Monday, January 18, 2010
"I've lived in South Ken for almost twenty years now," said the elderly woman, "although it's quite stressful because there are so many people around. Before that, I lived in Hampstead village, but I think South Ken is better because Hampstead is a bit remote."
"But Hampstead was on the tube twenty years ago," I reply, "so how can you say it's remote?"
"I know," answers the woman, "but it's on the Northern line. So it goes to places like Camden and Tottenham Court Road. They're certainly not the sort of places that I want to go."
I'm with boyfriend T in a smart restaurant, and we've accidently got chatting to one of the diners on the table next to ours. We chat to her for a while, but after ten minutes or so, she and her dining companion pay the bill and leave us on our own.
"That woman was hilarious," I say after she's gone, "saying that South Ken is 'stressful' and that Hampstead is 'remote'!"
"I didn't like her!" replies boyfriend T decisively. "Actually I've noticed that lots of Londoners talk like that :-(. They give unnecessary information when they're describing some pretend hardship or other, but in fact they're just showing off. With her, she lets us know that she's lived in two of the best neighbourhoods in London, but that it's either 'stressful' or 'too remote'. Poor her."
I hadn't expected this response, because I'd just found it amusing listening to the way that the woman described the places that she's lived.
"Do a lot of Londoners really talk like that then?" I ask. I'm not an impartial witness because I sometimes describe myself as a Londoner, so it's interesting to get boyfriend T's perspective.
"Yes! For example, I went to that conference a few months ago, and one of the guys that I got chatting to there said that he was late arriving at the conference because he was having to 'stay in a 5 star hotel while his house was being renovated'. Why didn't he just say 'hotel'! I don't need to know that he can afford to stay in a '5 star hotel'."
"And other people will say things like 'my Mercedes is in the garage at the moment'," continues boyfriend T, "Just saying that their 'car' is being repaired would be sufficient, I don't need to know that they can afford an expensive car."
"I hope I don't do that kind of thing," I say, realising that boyfriend T has a valid point.
"No you don't, not when you're with me anyway!"
"I guess people who say things like that have some kind of inferiority complex," I suggest, "because they're just trying to make themselves sound more wealthy and important."
"Maybe, but if so, why do so many Londoners do it? Is there something in the water? Anyway, I hope that by living in London I don't end up suffering from that affliction!"
I'm not sure whether the way of talking that boyfriend T doesn't like is a trait of Londoners, or if it's used more widely? If any readers have any thoughts on this, it would be interesting to get further perspectives :-).