- Richard Haywood
What I Saw On My Trip To London (July 2022)
I go to London regularly for meetings and other general loafing about.
During one of those trips a while back, I ended up with a few hours of free time and decided, on a whim, to jump on the tube and go to Piccadilly Circus – and instantly fell in love with the place.
One of my books-in-production (The Hive: Delio) has a very large part of the story set in Piccadilly. I say in production cos I’ve now got three novels in varying stages of the publishing process without any clue when any of them will be published. The Elfor One (The Code 3). The Hive: Delio, and my latest book – Fiction Land.
(Honestly, I could write a whole new book about the difference between traditional publishing (no control & massively frustrating but comes with huge rewards and access to awesome editors) versus self-publishing (total control & far less frustrating but also less audience reach and you gotta pay / arrange own edits.)
But shush. Stop interrupting.
The point is that I love Piccadilly.
If London is the centre of the UK, or GB, or Englandshire, then Piccadilly is the centre of London.
Which may seem an odd statement, because surely Whitehall would be the centre. The Houses of Parliament. The Cabinet Offices. Big Ben. Downing Street.
Isn’t that what the politicians tell us?
That they, and only they, can save us from eternal damnation, therefore wherever they exist must be the centre of the Universe.
Or perhaps it’s the offices & studios where Kay Burley resides before she goes on a pub crawl during lockdown with Beth Rigby while Boris gets wankered in the gardens with Rich Rishi in his ten thousand pound clothes while we all go fucking crazy locked in our houses while our loved ones die alone in broken hospitals staffed by broken people exhausted from working double shifts to pay their gas and electric bills while panicking they won’t have enough fuel to get to the food bank to feed their kids.
Aren’t they all the centre of London?
They are not.
Piccadilly is – because it’s where every non-rabid non-toxic non-sociopathic normal person goes when they visit London. (Anyone other than politicians / journalists / news anchors.)
It’s such a cool place! Absurdly vibrant and eclectic. We watched a group of young urban men section off a part of the pavement to put on a street-dance show. It was insanely good. And that was right after a young ginger bloke had finished filling the air with the gorgeous sounds of bagpipes right next to the living people statues painted gold and not moving a muscle.
Every nationality is there. Every colour. Every shape of body from the extreme to the normal – and visiting somewhere like Piccadilly reminds you there is no normal. Normal is a perception gained from how you live and the bubble of existence around you. And trust me, your normal isn’t everyone else’s normal.
Piccadilly Circus is a convergence of many roads – and because of that flow it creates a special kind of magic that isn’t like anywhere else. You can sit on the steps to the monument and people watch, or enjoy the performers hustling for cash while listening to accents and languages from all over the world and all under the glow of the giant screens.
It doesn’t feel unsafe either. There’s nothing sinister or edgy or bad. People want to go there so their energy is positive.
And from Piccadilly you are an easy stroll away from Soho and Chinatown and the best food in the world. Leicester Square is right there. Another place rammed full of performers and people drawing caricatures. Neon signs outside of shops and the smells of spices are everywhere.
Trafalgar Square and the fountains and birds is super close, as is the long straight tree-lined Mall that leads to Buckingham Palace.
Whitehall isn’t far either – and it’s full of grand architecture, but it reeks of obscenity and locked doors and corruption hiding behind cops with machine guns.
It’s dirty and awful and wrong, and when you visit you can see why things aren’t the way they should be in our country, because the untouchable people from all sides of the political spectrum within that gilded palace can act without consequence.
Anywho. My rambling point is that I go up frequently to see those places and sit and listen and absorb and observe – and one thing has become very pronounced during my latest trip – hence this blog – and that thing is the gulf between the rich and the poor.
It stood out more than ever before, far more than any previous trip.
I’ve never seen so many supercars in one place. You normally see quite a few in London, and some streets are almost famous for the cars you’ll see.
But this was something else. This was nuts.
There were rows of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porches, Bentleys. Rolls Royces all over the place.
It felt like every side street bordering a bistro was a car show – except it wasn’t a car show. This was normal life.
