Some people believe that the universe is ruled by balance – that there’s a sort of equilibrium to everything which keeps the world in order. Ying and yang, and all that. It’s an interesting philosophy, for sure, and one that seems all the more convincing after you’ve spent more than a little time in London. The first half of that balance – between the good and the bad – belongs to the heroes; and in London, these are the everyday people who make our city that much nicer to live in, such as:
1. Seat giver-uppers
In a perfect world, these kindliest of folks – who give up their seats to the pregnant, elderly or disabled on the tube or bus – wouldn’t need to be put on this list, because everyone would do it. After all, it’s just common decency. But then again, if this were a perfect world we could probably just teleport everywhere, and it’d be free to do so, and scotch eggs would be a breakfast food. Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world, so to you out there who do sacrifice your seat when the time is right: we salute you.
2. 24-hour corner shop workers
It’s 5am, and you’re stumbling home after the sort of night out that would have put Keith Richards in a light coma. The streets are deserted. Home itself is still a 15-minute walk away. Where will you go to get that one last beer, or tomorrow’s hangover breakfast, or a Kinder Egg for some reason? Easy: you’ll go to the corner shop. The one that’s always open. The one that’s always there for you. The one that has rescued you so many times. Next time this is you, thank that poor soul manning the counter – they were up before dawn and they’re stone cold sober, and who knows what you’d do without them?
3. Street artists
They’re like the anti-litterers – instead of rubbish, they fill the streets with colour. Few neighbourhoods in London are without at least a handful of truly wonderful pieces of street art, and some – South Bank, Brick Lane, Bethnal Green, Brixton, Turnpike Lane, those sorts of places – are positively covered in it. Absolute props to the immensely talented artists who make it happen – most of them are talented enough to be making real money with their art, and they’re giving it to London. For free.
Around 30 million tourists visit London every year. Some of them are going to get lost, and being lost in a foreign city can be terrifying – especially if there’s a language barrier. Smartphones do mean that it’s a rarer occurrence than it once was, sure, but sometimes the easiest thing to do is just ask somebody how to get somewhere. Helping that tourist out is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also a pretty nifty way of dispelling that nasty (and inaccurate) image people often have of Londoners as cold and uncaring.
5. Tube drivers and station announcers who put a little pizzazz into their announcements
It doesn’t matter whether they’re sprucing up what they say (throwing in a 'have a really great morning, everyone', for example) or how they say it (trust us, Santa impressions at Christmas do happen) – the point is that these champions, every morning, inspire a great deal of positivity in a huge number of people – many who, at 8am, sorely need it.
6. People who help with buggies at stations
Now this is true generosity – these people not only take time out of their day to help parents carry their buggies, prams and pushchairs down the stairs at the stations without step-free access, but they also break the unwritten ‘no talking, no eye contact, no worries’ rule that seems to exist on London transport in order to do so.