It’s the red things I love about London; the telephone booths, the letter boxes and the buses. They all represent something intrinsically British that I find lacking in South Africa. Whenever I return home from a visit to London I am asked what I did, what shows I saw or where I went, but despite the wealth of entertainment options on offer in the form of theatre, galleries, restaurants, shopping and exhibitions, it’s the ordinary things I love the most about being there.
I love that I can walk to the letterbox on the corner, drop a letter through the slot and know with almost 100% certainty that it will be delivered to its destination somewhere in England within the next few days, if not the very next morning. I love that I can wait at a bus stop without drawing curious attention; that I can be sure the bus I want will draw up within minutes and that it will drop me off safely wherever I have chosen to go. I love being able to sit on a bus and watch the London streets unfold alongside me. I love the fact that elderly people are able to use public transport and that younger passengers still give up their seats for them; that young mothers with babies in prams use the buses and that school children hop on and off and are able to travel independently around that huge city without a second thought. And I love the old-fashioned telephone booths on so many street corners. I do wonder what the future of these will be now that virtually every passerby is armed with a cell phone. Maybe they could be transformed into emergency power supply points for people who have run out of battery power or airtime? Perhaps they will just stay as they are; simple telephone booths for people who may not have another option or for emergency use although this seems unlikely, given a report in the newspaper this week that 1 in 4 of the world’s population owns a cell phone. It’s probably most likely that we will eventually only see them in museums where visitors will marvel over the fact that they were once quite indispensable. Whatever happens, they, like the red letter boxes and buses are icons of London life and I hope they’ll stay. They represent something constant and enduring that is hard to find in other places. And hard to beat; like that heart-lifting moment who you spot ‘your’ bus round the corner on its way to collect you. I love seeing red in London.