aving only recently moved to London, this week, when it was too hot to think about anything more serious,! decided I'd devote some time to acclimatising myself (figuratively, at least) to my new surroundings.
I'm a pretty unusual immigrant to the capital, being English and not a recent graduate; but any immigrant, having first made friends with the staff in the local pub, should settle down in a comfy chair with apint and give the focal paper a leisurely perusal in order to get some kind of handle on the tastes and attitudes of the natives.
So on Monday I bought the Evening Standard, eager to catch up with the concerns of my new neighbours, and wrestled briefly with the headline "RAIL STRIKE 'M HIT CUP", before reading that
members of the RMT union are proposing to take a couple of days off work in order to watch the football. This story shared the front page with the news that paramedics were standing by with water to treat commuters who fainted from the heat on the Tube, while just below the masthead was the question "Should men wear cropped trousers?"
Some readers might remember that years ago, when he was running the limes diary, Giles Coren regularly included snippets under the general title "Fascinating Historical Questions to which the Answer is No", and this double page feature (for so it proved) struck me as being very much in the same vein. Why on earth would anyone except a mindless fashion victim in need of a tan-line across the mid-calf area want to wear cropped trousers? Never mind. The front page had done its job, for I had learnt that Londoners are chiefly engaged by stories about commuting, fashion, sport and the weather: the paper could have completed the circle nicely with "Should men wear cropped trousers while walking home in
blazing heat to watch soccer because the trains are on strike?" but I suppose there wasn't room.
But are my fellow citizens, then, I wondered. not interested in politics? Apparently they are, but the subject comes in at number five after the above. Pages eight and nine were decorated by not one, but four pictures of David Cameron, who is proposing to hold a television-style contest to find the next Conservative candidate for mayor any London resident, it seems, irrespective of political affiliation, will have a vote. This strikes me as a pretty smart idea on DC's part, and I rather look forward to texting him my own preference when the time comes. It's a wheeze that could exploit the native tribalism of Londoners at the expense of the political parties, and the Standard itself. which flourishes on precisely the same basis, clearly approves. For although one set of priorities might be inferred from the front page, the leaders reveal another: Cameron and the mayoral race at the top, a good bit of boot into Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner of the Met, second, and a fulsome third in praise of Alan Bennett's The History Boys in particular and British theatre in 'general. This made me feel a lot more at home, and I shall probably now read my local mg on a daily basis.
Of course I shall remain indifferent to football; mercifully I shall have to use the Underground only rarely; I don't need a newspaper to tell me it's hot outside; and my entire collection of trou.serings will always consist entirely of those with an elegant break over the instep. But, nevertheless, the Standard is on its way to becoming a familiar friend. And even if my neophytic curiosity had been insufficient to make me buy Monday's edition, the hoarding outside the newslgenes, which advertised "a free pint for every reader", would probably have done the job. I think I'm going to like it here.