I hope that this early blog of mine, when posted, appears where it is meant to appear. The technicalities of blogging are still a bit of a challenge to me, but with some of the assistance which I am getting, things should improve sooner rather than later. Please bear with me!
Brilliant sunshine once more here in Johannesburg – so much easier to be sunnily chilly than blearily cold! For those who may not know, Jo’burg is situated on the Highveld plateau, approximately 6000 feet above sea level, and our winters are reportedly the best in the whole of South Africa and it is not as difficult to be cheerful when the weather is good rather than when it is overcast. We really only have two seasons here – winter and summer, and after the wonderful, much needed heavy rain over the past weekend, the summer heat has waned and it is a bit on the nippy side today! This was the first real rain of the season and was so badly needed. Everyone was delighted to see the plants in the garden being resurrected after 4 months of not a single drop of rain, but after two days it is always wonderful to see the sun again!
Whenever anyone mentions the U.K., the subject of weather raises its head. It’s always about the miserable faces of the darkly dressed commuters on the London underground that seems to have a lasting memory for people who have lived and worked there. One fails to realise that many of those commuters are not in fact English and do not even understand the language. Quite unnerving as a visitor to the U.K. and trying to find one’s way around London, when you jump onto the train just before it departs and then ask all and sundry if this is going to wherever you want to be, and all you get is dead silence! London has changed!
In the late 1960’s London was a different place altogether. As you arrived at Heathrow you were immediately aware of the cockney accents all around you from people working at the airport. Even if there were faces of different hues, everyone seemed to be a Londoner. Not so any more! One struggles to come across a true Londoner in the capital these days. From the moment one heads for the centre of London on the Heathrow express, it becomes apparent that the old London is no more, and is now inhabited by every possible nationality speaking their own version of English!
Whilst in London a few years ago I noticed that Oxford or Regents Street on a normal working day can be packed with people rushing by pulling their overnight bags or, in rare cases, their business bags, behind them. If it happens to be raining, the other hand will be wielding a brightly coloured brolly. It becomes a major feat to get to Hamleys toy shop whilst fighting for your life amongst this mayhem and trying to avoid being trampled to death or blinded by an umbrella’s spike. Dare to walk right on the edge of the pavement to avoid the rush of passers-by, and lo and behold you could find yourself having a London bus or a taxi practically mounting the curb right beside you – what a way to go!
Someone once told me that their late Grandmother had survived the Titanic, only to be killed years later by being run over by a London bus – makes one really wonder about fate! Must be a lesson to be learnt here somewhere? Stay home and forget about further travel maybe? This is certainly not an option with most of the people I know!
Another rather ironic situation in the present day London as compared to the swinging sixties is the fact that shop assistants are no longer local people. Italian restaurants have Polish waitresses, Hamleys have Chinese young people demonstrating all the toys, Selfridges seems to have no one whose English is good enough to assist you in finding the rest rooms and so it continues! Every once in a while you may see an elderly couple looking quite out of place in the centre of the shopping area obviously going about their day to day lives. They are easily spotted due to their shopping bag on wheels and their English peaches and cream complexions.
Being part of the E.U. has obviously had an impact on the changing face of London along with the influx of people who form part of the Commonwealth and therefore were able to settle in the U.K. Not only London, but throughout the U.K. things are very different to the post war years. Change is an inevitable part of life and some changes are for the better, but when a country loses its identity due to being overly accommodating, then one can sometimes become rather nostalgic for an England which no longer exists. However, the fish and chips are still delicious even though they are no longer wrapped in newspaper and come in a polystyrene container and playing conkers is considered a dangerous sport!
How different will the U.K. be after Brexit?