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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

London – March 2013

We were in London for a whole three days. So we packed those three days as full as we could. We met up with some of the best and loveliest people in the world. We ate amazing food (mostly cooked by Hanno’s little brother who, let’s be honest, can out-cook just about anyone, anywhere, with his eyes closed). And we went to lots of galleries and museums. It was all so very good for the soul. All, that is, except for the bleedin’ London bleedin’ Eye which made me want to cry. A lot. And loudly. Never ever ever go to the London Eye, ever, unless you can afford to buy the bloody thing and close it to anyone except for yourself. It was horrible. We had pre-booked, time-allocated tickets because we thought that would be a clever, queue-avoiding thing to do. Turns out, you have to go pick up your special tickets from a special booth which you can only reach via a two hundred mile long queue. Full of bored, cranky parents and children (I may have been the crankiest, but we’ll gloss over that). Anyway, once you have descended into the belly of satan to retrieve your tickets, and emerged again, blinking, into the light (your carefully selected, pre-booked Eye time long since passed), you will have to find an Eye employee to ask where, amongst the solid mass of humanity outside, to go next. You might innocently be expecting the aforementioned employee to look at your specially timed tickets and to smile: “why just pop to the front of the queue and they’ll let you hop right on”. But that would be a world of pure, unadulterated fantasy. In reality, the employee, if you are indeed lucky enough to find one, will stare at you blankly and point outside, towards some distant point somewhere near Waterloo Station, a very very long way away from the Eye, and say: “join the queue”. Yes, another queue. Except this is no ordinary queue. This is a queue that was dreamed up by machines to torture their human underlings. This is a queue that crosses parks and roads. This is a queue that snakes back and forth on itself so many times that, if you could run the length of it (which you can’t because it’s crammed to bursting point with really very bored and really very cranky parents and children), would probably be the equivalent of a self-contained marathon for runners who are really good at turning tight corners.

Several hours (and many a search for a silver lining) later, you will finally start to asend towards The Pods. Lots of people will be shouting at you to get into line. No not that line, this line! Move move move! Your seven year old will, by now, be confused and very hungry (but mercifully not bursting for a pee quite yet because there are no loos anywhere so your only option would be to leave the queue and start again from scratch). Your two year old will have done the sensible thing and fallen fast asleep in his father’s arms hours ago. Unfortunately, this will mean that your husband’s back will be aching so much that he will finally hand the sleeping toddler over to you just as you are pushed, shoved and herded into a moving Pod by screaming Pod Managers together with four hundred other bewildered tourists. So after carrying a heavy camera bag around all figgin’ day just for this moment, you suddenly find that you can’t get your stupid camera out because you’re holding a zombie child. Also, you can’t sit down with your heavy load because, despite queuing all stupid day to see the stupid sights of stupid London from this big wheel (sorry, stupid big wheel), people are literally fighting for a seat in the middle of the Pod. A seat from which you can see nothing except people’s backs. Glorious. Anyway, we revolved. And I did eventually manage to get my camera out at take the exact same pictures everyone else who has ever been on the Eye on a cold, grey day has. And Amélie really enjoyed the experience. Or at least she really enjoyed the Samsung tablets they have installed in each Pod so that you don’t actually have to look out at the view. You can be advertised at instead. So we revolved. And then we were herded off again. And then – oh praise be! – we were free! Free at last! Free to walk in any direction we chose! Free not to follow the people in front of us! FREE. And it felt good. And that right there is the silver lining: after being on the sodding Eye, you suddenly appreciate the pushing and shoving of rest of over-crowded London. Because at least it’s not a bloody queue for the bloody Eye. There’s a bus on the bridge. That’s why I like this one. There’s a Pod in the corner of this one which adds a bit of perspective. Or at least that was the plan. There’s also a bit of a reflection of my big yellow coat. Oh well.Little tiny boats. Lots of big grey clouds. More me reflections in the glass. And London, as far as the eye can see.

17 April 2013 - 12:21 AM Angie - Holy moly! I often walk past these queues on my way to Waterloo station - I'm thinking I ought to hand out Red-Cross parcels to them the next time! I'm off to London on Sunday and have only just realised this leisurely jaunt coincides with the London Marathon, so I have a feeling crowds and queueing will be featuring heavily in my future too. Hoorah! PS - I love how red that little bus looks.

17 April 2013 - 9:34 AM Amelie - Oh-oh thank you for this post, now I know not to go to the Eye (or at least not to buy the special tickets ^^). Love the little red bus, and I also thought the pod looked really cool in that second picture.

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