Sunday, November 21, 2004

At times being a Londoner in London can be an odd experience. Last night I was at a party in Kensal Rise at which my friend and I were the only two English people present. Swedes, French, Candians, and a spattering of individuals from elsewhere wandered round a large house probing each others social skills. And very weird it was too. I would have thought, having returned from travelling and meeting such people, that I would be comfortable in such a scenario. Obviously I spoke to many people but one finds oneself resorting to old and unoriginal conversation techniques when nothing else comes to mind. Whilst travelling the questions that get all too frequently asked would be:

What's your name?

Where are you from?

How long have you been travelling?

How long are you staying here?

Where are you going next?

What do you do at home?

What's your name again?

Snore. I guess such interrogation gives the questioner a sense of who they are dealing with and a start to a conversation.

Last night these questions got adapted to:

What's your name?

Where are you from?

How long have you been in London?

Do you like it here?

How long are you staying here?

What is your job?

Pretty dull then. I found myself in the hallway in the vicinity of a girl and I decide to find out the answers to such deep and fundamental questions. She is from Norway, she's been here two months, she quite likes London but hasn't really seen much of it, and she is working at her restaurant for four more months. Interesting. I flirted around such questions as "have you visited the Tate Modern?" I tried to ask what sort of films she likes or music she listens to. I am asked about good clubs to visit or cheap places to eat. I wasn't chatting her up; I was probing the variety of my own social skills in an unfamiliar situation. I noticed that the whole evening consisted of asking or being asked questions. I'm sure it wasn't like this on my travels...

Having said all this I did meet some interesting people and did have a fair few more interesting conversations. The party was made up mostly of young Europeans who have come to London and are generally working in bars, as nannys, or whatever else they can get their hands on. In general they don't meet too many locals - and we locals don't often meet them. It's a world away from the London I have known.

In hindsight I wish I'd asked more random questions; it would have made for a more interesting evening:

Toilet rolls. Front hanging or back hanging?

Are you a man or a woman?

Do you find it a bit unnerving doctors call what they do practice?

Does anti-freeze freeze?

What colour does a smurf turn when you choke it?

What are you going to say next?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

and so on.

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