205. Summer in London (Part 1)

Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode. This one was recorded last week when I was on holiday in London, and in this episode you can listen to me walking through central London and talking to you along the way. I really enjoyed recording this episode and I think you’re going to enjoy listening to it too because it’ll be like you’re actually there with me, strolling around some of my favourite parts of town, hearing all the sounds of London around you as we go. I think it’s going to be great, but before we start I’d just like to mention a couple of things as a preface to the episode. [Right-click here to download]

Small Donate ButtonLondon can be a noisy place and so, unfortunately, a lot of the recording I made on this day was not completely clear enough to broadcast because my voice got a bit drowned out by atmospheric noise. You might find that some of it is a little bit difficult to hear, and in fact I had to completely edit out large sections of the episode because the noise level was just too high. When I listened back to some of it, I was quite annoyed to discover that the sound of busses, cars, trains and wind made it quite difficult to hear my voice clearly. I’ve managed to edit out some of the bad bits, and explain the missing content by talking to you here in post-production, but some of the remaining parts might still be a little difficult to hear. If you do find some of this too noisy to listen to then I’m sorry and I understand, but I still hope it’s possible for you to follow almost all of what I’m saying.

I really wanted to upload this episode despite the noise. I think it will be quite an interesting one, as you can take a personal trip with me through some of my favourite parts of central London and I expect that most of you are probably not bothered by the noise and are happy to join my on a walk. I love London and I’m proud to present it to you, even in audio form, and I think this episode can give you quite a real feeling of actually being there with me. It would be a pity to waste the several hours of talking that I recorded just because some people would not tolerate the noise. So, I’ve decided to just upload it anyway, even if the audio quality is not perfect.

I know what most of you are thinking – it’s fine Luke, it doesn’t matter! Don’t worry about it! I appreciate that. But for those of you who are sensitive to a bit of background noise I just want to say – I know this episode is a bit noisy – but that’s just London for you! It’s a noisy place! I suggest you write a letter to London’s mayor Boris Johnson to complain!

“Dear Mr Johnson,

Recently while listening to an award-winning podcast by Luke Thompson (I’m sure you know it) I was saddened to discover that parts of the episode were inaudible due to frankly unacceptable levels of noise caused by London’s busses and traffic. So, I am writing this letter in order to complain about this matter, and suggest in the strongest possible terms that you do something about it! Maybe introduce a noise-tax, or simply ban busses and taxis from operating within central London. I appreciate that businesses and services need to operate with vehicles, but this simply cannot be allowed to interrupt our enjoyment of Luke’s English Podcast.

Yours sincerely,

L.E. Pepper
The Republic of Freedonia”

OK, I realise I’m going a bit too far, it’s not that big an issue really. In fact, you could say I’m “making a mountain out of a molehill” or “stretching it out of all proportion”. I’m “going overboard”… yes it’s all a bit “over the top” now isn’t it. Alright, that’s enough, I don’t want to “over egg the pudding” by talking about noise levels too much, so it’s time to get on with this episode, so join me now as we go back in time, all the way to last week, on a trip into central London…

Music: “London Town” by Light of the World – Download it from iTunes here.

First gap:
So, I left the flat in bright, warm sunshine and walked towards the tube station, crossing the street at a busy junction in Stockwell, near Brixton, just south of the river. Some people say it’s quite a rough area, I personally think it’s okay. In fact at that time of day there were a couple of homeless people around, an alcoholic-looking guy stumbled out of a betting shop, but generally the area’s okay. In fact, it’s got good transport connections to central London and the rent is not too high. So I crossed the street and walked to Stockwell Underground Station and I stopped to look at a mural on the wall of the station. It’s the picture of Jean Charles De Menezes, a Brazilian man who was tragically and wrongfully killed by police who thought he was a terrorist, back in 2005…

2nd gap:
I left Victoria Station and walked along Buckingham Palace road. Along that road there is a wall, and on the other side of the wall is the garden of Buckingham Palace. You can’t get in there, so you just have to wonder what it looks like. I imagine it’s a beautiful and well kept garden. There are parks in front of the palace – St James’s Park and Green Park and of course the public are allowed to go everywhere they want in those parks, and walk or like down on the grass. There’s a pond with ducks, swans, geese and even pelicans which are large birds that you normally find near the sea – they have huge beaks that can carry loads of fish. A while ago there was a video going around on YouTube of a pelican actually eating a pigeon in St James’ Park!

I walked along Buckingham Palace road next to the palace gardens, as I said, and that’s next to a busy main road, and the noise was a bit too much. I talked about what it must be like being the Queen (I expect it’s a lot of hard work actually, it might be a bit lonely although she lives in luxury, she might be very strict on her children & grandchildren, and very controlling), which I have talked about on the podcast before. I wonder about her sense of humour, and what she’s really like.

I also spoke about the Queen’s power, how our democratic monarchy works and the difference between having a president and a monarch. Unfortunately, a lot of this was drowned out by the sound of traffic, so I’ll try and sum up what I said.

People sometimes wonder about why we have a Queen & a royal family in the UK, and also suggest that it might be better to have a republic instead. It might look like an old feudal system – a kind of medieval system in which the Queen has a covenant with god. What is this game of Thrones? But if you disregard the craziness of monarchy, you can just see it for what it is. It’s a slightly strange system, which works pretty well for the UK.

Without wishing to criticise republicanism (it works fine in plenty of other countries), in the UK democratic monarchy seems to work for us quite well. In a republic, such as USA or France, the president has an executive and representative function. He leads the country and also represents the country in state ceremonies, and as the figurehead of the nation. It’s an incredibly important role. That can lead to some issues. People want to look up to the president, and celebrate him/her as he/she represents their nation, and yet the president also has a responsibility to run the country, and answer to the wishes of his citizens. People shouldn’t be too deferential to the president because ultimately he’s a civil servant who works for the people. Sure, we can respect the president if he does a good job, but often people want a figurehead who is above the political system. In the UK the responsibilities are split between the monarch and the PM. The PM runs the country, and the Queen just ‘represents’. They do have tea once a week, so she has an audience with the PM, she does have minimal powers which she doesn’t use. So Brits can celebrate the Queen as head of state, knowing that she doesn’t have any decision making power and that she doesn’t express a political preference, and then we’re free to criticise our Prime Minister without having to be overly deferential towards him. His job is to run the country. We shouldn’t lift him up to the position of someone super special. He works for us. The Queen’s job is to give us a focal point for national pride without letting political views get in the way. So, that’s how we can celebrate the Queen without it affecting the way our country is run. Hopefully. It’s a very complex issue with all kinds of opinions regarding the pros and cons of having a royal family. I’ve dealt with it before on the podcast, in episode 103. “The Queen & The Royal Family” (featuring EnglishRobot4000).