Sunday, February 5, 2012

Small changes

Schlepping around London catching up with friends, shopping, and just generally living London life, I find it much improved, since I last lived here in 2009. Back then I already thought it was practically perfect in every way, so these small tweaks and minor enhancements are lovely cherries on the top of my London cake.

The most obvious improvements are probably pretty well documented. Like the Boris bikes, and all the new wheelchair access points to the Tube. Also much better is the Overland - for decades a bit of secret between those North of the river who need to cut across East to West. I have always used it to get from Gospel Oak to see friends in Islington, Hackney and Chiswick. Instead of those dirty, old, sardine tin-style carriages, the trains are now big, frequent, and all shiny and clean.

The wider pavement at Oxford Circus, which used to be a horrible pinch point, is brilliant. And it looks like that horrible busy, jostling narrow stretch of pavement outside the old Astoria will be much improved when it is revealed as a gorgeous new 'plaza'. Though I suppose it's a shame the Astoria had to go, but I assume GAY has moved on somewhere bigger and better. I saw Madder Rose there when I was about 19 and can still remember the smell of stale vomit and those black stick carpets.
I probably should be sad it's gone. But I'm not really.

And I'm sure the service is better than it used to be. I was worried I'd miss American-style service in shops. I'm thinking of that classic British shop girl welcome, where they glance up as you enter the shop and then immediately resume texting or playing Angry Birds. But on the Chiswick High Road, and on Oxford Street, I have been greeted with eye contact, hellos and offers of help.

Of all the improvements I've noticed so far, my favourite is the least noticeable.

It's the dropping of the stupid highlighted 'ON' on all those Mayor of London-sponsored communications with LONDON on them. All the tube maps seem now to have restored the name LONDON to its natural state. I think this is a very good thing. (For more on London's logos, read this fascinating blog.)

Aaah, that's better

It's the little things that make the difference, I guess.

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