For the past four weeks I’ve been learning how to teach English as a foreign language in London, where despite UKIP’s opinion, it isn’t even vaguely. But London was foreign to me and I used to live there.
I lived there once for six months when I left university and it was crap. You could still smoke on the Tube in those days and people did. Entering a Tube carriage on a damp, dark November evening with your shoes soaked through to inhale 20 stranger’s Picadilly smoke was a budget version of Hell. A car I was trying to repair in the street fell of the jacks I had put it on and nearly fell on top of me. I helped save someone’s life when they walked straight off a station platform and fell onto the tracks one boiling afternoon when three trains had been cancelled trapping hundreds of us all trying to go home. It’s a lot further down to the tracks at a railway station than you think it is. Or rather it’s a much longer way back up, especially when you’ve got someone’s legs end and you’re trying to heave her back up to the platform while someone else you don’t know does the shoulders end, hopefully before the train gets there. Obviously as I’m writing this, we did. The other person was wearing a suit; I was wearing a leather jacket. He got thanked by the crowd. I got ignored.
I had a crappy flat off Westbourne Grove where one night a woman I’d never seen before knocked on the door and asked me to take her to hospital. She said she’d been in an accident. I’d just been to the launderette, so I was free. I called an ambulance because she was talking in a strange way. Within 20 minutes of meeting her I was seeing the X-Rays of her fillings and the size of her brain; they assumed I was something to do with her. I sort-of was a bit, after that. For a week or so, the way things went then.
I left, then I came back again, then twenty years ago I left for good. And I don’t recognise huge chunks of the London that was there then.