City life? Get me out of here

The sea of poppies installed at the Tower of London
The sea of poppies installed at the Tower of London

It is all part of my routine, taking Monty out for his daily exercise. Quite where we go varies considerably, depending on how busy I am, time of day, work commitments etc etc and of course, the state of the weather.

Obviously, Wifey comes along if we are having a day out, but generally speaking, apart from Monty, I am alone.

Now, dogs make for great companions, happy to share in whatever adventures the day brings, especially if this involves hours of walking, mud to blunder through, sticks to chase, smells to investigate and water to splash about in.

If I pop into a pub for a quick pint, Monty is happy just to be there, sitting quietly under the table, though he is always optimistically on the look out for the odd morsel that may come his way. A good companion, but frankly not a great conversationalist.

This is rarely a problem, however, because it is a rare event indeed that people you meet on mountain tops, gateways, or just walking the other way, do not at least exchange a nod, a greeting or even a quick fire remark on, say, the weather.

In the quietest of places, you may be alone, but rarely lonely.

I think it was in a Brian Ferry song, when loneliness was described as “a crowded room”. I think I know what he meant.

I never feel loneliness, but whereas, when you meet a stranger on some empty moorland, albeit briefly you become the centre of their attention, in a crowd you are anonymous and unnoticed. It is a lonely place.

Last Friday, we popped down to London to deliver a car full of stuff to our daughter who lives in Clapham.

I say ‘popped down’, but the drive took a full seven hours as congested motorways and roads made for a stressful journey.

On the Saturday and Sunday we took in some of the sights, notably the poppies at the Tower and the bustling Borough Market.

Everywhere was packed, as our visit coincided with the half-term holiday.

But while there were people everywhere, there is no social exchange. While in New York, ‘Crocodile Dundee’ on a crowded street for the first time is overwhelmed by sheer numbers as his “G’day!” greeting is repeatedly ignored by the teeming millions.

Standing on an escalator in a crowd descending into the earth to take a tube, before staring at some unspeaking stranger’s armpit for 20 minutes is not for me. Everyone retreats into the cocoon of their book, newspaper or nowadays their iPhone, shutting out all those around them. It is a lonely place.

Unlike me, our daughter loves the buzz of the city. She sees glamour, sparkle and excitement in the bright lights.

Undoubtedly, London is a fine city, a worthy capital for any Englishman to be proud of.

There is history, pageantry, high culture, fine dining and iconic buildings, old and new at almost every turn.

But it is also a place of grime, squalor and noise. An indefatigable machine that never sleeps.

Impressive yes, world class yes, and certainly well worth a visit, but personally I can’t wait to get out of the place and head for home!