London Loops: Travelogue on London

London Loops: Travelogue on London

Hello Friends,

One of the patrons of Beautiful Times, PV Natarajan was on a long, really long vacation to London, recently (much to our envy). During his stay in London he has meticulously chronicled every bit of his experience, there. And we bring all that to you that to you in a three part series called London Loops. Read on and Know London…

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PART 1:

Weather:

  • London is known for its unpredictable English weather, hardly any sunlight, but at times it shines very bright.
  • There are times when the local newspapers are known to advise people to stay indoors providing suggestions to with stand the heat.
  • This is done because the sunlight rays are direct and sharp and so the impact is large.
  • Also, it rains intermittently

 Industry:

  • London is purely a financial services hub and no other industry is seen here.
  • The country as a whole is not in to normal manufacturing like steel, cement. etc.
  • They are in to high margin/high technology areas such as (defence equipment s/aeronautics).
  • And they are mainly exported which is why London is wealthy.
  • There is an acute short supply of domestic help here. Even if they are available they are scarce and costly.
  • The Minimum Wages Act is practiced and its strict implementation is the cause of them being costly.
  • An interesting incident in the words of PV Natarajan: “The vacuum cleaner stopped working but it was under warranty period. My son- in – law called the company and lodged a complaint. The company immediately sent a replacement without even sending someone to inspect/try to repair. Because sending someone for repairing will cost more than the replacement! And the old vacuum cleaner went to the dust bin!”

 Transport

  • Mostly there are dust free cleans roads.
  • The foot path is very broad and it is a pleasure to walk here.
  • When the vehicles meet a pedestrian waiting to cross the road, they halt and signal the pedestrian to cross.
  • In the central London area, cycles are given on rent! Taxis are also available here.
  • But in others areas, one needs to pre book call taxis and there are no autos to be seen.
  • Monthly pass covering both Tube and Bus ranges from 120£ to 300£, depending on the distance.
  • Public transport is good. Bus and Tube rail dominate the scene.
  • Tube rail is available both underground and above ground in some stretches.
  • Cycle rickshaws plies in central London area! Mainly for fun rides.
  • There are around 10 metro routes in London and Tube rail plies in these routes.
  • The Tube takes one right inside the Heathrow Airport terminals.
  • In city buses there is a flat rate (£1.30) irrespective of distance travelled and one can pay by debit card or travel card (Oyster) issued by London transport authority. Cash acceptance has been discontinued.
  • There are no conductors in buses. The swiping machine and the entrance are placed near the driver. So, the driver monitors and flat rate makes it easier to travel.
  • The travel card is common for tube, overground, bus, national rail, waterways within Zone 1 to Zone 6 i.e. London city limits.
  • In tube rail there is peak and off- peak rates. Off- peak rates are between 9.30 am & 4.30 pm.
  • Outstations are connected by national rail system and hence here there is competition as there are 3/4 players operating.
  • There is also a fast rail service provided by Virgin Rail which travels at a speed of 130 miles per hour.

PART 2:

Infrastructure

  • Gas: Cooking gas is through pipe lines. The entire city is piped with multiple private providers.
  • Power: There are multiple providers providing undisrupted power supply. It is drawn from the main source – Nuclear Energy.
  • Food: The vegetables, fruits and milk are found to be of very good quality. Sample prices given below:
  • Banana: 0.18 per piece
  • Yogurt one kg: 1.00
  • Carrots:1kg : 0.80
  • Ladies finger 250grms: 1.00
  • Fruit sellers, petty shops on the pedestrian platforms are found in central London.
  • Water: It is metered and privatized and is drawn from the River Thames. As the climate is benign and with intermittent rains in all seasons, there is no water shortage.
  • London Corporation is run on borough basis (administrative units) and London has 9 boroughs.
  • Each borough has its own efficiency level; hence, some of the zones are maintained better. These boroughs take care of the schools, garbage collection, libraries, road maintenance and street lights.
  • Interestingly, the Borough library is free for its residents. Books can be taken home for reading. Surprisingly even Tamil (one of the languages of India) language books were found in the local library.
  • The roads are cleaned with something like a huge vacuum cleaner operated from a small van. Dust level is very less, and the intermittent rains, wash away the dust on a day to day basis. People don’t litter, so cleaning is a lot easier.
  • Post Office: The Royal Mail is popular and has three types of mail viz: Ordinary, Registered and First Class.
  • Courier services are not prevalent and people patronize Post Offices.
  • Benches are provided in the foot path, on the roads, for relaxation, say one in every one mile.
  • On foot paths, can you believe this? Public telephones are maintained, say one in every mile! Some of these booths are also Wi-Fi enabled.

