Friday, February 09, 2007

London the world's No. 1 city? Snow way!

My friend Pete, a transplanted New Yorker now in London (by way of Moscow and East Africa), recently launched into a 20-minute why-London-is-the-ascendant-capital-of-the-world speech with me recently. The upshot is this: NY's hey-day is over; London, meanwhile, has been investing heavily in transport infrastructure; the city has successfully implemented a roadway congestion charge; the economy and housing market are humming; it won the 2012 Summer Olympics bid, which could goose the economy further, and the Victorian era pub closing times have been repealed (yet I still see scant evidence one can have a leisurely pint after 11 p.m.)

As the owner of a London flat, Pete is hardly credible. Plus, he's a nut. And a Yankees fan to boot. His argument is shot to pieces when you bring up two words: London Underground. The London subway system is extortionately pricey, vital links are nearly always shut on weekends for engineering works and try getting from Notting Hill at midnight to anywhere in North London on the damn thing. It just doesn't happen. That's Exhibit A. Exhibit B is this: a heavy snowfall today has grounded the city, and much of the country, to a dead stop. How much snow?, you no doubt are wondering. 4 inches! Yep, we're talking ankle high. In addition to the road and rail chaos this winter "blast" caused, several Underground lines are shut, which prompts the old joke: "Just how much snow falls under ground, anyhow?"

Pete, I wasn't buying your argument then. Not buying it now, I say after we just emerged here in Rome from a 2-day strike by gas station attendees. No petrol for anybody, which of course, has meant a complete suspension of mail service. I wonder where that puts Rome on the global ranking?


Anonymous said...

ok Bernie -

two comments

1. The Oyster card! Have you not tried it on one of your visits to London? Why pay £4 when you can buy an Oyster card and pay £2? It's revolutionized London transport. as for the snow? I have no come-back. London falls apart when it snows, rains, the wrong kind of rain falls, leaves blow gently, etc.

2. One of the best things about London is that pubs close at 11pm! Who wants to be out on the lash late at night when you could have a cup of tea in front of the fire (or telly) by midnight!

Bernhard Warner said...


There you have it. Common etiquette says it is tea after, never before, your lager.

Grazie, anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The Oyster has "revolutionized" London transport?!? Get real, anonymous. Air conditioning the trains in summer; getting rid of the smelly upholstery; fixing the always-broken escalators; making the "train coming in 4 minutes" signs bear some resemblance to the human clock; eliminating the fact that "signal failures" seem to regularly occur the morning after a big football match....has Oyster changed any of that?

Bernhard Warner said...

Thank you for the post, Mayor Ken.