Opening for business: Trash City Tours

This weekend, TC plays host to Chris Fata, our American ambassador, and does the tourist thing round London. It promises to be interesting, with some measure of revenge included as part of the proceedings, since Chris had the opportunity to snigger quietly while this Limey gawped senselessly at the neon-clad excesses of Las Vegas during the October jaunt to America. Now, the boot is on the other foot, and we will be able to see how well an American adapts to British culture...

Of course, this assumes there are no unforeseen problems. At the 1997 Shinnenkai Japanese animation convention, the American guest failed to turn up because he didn't realise he needed a passport to get to Britain. At the 1998 Shinnekai, the American guest failed to turn up because he didn't get his passport in time. It never ceases to amaze me that so many American don't HAVE passports, because they just don't need them, but Chris has been well warned about this and is, I am confidently informed, passported-up. I hope...

So, what to show someone coming to London, and indeed Britain, for the very first time? The problem is that familiarity has bred contempt, so many of the things that seem incredibly popular with tourists - Madam Tussaud's, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace - are places for which I have an instinctive, kneejerk phobia. In some cases, that's "phobia" as in "irrational" (I have never been to Tussaud's), but in others, such as Covent Garden, it is a perfectly clear and logical conclusion based on hard experience.

But having said that, there is an inevitable difference between living somewhere, and being a tourist there. My parents LOVE Covent Garden, and no trip to London is complete without visiting there. So what I'm going to have to do is try and suspend, for a few days, the cynical mindset of the resident Londoner, and try to see the place with fresh eyes. This is NOT going to be easy...

What would be nice, and what London really lacks, is some central high point for a visitor to climb, from which they could look out and say, "Ah, so THIS is London". Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York the Empire State, but London has "closed due to terrorist activity". The Post Office Tower, Canary Wharf, the Nat West Tower, all of them closed to the general public. I guess Tower Bridge is going to have to do...

Otherwise, I think I'm just gonna roll with the flow. From the wide, open spaces of Phoenix, to the crowded, dirty teeming metropolis of London is a far enough step as it is. Knowing how I felt in Las Vegas (not so much culture shock as lack-of-culture shock, even compared to Leicester Square), I fear I might have to spend most of the time trying to coax Chris out of the hotel bedroom with Absolut vodka and junk food: "C'mon, Chris, it's okay, the buildings aren't REALLY going to collapse and crush you"... I'll let you know how it goes. [Next week's edition may be slightly delayed by a couple of days, depending on how long it takes me to recover!]


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