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  • There are quite a few cities in the UK that have a reputation of some sort, a stereotype, a prejudice, that whether earned or not tends to stick in the mind. So when you visit that town or city you might already have an impression of it, a template of comparison, and hope that either it lives up to those expectations (if the reputation is good) or that it thwarts those expectations (if bad.)

    Now London is known to many as a city of ambition, the home of the rat race, a huge, sprawling urban civilisation where the vast majority is fighting to be noticed, to make something of themselves, and are not above stepping on one another's toes to get there. I have been to London a few times and have never stayed long enough to find out how the people really are, but as a man that generally likes to see the best in people, I was hoping that this time I would catch a glimpse of something that would prove that myth wrong.

    I'm happy to say, I was not disappointed.

    As I disembarked at Euston Railway Station and segued into the tidal waves of commuters flooding the platform, desperately trying to keep up, I was also fishing about in my pockets for my train ticket. Wary of the crowds behind me, I did not want to be the one that slowed everyone down. Fortunately enough, I found my ticket and presented it with a quick, efficient pride to the inspector and made my way to the Underground. Remembering how hot and clammy it could get down there, I used the short time on the escalators to remove my jacket and stuff it into my bag. As I was standing on the right hand side, the more desperate travellers hurtled down the escalators on the left hand side to get to their platform more quickly.

    I squeezed myself into the smallest corner I could so that I wasn't in anybody's way while surveying the map, and expediently figured out where Shepherd's Bush was and how I should get there. I had to get the Northern Line (southbound) to Tottenham Court Road and change there to get the Central Line (westbound.) I then joined the marching throngs once again, sweating profusely.

    The warm air down there was pushed and rushed through the tunnel like play doh through a child's plastic syringe. The reminders to 'The next train is for...” and “Please mind the gap” were regularly uttered by a kindly but constipated woman over the speaker system. The doors slid open, I looked to see if any seats were available, which there weren't, and held tight to the luminous yellow pole, ready to begin my journey.

    It was at this point that I was thinking to myself, that if London was really like people said it was, and that everybody just looked out for themselves, perhaps it was understandable. Perhaps it was a case of 'Get with the program, or get trampled on' and all people were really trying to do was survive.

    And it was exactly at that same point that a large family – a man, possibly his wife, and their four children - came in after me, all looking as flustered and as disorientated as I probably did. A gent in his mid sixties stood up and offered his seat. And opposite him, a lady in her mid-thirties stood up and offered hers too. Then, at the next stop, two fashionably dressed youngsters offered their seats to the family, as they were about to get off. True, they didn't need them any more, and they could have offered their seats earlier, but at least they stopped anyone else grabbing those seats first.

    This incident brought a great big smile to my lips and even a bit of a lump to my throat. It made me think, perhaps we Mancunians can learn something from this. That there London's pretty darn groovy.
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