Our new column gives Londoners the chance to tell it like it is. This week, writer, podcaster and blusterer Stuart Heritage wants tourists to pay for our tube travel.
If you had to pick a word to describe London, you’d pick ‘expensive’, wouldn’t you? This is mainly because ‘Oh God, it’s so expensive! Why is my room £1,500 a month? It’s just a mattress in a filing cabinet’ is actually 21 words.
Londoners deserve more. Our city is huge and dirty, everyone hates us and we all have to queue up for our dinner like we’re Yeltsin-era Russians or something. But you know the worst part of living in London? Paying for stuff. We deserve things for free, damn it!
Where to start? Free public transport, obviously. We wouldn’t even be the first place to do this. Estonia’s capital city Tallinn made public transport free for residents in 2013, helping to reduce carbon emissions and grow the jobs market. We could offset the cost by jacking up fares for tourists. It’d open the city up to everyone (except tourists). I mean, obviously the tubes and buses would be rammed, and we’d all die at the age of 35 from a combination of stress, overheating and atrophied hearts from never walking anywhere any more, but at least we’d have enough money for a Lidl shop.
And let’s take a leaf from Jerusalem by introducing free city-wide wi-fi (the Israeli capital has had it since 2004). Just think of all the things we could achieve in the time spent asking barmen for their passwords, or trying to work out if we qualify as hotel_guest or hotel_conf, or screaming relentless obscenities at BTWifi-with-FON. We could write books. We could pay more attention to our kids. We could cure cancer, probably – if we weren’t too busy watching Netflix in the pub.
Also, let’s open the gates of some of London’s best-loved attractions. All residents should get to go to the Tower of London once a year, which is equal to two trips on the London Eye, or 40 trips on that cable car thing that nobody ever goes on. This would help unite our London – the London of Wetherspoons and chicken shops and the 176 to Penge – with the weirdly intangible London that only tourists experience. Again, we could pay for this by charging the out-of-towners extra. Call it a Getting-Off-the-Tube-in-Enormous-Gangs-and-Then-Just-Standing-Around-on-the-Platform-Taking-Selfies Tax.
In fact, let’s go even further. On our birthdays, we should all get a free gift from the Cool Britannia souvenir shop in Piccadilly. And let’s occupy M&Ms World, too. For we are the 99 percent (of Londoners who’ve never been to M&Ms World because it’s just M&Ms and you can buy those in Tesco Express).
There. London is now the land of the free. But why stop there? Why don’t we spread this glorious utopia by introducing free community upcycling workshops? Just three evenings spent learning how to turn a knackered crate into a shoddily upholstered stool with a Union Jack stencilled on it would give us all the means to open our own insufferable overpriced craft beer pop-up. We could open one in Croydon. And Bromley. And Derby. And Minehead. Eventually the whole country would be exactly like London. And, really, isn’t that the dream?
By Stuart Heritage
Illustration: Nate Kitch
Free stuff, you say? Take a look at these 56 fantastic free things to do in London this summer.