Just last month I made a last-minute trip to London, England to have tea with the Queen meet with our new registry, back-end partner. It was an important day of meetings to get the relationship heading in the right direction after an eventful migration from our previous backend provider (that is for another post).
This is not about that. This post is about London. Maybe it is seeing the Queen on our Canadian money, or our British parliamentary system, or similar social systems, or varying accents, but there is just something extremely comforting about being in London for me. I have had the privilege of covering the UK when I worked at Tucows Inc, requiring me to make frequent visits. We had clients all over the UK, so I would drive or take a train north to south or vice versa, to see all of our clients, and whenever I did I always managed to spend a little extra time in London. Why wouldn’t you, right? I’d say I have been there 20+ times and each one was better than the previous visit.
I am not one for taking many pictures so my experiences there are filed away in my noggin and I visit them whenever I want. These are both stills and moving pictures of the city. I have experienced the hustle of morning rush hour near Canary Wharf, happy hours in Notting Hill, dinners in Soho, curries from Brick Lane, being crammed in the Tube (which is much more comfortable than being crammed on a NYC subway), runs around Hyde park, visits to the royal residences, football matches, drinking beer from crafts, seen a full concert from my hotel room (the Killers in Hyde Park)…and I loved it all.
This time, something was different. There was a dark cloud, both literally and figuratively, hanging over this great city. This was a brief trip for me, just two nights. I decided to stay near Paddington Station so I can catch an early Heathrow Express train for my flight on my way back. My meetings were in London City centre which was one hour and twenty minutes on foot from my hotel, according to Google. I woke up too late for a run around Hyde Park but just early enough, if I walked fast enough, to trounce a straight shot across the city while sipping coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of the morning rush in London.
The weather was typical for a fall day in London, cloudy with intermittent precipitation, which felt more like I was at a party talking too close to a `spitter `with nowhere to escape, than it did rain. But this did not deter me from walking. Not here. Not in London.
As I embarked I found a Pret a Manger (they are everywhere in London) and grabbed a cappuccino for my stroll. Almost immediately, what stuck out to me was that everybody was dressed in black – black hats, coats, pants, skirts, boots, sneakers, scarfs if the had them. Nowadays you’d see colourful umbrellas, but eerily all the umbrellas were black too. It felt like I was in a movie, walking through a sea of people dressed in black, while I had on the only green coat. I thought to myself, ‘well, I guess black is in this fall,’ and left it at that.
But something else was strange. The people, normally lively and cheery, were much more subdued. Returning from previous trips, I often commented on how friendly Londoners are. But I didn’t get that warm feeling this time. Could it have been the weather? Maybe, but surely they are used to it by now since it has been this way for, well…thousands of years! Or maybe Chelsea lost last night? Or Arsenal, West Ham, Crystal Palace. Nope, Google said there were no matches. Hmmm.
Why weren’t people saying hello, or looking me in the eye? I passed hundreds, if not thousands of people on my walk and only one person said hello or even looked at me at all. He was a nice, what appeared to be homeless man, selling a local paper. His name was Bruce. I asked Bruce what was on his mind and he said, “what else? Damn Brexit.”
PM Boris Johnson previously exclaimed the UK will leave the EU by October 31st “do or die.” This was October 9th with yet another vote looming. This time under a new PM. British citizens had other things on their mind than being the jovial bunch they usually are. They had real life issues to contend with. Their future and the future of their country and families weighed heavily on them, and so who could blame them for not giving me the ol’ “Cheerio, Mate!”
But one thing for certain, Londoners are resilient and will bounce back stronger and better than ever regardless of the January 31st, 2020 Brexit outcome…and I already look forward to my next trip to see how it turns out.
P.S. I did the walk in 1 hour and 8 minutes flat….take that Google!