices in London shooting up to £2.00 a litre and all of us freezing in our cars as we ran out of fuel in sub-zero temperatures on the M40. (Although I suspect they are just softening us up as they’ll get to that petrol price level within 6 months at this rate anyway regardless of oil depots closing – not including death on the M40) And for the first time ever I briefly toyed with the idea of one of those electric cars as I am noticing more of those blue charging posts as I whiz around town in my gas guzzler. But to be honest when all is said and done they are just old fashioned milk floats with a bit more comfort and zero style. I mean have you seen those G-whiz things. Is it me but does everyone who drives them look huge and somehow ghoulish – little eyes screwed in concentration as they avoid trying to hit a pigeon or a crisp packet which would probably spell instant death for them and anyone stupid enough to be their passenger. They look like damaged egg cartons with comedy tiny wheels where a human has been forced inside like some novelty act from Cirque du Soleil. And you can feel the smug waves coming off them from a hundred feet away. Look at me I’m saving the planet. But to balance it out they all look very weird and devoid of cool and have the tensile strength of a bowl of porridge. And yes I know the new Renault ones look a lot more cool – but still drive a Renault? However London of course is now leading the way with more and more electric vehicles now being put onto our streets to silently mow down children, the elderly and the slow moving. Many London Councils are rolling them out as Council vans and maintenance cars. Quiet death from your local service provider. Perhaps they’re thinning out the vulnerable in a bizarre cost cutting drive nothing would surprise me where local Councils are concerned. (I think Westminster have introduced recently culling of the poor haven’t they?) But the march of the electric car moves forwards. Green yes but you can’t hear them coming!!!! If I had my way I’d fit them all with a loud clockwork toy noise. That’d brighten up your day wouldn’t it?
One observation I’ll make is about the various foreign embassies we have across London. Some of them are in the weirdest of places. For instance Tonga’s embassy is in a residential street off the Hendon Way – how very glamorous. But others have very swish addresses in Knightsbridge and the West End. But my main thought is the amount of protests outside half of them. Concerned citizens of each country seem to now gather on a weekly basis to shout at those inside. I’m not sure the rulers of the various countries are paying much interest and my guess is they’re not actually in the building. The Ambassadors are probably somewhere else too – you know getting piles of Ferrero Roche at some fancy black tie function. So in effect the protesters are shouting at a bunch of secretaries and cleaners. But I realise they have to show these repressive governments that in London at least free speech is fine and dandy. Good luck I say. Although I do get a bit miffed when the protestors attack the poor police folk who turn up trying to keep the peace. I’m not sure it’s sending a signal to Syria to stop killing their own people by punching Constable Smith sharply on the nose. But when they protest here we’ll protect them which of course is right and proper. But then sometimes they shout about the fact that we in Britain shouldn’t let their bad governments stay in power while often shouting anti-western slogans. All very confusing I fear.
Now a new bugbear with me in 2012 is London Theatre ticket prices. They seem to be heading skywards and I’m not sure it’s healthy for good theatre. I realise that with rising rents and costs these shows are costly but come on. Half the theatres are up to £85 for a seat you can actually see the stage from and don’t even get me started on the cost of drinks and snacks. Just like cinemas and service stations it seems that theatres are now operating an ‘alternative universe’ policy. Whereby the costs of normal things are inflated to such an extent that people hand over the cash whilst still in a state of shock. On what world is a bag of Maltesers £5.00 and a glass of wine £9.50! I’d take all the impresarios knighthoods back just like they did to Mr Fred Goodwin. So Mr Macintosh and Mr Lloyd Weber tell me when is it reasonable to pay £5.00 for two mouthfuls of ice cream and £10.00 for a programme? A paperback novel costs less and has had a damn sight more creative energy poured into it. If you honestly want kids and anyone on a low income to embrace the theatre stop being so damn greedy. I originally thought that Wicked and Les Miserables were show titles not descriptions of how the pricing policy works and makes the audience feel.
Finally more rip off nonsense from The Olympic legacy Company. It seems that us Londoners have paid £93 billion pounds to give away land, housing and stadiums to a host of private companies who will charge us through the nose to either visit or use facilities we’ve already paid for! I think every scrap of Olympic housing stock should be turned over to Social Housing – after all it was paid for by the public. And the stadiums should be free to Londoners who paid for them whether they wanted to or not. And look out for the ridiculous concept of Stratford International Station whose train station doesn’t even connect to Europe directly! Instead you have to slope off back to St Pancras. Shouldn’t they just re-name it Stratford Local or something? But when you ask the locals they just shrug and smile about the whole fiasco. Do they care? No. It’s a London thing.