We also saw high-end Mercs and BMWs and a lot of Range Rovers driven by guys in suits that hopped out to open the back doors for their clients. We saw customised Teslas. One was bright red with gold wheels, and there was a Rolls Royce blinged up with black diamonds over the bonnet and roof – and those bistros in those side streets were packed with designer people in designer clothes drinking designer wines and eating small plates of designer food.
London right now (as in The City), and during this time of epic, sustained financial severity – is dripping with money, and what was also clear were the Russian accents being spoken in nearly all of those places.
I’m not pro or anti anything – and if I am then I keep it to myself. I honestly believe a writer’s job is to reflect what we see – and what I saw, from my own personal experience, were a lot of Russian speaking people and a lot of people from Middle Eastern countries in those ultra-wealthy areas. (To be ultra clear before anyone gets triggered – I am not saying all the wealthy elite were Russian or from the Middle East. Only that my personal observations noticed a lot.)
And that wealth was so obvious that it created a bizarre paradox that really stood out to me because the people where I live are all broke. Everyone is struggling with fuel bills and energy and the price of food. People can’t get medical appointments. People can’t see dentists. One part of England has a 7 year wait for an NHS dentist. Those things are happening all over the country. A country that is already struggling because of Brexit and Covid.
How is it right in a democratic county that is said to be the sixth largest economy in the world to see street after street full of cars worth millions of pounds while someone else, despite paying tax and National Insurance, can’t see a dentist for nearly a decade?
And worse, we are saturated to the point of near civil war by a media so toxic & connected to the corrupt law-makers that it’s become a disease.
I don’t get it.
I mean, I know how capitalism works – and I am a firm believer that people can reap rewards for hard work and ingenuity.
But this wasn’t capitalism in the sense of there being opportunities for hard-work and ingenuity that collectively mean the whole country can benefit.
This was something else. Something I’m not sure about.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s all normal and I’m way off the mark. Or maybe it’s a lot of bad money made by bad people doing bad things that have somehow turned The City into a fucked-up Billionaire enclave.
An enclave where the water, electricity, gas and the roads are all maintained by those same people working double shifts before they go to food banks.
An enclave patrolled by cops on benefits where the ambulance drivers that rush to save lives still live in flammable tower blocks.
An enclave provided gratis and exclusively for the ultra-wealthy – as long as they pay the right people, or perhaps make the right donations to the right parties
Namely the people and parties in those gilded Whitehall palaces hiding behind the cops with machine guns.
The people and parties from all sides that gleefully think we’re all playing some weird fucking game.
The people that get drunk and party in gardens and go on pub crawls and laugh it off cos they make the rules and they make the news.
Yeah. It just didn’t sit right.
Live and let live. That’s my motto.
Be who you want to be. Wear what you want. Identify as you please – It doesn’t bother me what you do – just be fair.
And right now, things are very far from fair. What I saw certainly wasn’t fair. Especially not when there are literally hundreds of homeless people in doorways rocking back and forth and sobbing their hearts out with untreated conditions staring at the diamond encrusted cars going by.
Like I said. I’m all for reaping the rewards of hard work – but seeing it that bad just didn’t sit right.
We need a change. A significant and bold change. Someone fresh who isn’t beholden to the news agencies and media. Someone honest and decent. But who? There just isn’t anyone. And when people do pop up that give a sudden glimmer of hope they’re torn apart by Twitter bots and shredded by the media.
I thought Rory Stewart was promising. I’m absolutely not Tory, or Labour or anything at all. I can’t stand any of them, but I thought he actually seemed nice. He’s certainly honourable and deeply intelligent. I think a lot of people had that view of him. Which is why they took him out I guess.
Politics is bad.
But I still love Piccadilly and I still think Chinatown has the best food in the world.
Anyway. I’m off to continue writing book #4 (that may or may not ever get published.) This one is a crime-thriller set a little way in the future. I’ve been wanting to do it for years and I’m having great fun bringing it to life.
(I haven’t forgot The Undead, the next stage of the story is stewing in my head and will get written when the time is right)
RR Haywood x
(I also made another observation. You can read it here in this separate post CLICK HERE)
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