How the Capital Treated Its Coronation Visitors From the Country
By a Durham Miner.
[The Durham Miner writes from time to time in the Catholic Herald on the problems of miners in the North. His article this week is none the less interesting on account of its departure from type as his views may be taken to represent the impressions of the crowds of people who were in London last week, some of them for the first time in their lives.]
Looking at London
London is homelier than one might expect. True, in the streets and public places its disregard of its numerous visitors is Olympian. But go into a shop or cafe even in the most aristocratic quarter and you are agreeably surprised at the easy affability of your reception. You are made to feel at home. London's claim to be the heart of the Empire is well founded. All manner of Britishers meet within its borders.
From what we had read we half-expected the variations of accent to make people unintelligible to each other. But no—the Cockney understands the Canadian and the Durham man understands the Cockney with perfect ease. English speech, after all, varies surprisingly little either with class or country. One gets a pleasant feeling of the unity of the nation (indeed, of the Empire) when visiting its capital.
Lack of Signs
London might well lend itself to easier exploration. Direct us with signboards as the L.N.E.R. directs us to our station thus: " To the Houses of Commons," "To London Bridge," and so on.
With no buses running we were rather lost. We located only one map of the City (in Piccadilly tube) and found that difficult to follow. Of course, we could have asked a policeman the way to the Zoo or the Waxworks. There were certainly plenty of them about. both on horse and on foot. To the average provincial, indeed, London seemed to be . "lousy " with policemen. Even Cockneys wondered what they wanted with "all these bobbies" at the Cup Final.
The Clean City
The City part of London is amazingly clean. True there is little smoke or grime to dirty it. And it had been having an extra-special refurbishing for the C.oronanon. But even so, there can surely be few cities in the world to match it for sheer cleanliness. And few shopping streets to equal Regent Street for stateliness. As for all those huge hotels—they made us ponder.
We found Hyde Park very attractive. Its spaciousness, its lack of formality (apparently nobody cares whether you walk on the grass or not) accentuated the homeliness of the great city.
London's extreme busyness made us feel idle. We arrived at 7 a.m. and found the streets crowded with people hurrying to work—black-coated workers many of them,
and well-dressed women and girls. Perhaps the bus strike had something to do with it. But frankly we had not expected Londoners to be so early astir.
London's traffic set us speculating. What would it have been like if the buses had been running? Where was everybody going? What must the total value of all the vehicles be? Yet the most remarkable thing about London's traffic is its utter dis regard of the pedestrian. Only when traffic light or policeman compels does it acknow ledge his existence. Apart, of course, from an occasional screech of a horn. A person might reach the middle of the road at Picca dilly Circus, say, and stand there for hours (perhaps days) waiting for a driver who would stop and hold up the stream of traffic for a moment while he ran across.
This seems rather astonishing when you come to think of it. Especially as quite 50 per cent. of the non-professional drivers were "ladies." It must be conceded, though, that London drivers waste no more politeness upon their fellow drivers than they do upon the unfortunate folk who walk. Apparently life is too short for that sort of thing.
" The Sights" In a sense London is disappointing. Having heard so much about the Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus and other famous landmarks, one has indefinable expectations of their uniqueness and outstandingness that are not realised.
It gives one a jolt to see thousands of people passing them by without a glance Yet withal London is magnetic. Having made its acquaintance we are quite eager to visit it again and get to know it better. We can pay it no better compliment than that,