Once, you believed that living in London was a trade-off. Endless art, theatre and music for endless hordes of tourists. Delicious restaurants for air pollution. Nightlife for the night bus. But you take that all back now. You’d embrace every bit of pre-Covid London if it meant not having to download another app at the pub. Join us as we journey to the Before Times, when we thought these were the worst things that could happen in our city…
1. Dodging bags of M&M’s World merch as you weave your way through tourists in Leicester Square.
2. Slowly losing patience with your friend who, from May to September, seems to have always just returned from a sunny European mini-break and wants to tell you all about that ‘one little place’ they found that does ‘authentic pastel de nata – not the stuff we get here’.
3. Encountering yet another ‘experiential’ brand activation in Shoreditch where, for the modest payment of your email address into an iPad, you’ll be ‘immersed’ in an ‘experience’ which will surely involve a) sanitised street art-style graphics on a wall and b) an annoyingly meagre food or drink sample.
4. The low ebb of desperation as you squeeze past fellow theatregoers in the narrow corridors of West End theatres. The bell goes, and you still haven’t had your wee or bought your overpriced wine…
5. That stressful feeling at 6pm on a summer Friday when you’re pushing through a sea of sweaty office workers in a pub, grasping a frankly unfeasible number of pints that you’re carrying out to your colleagues who have spilled out on to the road. One of them will be clipped by a bike, you just know it.
6. Dancing the ‘I don’t want to mess up your photo’ dance with tourists. You know the one: like an awkward stork darting into frame then out again. Often performed with those posing in front of a) the Thames or b) Trafalgar Square.
7. Wincing as you insert your Monzo card into the machine, heart racing for the eternity before ‘Approved’ shows up. You probably didn’t need to shout your pals that extra round of Bloody Marys…
8. Making eye contact with a stranger and giving them the ‘I acknowledge you: nothing more, nothing less’ smile (or rather: a grimace with positive intentions). There’s no way you can achieve that kind of nuance with a mask on.
9. Trying to convince your mate visiting from overseas to do something a bit different this trip to London, only to end up lathering cream on to overpriced scones in a stuffy Marylebone tea room surrounded by tourists.
10. Going to Mercato Metropolitano and being sat uncomfortably close on a bench next to two people who are clearly on a first date. Unbearably awkward for all parties.
11. The sun is setting over the mega-screens at All Points East, the headline act is about to hit the stage, and you still haven’t found your mate who trotted off two hours ago to buy drinks. As the crowd thickens and your phone runs down to 2 percent, you accept that you’ll never see them again.