London is a BIG place. More than 8 and a half million people live in the city and frequent the streets on a daily basis, not to mention the hordes of tourists that flock to the capital throughout the year. It’s loud, crowded, even chaotic at times and most people are in a hurry. It’s easy then to feel a little lost or lonely in the city, particularly when surrounded by so many nameless faces. A bit like a small fish in a big pond. In fact, a ginormous pond!
Having recently spent two weeks working and commuting in the city however, (I was doing some work experience after finishing my uni finals), I’ve realised it’s never quite as lonely as it seems. My morning journey consisted of one train from Herne Hill to Blackfriars and a fifteen-minute walk along the north bank of the river, taking only half an hour in total. I began to develop a little routine, using the same ticket barrier when leaving the station and crossing the roads at similar places. But what I hadn’t accounted for, or even considered in a city as big as London, was the very presence of other people and the positive effect this had on my daily commute. I recognised familiar faces on the train and walked past the same people each morning as I made my way along the river bank. There was the woman in the puffa jacket reading Harry Potter on the train, the ginger-haired woman in the dark blue coat who I’d pass on my short walk from the station, and the guy who mopped and polished the outside entrance hall of Somerset House, always in a black collared t-shirt despite the almost freezing temperatures. I didn’t know anything about these people – their names, their families, their history – but they influenced my day, every day, and each assumed various identities in my head. Suddenly, London didn’t seem quite so anonymous and I was surprised by the small-town community feeling that surfaced as a result. I became far less interested in the speed and efficiency of my own commute and my mornings began to revolve around the people I met, even though we shared no more than a smile.
Now, I’m not claiming to possess any kind of profound commuting knowledge – the 2 weeks I spent in the city is nothing on the Londoners that have done the same for 20 years or more – but what I am suggesting is that London doesn’t have to be a nameless crowd of detached individuals. No matter how lonely you may feel in the capital, or any large city for that matter, your movements are part of an ever-shifting world that depends on the lives of the people within it. Whether you know it or not, you have an effect on those around you and are changing the lives of the people you meet. So keep your head up and your eyes open, because you might just find a fellow small fish.