Ten Things London Can Do Without In 2010


1. More tapas bars
It was bad enough when they were only Spanish, offering the cuisine that consists of eggs, ham or potatoes on little plates, but now ‘tapas’ is being applied to everything. Nearby we have Mexican, Indian and Italian tapas. I’m waiting for Dim Sum to be rebranded as Chinese tapas.

2. ‘The Mousetrap’. Maybe half a century ago it was considered exciting theatre, but now it’s an elephant’s acting graveyard attended by puzzled Chinese tourists, and it’s blocking up an attractive theatre none of us will ever see inside, because we already know the detective did it. Oh, don’t pretend you didn’t know. Close it down and put something new on. And let’s get rid of circus theatre while we’re at it. If I want to see a bunch of kids in overalls banging dustbin lids I’ll go and watch the rubbish being collected, and I won’t have to pay £50 a ticket.

3. 3D Movies. No matter how seriously they want us to take them, it always comes down to someone waving a stick in your face.

4. Crowdsourcing. Camera crews study film and photography in order to understand how to shoot scenes in a professional manner. So why does the BBC insist on showing us wobbly footage of dogs and snowmen shot on viewers’ mobile phones?

5. Infantilism. Grown-ups are reading children’s supernatural fantasies. Adults are playing computer games. It wasn’t always like this; Picasso surpassed his father’s painting techniques before he was thirteen. Mozart played minuets at the age of four. But now even museum exhibitions seem aimed at children with ADD. Wouldn’t it be nice to go to a museum and read the related material without the last line reading ‘Why do you think slavery was wrong?’ or ‘Can you see the penguin?’

6. The Walkie Talkie. London’s skyline has some wonderful new buildings including the much-loved Gherkin, but the Walkie Talkie is as attractive as a detached prosthetic foot. One of the newest towers planned for the city hasn’t even been given a nickname by the public, it’s that boring.

7. Corporate tents in public parks. Our green spaces are famously referred to as the lungs of London – so why do tents full of twerps in suits selling mobile phones spring up in them every summer?

8. Bendy buses. The Mayor promised to get rid of them (that was about the only plank of his election platform) but they’re still here, and still placing cyclists at risk.

9. Signs and Instructions. There are over a dozen poles announcing things in my street. One is a huge sign explaining where Barnesbury is, for God’s sake. It’s a tiny residential area and no-one even needs to go there. It’s now impossible to read a book on the tube because you get simultaneous announcements both inside and outside the carriages, some recorded, some live. Enough! We’re not children, we have eyes and tongues, and when they fail us, Satnavs and GPS systems.

10. Restaurant reviewers who spend most of their time writing about their personal lives instead of talking about food. Yes, Giles Coren, you and the dreadful AA Gill, who disparagingly refers to his companion as ‘The Blonde’, both seem unable to stick to the brief. Newsprint is at a premium, book pages are always being cut – if you can’t find enough to write about after visiting a restaurant there are others who could use the space.

18 comments on “Ten Things London Can Do Without In 2010”

  1. Gryphon Jackson says:

    My dear, my addiction here, is here to stay.

  2. Stephen Groves says:

    Hi Chris,
    I would like to add to your list the people who walk around london wearing MP3 or IPODS …. etc, in self imposed isolation oblivious to their surroundings,dangers and other londoners.

    Fuck ! Iv’e started to sound like a grumpy old git.

    all best

  3. Steve says:

    The London Stork Walk.
    At least that’s what I call it. Never seen anything quite like it anywhere else. Back straight, but bent at an angle with nose nearly pointing directly at pavement, and in this position walking stiff-legged and faster than anyone anywhere could possibly need to walk. These people must have some sort of radar, because they miraculously avoid colliding with each other or anyone else even though they’re not actually looking where they’re going.

  4. Steve says:

    Oh, and I liked The Mouse Trap. So sue me.

  5. Terenzio says:

    Started to sound like? You’re already there deary.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    We have announcements on our Skytrain and now on our buses, too. They announce the upcoming stop and are there for the visually impaired and those unfamiliar with the area. The introductory tone on the buses is a streetcar bell (umm,tram?) to separate it from the tone indicating “someone’s already requested this stop so stop pulling the cord!”
    And I haven’t seen the Mousetrap yet, but I agree about the corporate tents for cell phones. No matter whether it’s tents or “temporary”, “movable” kiosks in malls.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Oh and by “circus theatre” do you mean Cirque du Soleil or Stomp? The former started in Canada so I feel a little defensive, although it seems to be franchising itself now. Stomp is a lot of loud rhythmic fun. In a free and open society people should be able to choose the type of entertainment…. Is the cold, snow, etc. getting to you, Chris?

  8. admin says:

    Until a few years ago London’s theatreland constantly showcased new authors and plays, but now over three quarters of all productions are over five years old. This stagnation keeps out innovation – luckily, fringe theatre is alive and well!

  9. martin says:

    I think London needs more independent bookstores

  10. I.A.M. says:

    London can be best served by a reduction of chain cafés. Especially irritating is the probability that some nice pub or lunch counter was shoved out to put the corporate café in its location. Bah!

    And construction! Lord-a-mercy! What sort of world centre decides to tear-up its roads and dig around in areas that already have a warren of tunnels down there?! Especially when I’m visiting! Disgraceful! Sort that before late-March, wot?

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Okay nameless at 12:16 pm on Jan. 8th – who are you and what did you say? All I get is a blank. Am I not getting Chris’ comments?

  12. Steve says:

    I do NOT understand why there’s a Starbucks on every corner in London. In most of America, it’s difficult to find real cappuccino, real lattes, real espresso. But in most European (yes, I do get that the UK isn’t really “Europe”)cities, you can find real coffee shops just about anywhere. It was literally startling to me on our first trip over there to see Starbucks at all. So London could easily do without Starbucks, IMHO.

  13. Ken says:

    Too late on the Chinese tapas thing…

    OQO in Islington (how surprising is the location?) branded their dim sum as chinese tapas.

  14. Alan says:

    Railings along the Thames just because a drunk drowned a few years ago. People used to sit and dangle their feet in summer, now they have provided a convenient perch for pigeons and their copious by-products.

    I agree about the chains as well. Kingston is pretty tiny – but we have two Starbucks, two Mickey D’s and two Subways. And uncounted fried rat joints. Oh and one book shop.


  15. Rob says:

    I may be in the minority (not the first time!) but I think London can do without Crossrail, in particular the demolition it entails. I quite liked the shabby intersection of Oxford St and TCR just as it was, I like the down at heel feel of TCR station and I liked the fountain outside Centrepoint and I liked the Astoria and don’t get me started on Borough…

  16. Helen Martin says:

    During our Bookcrossing meetup last night we discussed “10 things…” and the railings along the Thames were condemned, although the idea of dangling feet into that river was viewed with concern, porpoises and salmon notwithstanding. Impalement was a subject that came up, since “everyone” knows that whenever there are crowds in London someone is impaled on the arrowhead-like tops on much of the fencing in the city. Our English member added that “those arrowheads will go in but they don’t come out very well.”
    Further to the cellphone problem, one of the group was at a funeral recently where the granddaughter of the deceased got up to speak and while she was at the mike her cellphone rang.
    There was a feeling that cellphone use during movies here in “the colonies” is becoming less due to firm instructions from staff prior to screenings.

  17. it is really exciting to watch 3d movies. i hope that there would be 3d sexy movies too.`”~

  18. 3d movies are so cool, i just wish that we could watch 3d movies on TV,”*

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