I love living in London. I’ve been here 14 years and think it is just the best place. However, I hate the West End on a Saturday night. I should know better: you go out in town during the week but at the weekend stay in your own patch. There are various reasons for this, but by far the main reason is the hideous debacle that is getting home. Let me explain.
Tubes end ridiculously early. Why the hell they can’t stay open later on a Saturday night I do not know. Surely one night with shorter engineering time would be okay (let’s face it the engineering work rarely seems to work anyway).
Night buses are patchy and you have to schlep down to Trafalgar Square to find one. They’re also a bit dodgy. You can guarantee that the nutter will sit next to or behind me. Plus the prospect of an overcrowded bus stop when it is pissing down with really cold rain…well need I say more?
So – having reached a certain age and enjoying relative financial security – a cab seems a good option. We are all told under no circumstances do you get in an unlicensed cab, so you soldier on past the dodgy men plying their trade (no not that sort of trade even though I was in Soho), all the while keeping an eagle eye out for that welcome orange glow. You walk, you walk, you stop at a likely junction, you walk a bit further and head for a mainline station in the hope that at least there will be some other people with whom to share your excruciating wait, you’ll be in shelter and there is bound to be an endless stream of nice shiny black cabs. Invariably you end up at Charing Cross.
The problem with Charing Cross is that cabbies always want to go south east or east. I know why this is, I know these guys want to go home but it REALLY annoys me when they drive by slowly with their light off trying to get their journey home paid for. So you wait and you wait…and you carry on waiting. At some point you even consider going to find a mini cab, you are so desperate to get home that you actually weigh up the risk of rape vs. ever getting anywhere near your front door. I shudder to think how much that thought can take hold if you’ve had one too many shandies.
So back to Charing Cross. There were may be 15 people in front of us in the queue, some singles but mostly couples or groups and how long did it take for the required eight cabs to turn up? Over an hour! It’s ridiculous. When they put the fares up a couple of years ago, we were promised that there would be more black cabs on the streets – where the hell have they gone? Why isn’t the West End swarming with those lovely orange lights at 2am on a cold, wet Saturday night?
I know the score, I know it’s an inevitable risk of a rare Saturday night out in the West End but what signal does it give out to visitors? Rather like Terminal 2 at Heathrow, it just makes London look shoddy and crap.
Rant over but I’m not happy and will be staying in sunny south west London for the foreseeable weekends ahead.