The Secret Diary of a Country Girl

With the end of my degree approaching and the prospect of a journalism course to follow, it seems I have reached a crossroads in my life; it’s finally time to complete the transformation into fully-fledged adult. It’s time to replace Neighbours with The Archers, Heat with the Spectator and orange squash with cappuccinos. As I bid farewell to my beloved Robinson’s fruit shoot, (and Paul Robinson too) I also say so long to the green fields of rural Warwickshire in favour of the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke. And I am less than impressed at the prospect.

I grew up in a hamlet where a “SLOW, children playing” sign was swiftly erected when it was reported that a car sped through the sleepy village at a top speed of 25 mph. The nearest McDonalds is a good 30-minute excursion and you’d be more likely to catch the pigeons canoodling on the garden fence than trackie-clad, greasy haired adolescents swapping saliva on the street corner (please excuse my snobbish stereotypical visual picture). I was of course perfectly content during my sheltered countryside upbringing, but lately I have come to lament my lack of London knowledge. For example, I recently tried to enter a conversation about drugs and inadvertently referred to a tab of LSE as opposed to LSD… you mean, you haven’t taken a hit of London School of Economics recently?

Ultimately, spending three years in a small city such as Nottingham was a good stepping-stone in order to render me entirely oblivious to the screaming sirens and 3am wake-up calls from angry taxi drivers that are so characteristic of city life. However, my preliminary visits to London have hardly left me feeling right at home…

I stepped off the train, no doubt resembling a tourist; clutching my snazzy oyster card and tube map, and no doubt a confused facial expression to boot (just hand me a bumbag and camera and hey presto I’m a full blown sightseer). I was immediately accosted by a remarkably short man, who seemed to consider it perfectly acceptable to firmly cup my right bum cheek before flashing an impressively toothless grin. I resisted the urge to slap him, or otherwise at least stamp my foot and threaten to tell my mummy and settled for a filthy look instead, delivered with enough malevolence it could have sent Adolf Hitler running for the hills. Remembering my new adult-like poise, I marched off indignantly in search of the tube….
Ah, the tube. The ingenious underground creation, masterminded by John Fowler in 1863 to facilitate the effortless transport around the capital. Perfectly designed to be every tourist’s worst nightmare. Not only is it a maze of confusing colourful, pretty lines, just waiting to trap you on a train going the wrong way, but it also has a certain set of social norms to which one must adhere, in order to be accepted in the City of London community. Several of these society rules I have unintentionally flouted whilst attempting to join the elite in-crowd (comprising around 7 and a half million carefully selected people). Firstly I discovered that you should never smile at a random person on the tube. Confused, disturbed and mostly frightened faces will respond to your pleasantries and the odd person may scrabble to the other end of the carriage in a desperate bid for safety.

On one occasion having successfully cleared the surrounding seats in my carriage I decided that minding my own business was a safer option than attempting friendliness and popping in my headphones, I began to relax. That was until the skinny-jean-clad-trilby-wearing kids nearby started to snigger loudly and the businessman began to shift uncomfortably in his seat… SO WHAT if I’m listening to Justin Bieber at full volume?! He’s actually really talented and is it obligatory in London to dress like you’re in a band?! Luckily with my stop approaching I could escape the situation swiftly, so I stood up to alight…And I continued to stand… For what seemed like a lifetime… Tube lesson 2 successfully learnt: Apparently when the kind lady informs you that the next stop is Clapham Common, it is NOT yet time to stand up, you must only leave your seat 2 seconds before the train pulls to a halt to avoid looking like a loitering lemon.

Furthermore, to finally complete my capital social suicide (pun intended) I began to jab frantically at the button to open the train doors, until a kind lady informed me that they actually open automatically. Modern technology hey?
And whilst I’m on a transport rant: The DLR. How is one supposed to find out if you’re going the right way when the platform is eerily deserted and when I tentatively approached the driver’s carriage…there is no driver. TFL take note: automated systems are no use whatsoever to a London newcomer.

Furthermore, the London dress code leaves me somewhat baffled. There is an endless array of multi-coloured, kooky, outfits to be found on the streets of the capital of course aside from the business suit contingent, who incidentally are ALWAYS in a hurry, (how is it possible that you’re permanently late?! Surely it’s all part of the image to be seen dashing on to a tube accompanied by the beeping of the closing doors, tie flying over your shoulder, forehead beading with the first signs of a tube-sweat and hair windswept and flapping dramatically in the wind– just so everyone knows how busy and important you are…) Londoners seem to live by the motto: Life is a Catwalk. So it seems I must ditch my leggings-top combinations and revamp my wardrobe. Brogues, a trench coat, burgundy tights, a beret, weird, square, red sunglasses and a kilt are all essentials for my new look.

So just when I had lost all hope of ever making my mark on the London scene, I managed to find a small Italian cafe in which to hide myself. Admittedly I could barely even scrabble together enough money for a slice of bread, which raised the question of how I will ever be able to afford to live in this place. You will probably find me scrabbling through the dustbins for leftovers or tottering on street corners in an attempt to survive in a city where a loaf of bread costs about £15. Nonetheless after ten minutes in this delightful mini-Roma I was the proud owner of my first proper London friend, in the form of a wholesome Italian mamma waitress who could be described as something of a cross between the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Bella in Fireman Sam. Well, everyone has to start somewhere.

Hattie Hamilton

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6 Comments on this post.
  • Martin Garthwaite
    7 July 2010 at 17:31
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    hahaha, I like:) Living in london and travelling on the tube is very much an automatic, involuntary, thing like breather; you do it all the time without noticing.

    There is a really nice little Italian cafe at the LSE, it’s called Wrights Bar, check it out; the only trouble is the Italian granny is nuts and famous for being nuts. I like her a lot though

  • Nottingham Undergrad
    9 July 2010 at 06:39
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    You should try literally living in Burma for a while!

  • Kelly
    19 July 2010 at 03:15
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    Aaah I love London.

  • Sam
    9 August 2010 at 02:16
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    London commuting is fantastic. Gotta love it. Hope you remember to stand on the right, and walk on the left on the escalators on the tube!

  • Tom Clements
    18 August 2010 at 09:56
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    It’s funny how much I can relate to this despite having grown up in an orbital town on London’s outskirts. Everytime I commute into London by tube I feel like a bungling country bumpkin with seemingly no purpose for being there by virtue of the fact I don’t look either busy or withdrawn.

  • Kirsty
    18 August 2010 at 13:32
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    Loved reading this!

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