It’s always exciting for me (I should get out more) to have a different commute for a change. Today I had to get to South Kensington for a conference which meant a walk along the river and across the bridge to Westminster and a short hop westwards on the tube. I was feeling rather pleased with the prospect – at least until I got to Westminster and found the station staff there gleefully slapping ‘Part Suspended’ and ‘Severe Delay’ signs up against all available lines. Fortunately I’d left plenty of time and after a very crowded few stops and the scary sight of about four million people standing on the platform at Victoria (what happens if someone shouts fire?) things eased up and I got a seat and everything.
On the way back over Westminster Bridge with Big Ben bonging gently in the background, I realised there was another down side to the journey. It’s a great view, as I believe Wordsworth may have mentioned, and they’ve helpfully blocked off one side of the bridge so that everyone – joggers, commuters, strollers, poetry lovers and most importantly tourists – is funnelled onto the other. Where the tourists promptly block everybody by attempting to photograph each other in front of said view. One chap this evening was going for a particularly arty shot of his girlfriend* by crouching down low and getting plenty of space between his camera and her. A whole pavement’s worth of space, in fact. Which left everyone else with the choice of waiting for him to finish or inadvertently adding themselves to his composition. Obviously you don’t want to ruin someone’s photograph, but on the other hand, neither do you want to stand around while he fiddles with f-stops so you end up doing a sort of apologetic ducking motion as you pass through, usually at the exact moment the shutter goes. Some tourists’ photo albums must be full of apparently bowing locals, with their other halves gurning away in the background.
I think they need to take a leaf out of the road planners’ book and give people their own lanes, particularly in central London. Photography, strolling and poetry appreciation on one side, walking on the other. Joggers may need a lane of their own, especially the kind that run three abreast and step aside for nobody. That may not leave much room for the cars, of course … but I think I can live with that.
* not that kind of arty, this is a family blog