Thursday 17 August 2006

Is this London?

I’m leaving on the slow train

With the new developments in the mind games that have been the real war on terror, travelling by air to London is completely out of the question. If you have to arrive at the airport a day before you depart and might only be able to have your hair shirt as hand luggage, why bother?

The other alternatives are road, sea and train – I took the latter which involves travel through Brussels and then the Eurostar from Brussels to London, at least you can carry whatever you want before some nut thinks that is another little scare in the making.

All signs lead nowhere

So, I arrived in London this afternoon and missed something I usually see in stations in Berlin and Paris, good signs for locations above ground and local maps on advertisement type billboards. Nothing of the sort, I need to get my A-to-Z out to find my bearings, hopefully, the street names appear where they should.

Before I surfaced, I had to get a London Underground travelcard (it used to be mainly paper-based with a magnetic strip – shows how long I’ve been away from London), it is now known as the Oyster card – a nondescript credit card sized plastic thingy that does not show any obvious sign that it is a 7-day travelcard for all zones.

Then to the hotel where I should had a deal that extended my entire stay, but with two days left, the cost is too outrageous to contemplate – this city is not paved in gold but they pay diamond prices for things that glitter like dark wood.

The spectre of crimes recent

So, I had a rather long walk to one of my old haunts and could not help but notice two crime scene notices seeking information for events that happened in the last few weeks. One victim was shot and another looked like a racial attack by a mob, all within a 5-minute stroll. Makes me weary of what is happening in London.

Then, somehow I ended up at Elephant and Castle; I remember my cousin once saying important landmarks in London are named after places in the biggest city in Nigeria – Ibadan. He gave a few examples like – Ìtá aperin (translates as the Elephant Square or Elephant and castle in this case), then Eléyelé (translates as the pigeon’s keeper or Trafalgar Square, if you like).

The maze of castle with no elephants

Anyway, I had to get a bus to my hotel, the signs indicated I need to look for bus stop C which was on the other end of that area, I got there and found that the maps did not correlate with the realities I could see, having traversed tunnels till my orientation is as bad as compass doing 10 revolutions per second, I threw up my hands in absolute despair and incredulity that anyone could make sense of those location maps.

A lady who seemed to know what my frustration was and the nonsense that masquerades as help for tourists and non-locals alike then gave directions which had me walking off in another direction, then finally I found the stop, only to see the that location map at the stop should have been the same all through.

It is strange because the map of the London Underground is considered a work of art, a masterpiece of engineering drawing and it is the standard by which other city maps are drawn; that these ideas have not converted to locations maps for bus stops is unfortunate.

London after six years of absence – not too sure – I give my views in a week.

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