2012… Years of planning coming to fruition. Hotels will be full, airbeds inflated, sofas occupied. London, we suggest, is going to have more non-Londoners in it than at any point in its history. Here are five simple rules to enjoy the capital’s summer under siege.
1. Know your backstreets
London is an organically grown city that expresses its 2,000 years of history through the joyfully surprising street plan (or, a tangled knot of illogical horror, depending on your view). One consequence of this is that the few streets that do make any sort of logical sense, and worse still those that are tourist attractions in their own right, entice the tourists like a late August picnic attracts wasps. The flip side is that you can be almost certain that parallel(ish) to your desired route there is another road that’ll be almost deserted. We’re not New Yorkers, there is no shame for a Londoner of two or twenty years standing using the A-Z (or, more likely, Google maps) in order to find a better route, so crack out the map, learn some alternative routes and stay away. Oh, and check out our old series on London’s alleyways for a few handy shortcuts.
2. Go places that frighten them
Try to spend as much of the summer as possible in places with an undeserved reputation for street crime and anti-social behaviour. Best of all are places where these reputations recently had merit, but for various reasons has become outdated. Murder mile in Clapton is an excellent choice — you can pop by Chatsworth Market for some hummus and gluten-free breads confident that there will probably be no tourists for several (murder-free) miles. The Elephant and Castle has a fearsome reputation, so why not pop down and try out some of the city’s best Latin American food, or explore an abandoned council estate? Brixton also hangs on to a bit of fear factor (even with the H&M), so the awesome Village Market should be pretty much 100% Londoner all summer.
3. Visit/live in South London
This could be rolled into rule two in some respects, but it’s not so much a question of fear as ignorance that keeps SE and some of SW clear. Most of south London (except some hot spots) remains pretty much untouched by our international visitors, especially if you keep away from the tube stations. Sawfenden offers many delights that seem impossible to reach, thanks to South Eastern Trains, but really it’s not so hard. Take advantage by swapping more accessible haunts for their transpontine equivalent — leave Serpentine lido to the crowds, and go to Brockwell Park instead. Fancy a country house? Forget Kenwood (it’s not open anyway) and give Eltham Palace a try.
One important caveat — this does not include Greenwich and Borough Market, which are best avoided until October/forever.
4. Amaze and delight with the squirrel leg climb trick
If you do find yourself in St James Park (and a crimson suited Gamesmaker doesn’t call the police) then you’re going to have to deal with the presence of some of the highest concentrations of people taking photos of ducks in the known world. London’s squirrels (like so many things) are the best squirrels there are — and they are your ally to make this experience win win. Pretty much every squirrel in St James can be convinced to climb your leg by cupping your hand (as if there was food in it) holding it at knee height and clicking your tongue a few times. Australians (who don’t have squirrels) and our Asian visitors will be stunned by your supernatural power over animal kind. You can then escape as they try and replicate your performance with hilarious consequences. (Tip: don’t do this if you’re wearing a skirt or shorts.)
5. Confound their expectations
The last rule flips all this on its head — the best way to deal with London’s coming onslaught might just be to smile, slow down, relax and be helpful — we’re hosting an awesome party and it’d be amazing if everyone had a great time. If you see a chance to make that happen, go for it. Take their picture, give them directions, tell them nicely to stand on the right — there’s a chance it might feel good…