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Friday, December 1, 2017

People of London, Part I

London is a city of over ten million people, so if you go to London, don’t chat with the natives and tell me you didn’t have a good time, I say you passed up ten million reasons to enjoy yourself!

Take Mahmood, an Afgan who works in a vast and open souvenir shop near Piccadilly.  It’s a busy, bustling store and Mahmood patrols the front door, not really hawking product, but standing by to answer questions.  A few minutes of looking at gloves attracts his attention and he comes over to help.  His English is excellent and shortly you learn he was an interpreter for American forces in his home country…make that battleground…he’s probably seen more gunfire than a Chicago policeman…well that may be an exaggeration. Afghanistan is not as lawless.


When Mahmood applied to come to the United Kingdom, he ran into a roadblock.  But, the story has a happy ending.  He contacted his former American bosses, who contacted British authorities and the doors opened.  “I came here with nothing,” he tells us, smiling.  He has reason to smile.  He’s now a Londoner, with a good job and bright prospects.

He’s not alone.  London is a melting pot and with the demise of the British Empire has become even more so.  Did you realize London’s mayor is a Muslim?  Sadiq Khan, who was born in Tooting, a burb of south London.  Which brings up the question of, what does melting pot really mean?  Here’s a thumbnail of London’s ethnicity:

87.5% White
6% Asian, British Asian (on the British census, there is no Arab category)
2.9% Black, British Black
1.9% Mixed
1.6% Chinese and others

37% of London’s population was born outside the United Kingdom

What about religions in London?
52.9% Christian
13.5% Muslim
5.5% Hindu
2% Jewish
1.7% Sikh
1.1% Buddhist
22.7% Don’t claim any religion

We didn’t ask Mahmood about his religion, but I’m betting he isn’t Jewish.

Just down the street we meet Michael, a British Bobby, a happy guy and happy to help. Saw him pose with tourists and use their camera to help them get a group photo.  His ex lives in the U.S., near St. Louis and he is white and a native Londoner. Likes American football and enjoyed roaming the U.S.  The Metropolitan Police got the right man to patrol Leicester Square!
Sir Robert 'Bobby' Peel

Do you know how did the British national police force get the slang name Bobbies?  Quick answer, Sir Robert Peel…hence Bobby…worked to create the Metropolitan Police Force, which just covered London at first, but in the 1850s went national. Also called ‘Coppers’ because of the buttons on their original tunics.

Chat with anyone else?  Oh, hell yes!  Wherever you go, all you have to do is show a little interest.  Even in a pub called The Comedy Pub?  Yes, sir. 

Marek, a young man, but the head barman is from Poland.  “So, how did you manage to pick up English?”

“Well, I’ve lived here three years, but a couple of years ago my
 English was still not good.  It was New Year’s and I thought to myself, 
New Year, New Me!  I couldn’t bear to give up smoking and drinking, 
so I decided to really learn English.  It helps that I work here,” he said, 
with an arm sweep around the room. “I have to speak English all day
 and most of the night.”
“What other languages do you speak?”
“I worked as an interior designer in Poland and had to work with Czechs
 and Slovaks, so I speak those also.”
The man speaks four languages and works as a barkeeper! In America
 he’d be a linguistic god!
How about the other fellow tending bar?
Graham is from Glasgow, but has an English accent, not a Scottish one. 
“Came here with my parents when I was very small. They have thick
 accents. I don’t know why, but I never picked it up.”
We got to chatting about travel.  Graham has visited several places on the
continent.  What did you think about Germany and the German people?
“Very clinical.”  And, I’m thinking, very profound.

Graham on the left, Marek on the right


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