Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

If it’s Tourist Season, does that mean we can shoot them?

Posted by MikeCooper on April 11, 2009

Good Friday in Old London Town. Everyone is excited about the prospect of the first Long Weekend of the year (for in the UK, both Friday and Monday are public – or “Bank” – holidays), and the weather, having given us tantalising glimmers of hope in the previous week, is predictably dour and horrible.

Something else happens on Good Friday though, and it seems to happen with just as much predictability as the Easter weather: tourists descend on London in droves of biblical proportions. London’s never without its visitors, of course, and the comparitively weak Pound has swelled their numbers in no small measure of late, but yesterday morning it was clear that the annual Easter influx had arrived. Though workers were scarce, the streets around Charing Cross and Trafalgar square were awash with what seemed like about a million people (most of them Spanish, if the array of weatherproof guide books was anything to go by), and a sizeable chunk of them trying to cram onto the “Heritage” Routemaster bus opposite the station. Being a local, and hence wise to the tricks, I darted around the rear to the equally serviceable (though touristically inferior) Standard Red Bus, that would carry me to the other end of the Strand and to the BBC at Bush House.

I sat myself down, smugly, on the empty bus and waited for it to pull out, but my plan was thwarted, as the overspill from the Routemaster in front piled onto my bus – very slowly. When we eventually got going, there were no seats left on either deck, and it was standing room only for several of the map-clutching Spaniards.

Now, in the Current Economic Climate (yawn, as I remind you once again that I’m not doing the recession) I realise that it can only be a Good Thing that our capital’s streets are thronged with foreigners. But here’s the rub: they don’t half get on my nerves. Yes, I realise that living at the pace of a big city has made me impatient, intolerant and indeed impervious to the needs of my fellow man, but I’m not alone in this. Otherwise the Facebook Group called “I Want To Punch Slow Walking People In The Back Of The Head” wouldn’t have 1,275,319 members at time of writing, now would it?

Maybe it’s just my perverse way of thinking, but as I tutted, muttered expletives and shouted (sotto voce, of course) “Get out of my way!” for the umpteenth time on my way through Covent Garden a little later in the morning, it struck me that perhaps there was a global conspiracy at work. Perhaps all of those foreign guidebooks contain a section called “Instructions for Tourists on the Streets of London”, written in the local tongue. If so, it seems to me that the advice would probably read something like this…

  1. The British are sociable and, as a nation, love walking. Show your appreciation of this custom by always walking at least two abreast on pavements (sidewalks). Hold hands if possible, and on narrower pavements four or five people in a row is desirable.
  2. London’s street layout can be confusing. Make sure you stop dead the instant you become unsure of your position, then spread your arms and and raise your map to eye height to check. The people walking behind you will understand.
  3. On the Underground, the best place to stand while waiting for a train is directly in front of the entrance (doubly so for large groups). Moving down the platform just wastes everyone’s time.
  4. Bag thieves and pickpockets are everywhere, so don’t let your luggage out of your sight. On escalators, and especially in Tube stations, place your bag to the right of you and then stand next to it. This occupies the full width of the escalator and ensures that no one can make off with your belongings.
  5. Likewise, so as not to encourage pickpockets on the Underground, don’t get your ticket for the barrier out until the very last minute. Feigning surprise at the need to present your ticket as you block the gate is positively encouraged.
  6. ..etc

As I dreamed up this list, I began to wonder if it was just me that had these kind of thoughts. Fortunately, asking the question “If it’s Tourist Season, does that mean we can shoot them?” on my Twitter stream, elicited some reassuring responses, among them::

“Yes, we can. Especially the slow walkers…” (@bitful)

“I’m up for a tourist shoot!” (@pyykko)

and

“No its a trap and release policy, I tend to release them around Kensington.” (@mosesjones)

Thank heavens I’m not the only one. And, I might add, both @bitul and @pyykko are both non-Brits who’ve adopted London as their home. Which is, it seems, where non-charity begins – on a holiday weekend, at least.

If you can think of any more advice for travellers then go on and fill my Comments box. You know you want to…

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One Response to “If it’s Tourist Season, does that mean we can shoot them?”

  1. Stefania Lintonbon said

    Believe it or not, as another non-Brit who’s adopted London as her home, I’m just as bad as you. While I’m trying to make my way down Oxford Street, I think…”move, move, you’re in the way!Poking around like you’ve got all day [which they probably do!]” Ha, ha! 😀

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