Lifestyle:

  • There are two daily newspapers, free of cost. They can be picked up at any Tube station. There is no system of home delivery for even the paid newspapers such as the Guardian.
  • As per a recent study, due to a very high cost of living, one in 11 Britishers end up with less than 10£ PM savings after meeting their bills.
  • Overall London is a costly city as rental and travel costs are very high.
  • A graduate job starting salary: 1800 to 2000 £PM.
  • Non-graduate: 800 to 1000 £ PM (approx. for an idea) Yearly rise is hardly 5%, due to the present economic slowdown. Inflation rate is hardly 1.5%.
  • People are proud of their heritage and they showcase it and monetize it well.
  • Everywhere there is a fee for entrance, but there is fee concession for seniors and students.
  • Pubs: There are English pubs everywhere offering food, drinks and play. It is basically a common place where the neighborhood can meet and discuss issues.
  • Pubs are also close to office locations. The general trend is that socializing starts from Thursday evenings.
  • The city is cosmopolitan with Europeans, Asians and Africans. Nobody gives a strange look at you when ethnic clothes are worn.
  • Sri Lankan Tamils: A phenomenon. They are not highly educated/ professionals. They came in the 80s as refugees or as low end service providers but they are very enterprising. They are found everywhere – super markets, banks, hospitals, as owners running small outfits like saloons, tailoring and small shops. Despite their humble beginning, they have contributed much to the rich cultural heritage of London.
  • Most of the temples in London (around 10) are constructed and managed by them.
  • Tea & Coffee: Here is it better to take coffee than tea as the British tea is very light. The coffee is good with Starbucks, Nero and Mocha Coffee available.
  • Betting: Of course, it is legal here (18yrs+) and the Betting centres are also many. It is calm and quiet and is handled in a matured way.
  • Lottery: Machines are available in all retail shops like TESCO. Bingo and Lottery is very popular here among retired people as the tickets are cheap but pay outs are big.
  • Attitude: The Britishers love solitude and mingle only with their select closed circle. Soft spoken, they follow etiquette at every place. Not very open to ideas, they are pretty conservative, stickler for rules and obey the law.
  • No one really slogs here in London. Laissez faire is the mood.

PART 3:

Real Estate

  • The houses are largely 1+1 structures with sloping tiled roofs.
  • Rental for a two bed flat is minimum 1200£PM onwards. Single bed -1000£.
  • The apartment rent includes carpet, kitchenette, bed, living room furniture, room heaters, geysers everything is provided.
  • Gas and Electricity charges for a two bedded 4 member family: 200 £PM.
  • Apartment owners pay the common maintenance and tenants pay the municipal taxes!
  • There is a Real estate boom in London as prices at its peak.
  • Anyone can buy a property here, wealthy Asians from India/Middle East are purchasing lavishly.
  • As a social net, UK Govt. is providing a margin of 20% free for unhoused sections, so that they can raise the balance 80% against mortgage and own a house.
  • London is not a coastal city. But Thames river has sufficient depth for even mid-sized ships to sail into the city. Hence, the city has a port.
  • The London Bridge was the only bridge across the river Thames during the early days and had fallen down several times only to be re built.
  • However, now there are many bridges across the River Thames.
  • Waterloo: The place was where Napoleon was defeated is very much in the heart of London and there is a large tube/main line train station also by that name in that location. The station also has sculptures depicting the great defeat.

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Tourism (Popular Spots inside London)

Central London is best discovered by walk

Thames River cruise: This can be done with having lunch or tea on board, or just the cruise as well. There is a guide who explains all about the sights through the journey. The central London land marks can be seen very closely from the boat, the upper deck provides an excellent view. The cruise duration lasts about 45 minutes, but of course there are different cruise packages that one can choose from.

Globe Theatre: Theatre in London has a good patronage. The Globe Theatre in Central London hosts even today Shakespeare’s plays that were enacted during his time. That is, costumes of that period and without mike or audio system. It is an open air theatre and the actors deliver the dialogues loudly.

Windsor Castle: This sprawling castle is situated near London and hosts the existing royals.

Tower Bridge: Opens and closes for ship movement in the River Thames

Warner Bros studio which is where the Harry Potter film was shot

The Famous Big Ben (Clock tower) is located in the parliament complex, which is in central London

London itself is below sea level. The lowest point is Westminster tube station, which is 100 feet below sea level (this tube station is near parliament complex/Big Ben etc. very near Thames) the highest point is a tall building called Shard, again on the shores of the River Thames. It is 1004 ft. tall 87 storied building that was inaugurated in 2012. This is the tallest structure in the entire Europe, even taller than Eiffel Tower.

Then there is the Parliament House, Buckingham Palace, Charles Dickens Memorial, Madam Tussads- Wax Models, National Art Gallery (with excellent paintings) and over half a dozen museums.

Tourism (Popular Spots outside London, one day trips)

Stratford Upon Avon: Shakespeare’s birth place is about 120 miles from London. The house where Shakespeare lived/his cemetery/ his daughter’s place/wife’s house all of them are preserved and exhibited. The river Avon also flows by which served as an inspiration for several of his works.

Dover Port: This is a sea port town with ferry services available from the port to France. Here the beach is not of sand but of pebbles.

Canterbury: The town which hosts the Archbishop and the Church of England. This is a protestant church which separated from Roman Catholics in the 12th Century.

Oxford & Cotswolds: A beautiful university town with ancient buildings everywhere has several independent colleges. Christ Church college tour is a must as the popular movie Harry potter scenes was shot there. Cotswolds towns afford a picturesque drive from near Oxford where one can see English country side and habitat side by side.

PS: Pictures sourced from the Internet.

 

Cheers

Bhuvana Rajaram

Bhuvanarajaram9@gmail.com

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