Thursday 10 March 2011

In the mind of a Londoner

I had to drag myself out of bed this morning (a reoccurring theme), killed the snooz button and was about to oversleep if it wasn't for my upstairs neighbour who came to the rescue, whose routine I now know by heart, jumping into the shower, flushing toilet, shaving and my favourite; running in his shoes on his wooden floors.
In Algeria you don’t always need an alarm; you wake to the sound of the Muezzin calling for prayers, usually way earlier than you'd like to or to the guy shouting batata batata (1) from his Peugeot 404.
Because I never prepare my next-day-outfit, several minutes are spent deciding what attire will make me look like I didn’t fall out of bed and actually thought this through. From the window, it looks sunny,  which of course means it’s also freezing because you know you can never have both in England.

Walking to the station, my nipples drilling holes into my jumper, I have the feeling people are racing me there, the competition is kiling me. At the station, after a few crammed trains I manage to get into a corner of a train carriage, the day I’d get a seat I would do a “ma3rouf”(2), but I am grateful still, grateful that the train doesn’t smell of ammonia and bad breath, grateful for the cute guy who shuffled about a quarter of an inch to allow me to hold the handlebar so I don’t fall on top of the obviously expecting women standing next to me who nobody notices for fear of having to give up their seat, I am grateful for my book “Le Chuchoteur” I am reading in French this fortnight, I find switching between English and French fun – just that! Other armours or commuting material Londoners use include: newspapers, IPods, Ipad, amazon kindles, Smartphones (silently please) and game consoles; we are all plugged into a device or escaping in a story.

After 20 minutes and what feels like a 100 stops (actual number of stops 9) not that I ever looked up from my book, but I got elbowed and shoved so many times, and the range of perfumes and bad colognes that overpowered the carriage couldn’t have been from the few people I noticed when I first got into the carriage and scrutinised the dwellers because that is what you do no? You analyse your carriage when getting on, some you acknowledge, some you look away from and some you decide were crazy and must avoid their eyes. So I get off the first train and start quietly shuffling in ridiculous baby steps with the rest of the herd trying to make our way to the next line for yet another joy ride.
The walk takes about 10 minutes because some “tourist” doesn’t know his way around the underground and has to walk back and another is standing in the middle of the herds path studying a tube map, I hear tatting, flabbergasted looks exchanged between commuters, whinges and deep breathing all emanating from frustration. Walk like you drive, don’t cut corners and stay in your lane.

London commuters have a certain rhythm and speed that is quite scary to outsiders, we all walk in synch with a goal, we don’t stop for anything, we avoid obstacles but don’t stop a bit like the daily tube marathon, we know all the shortcuts that get us to our platform the fastest;
When I approach my platform I veer like a road rage driver and sprint to my spot, a guy is standing there, I look at him in disgust, he doesn’t understand he’s standing in “my place”, the spot I meticulously calculated over time and established its strategic location that gets me to my exit within 2 seconds. It’s mine get off mate.

Busker playing way too upbeat a tune for a Wednesday morning, it's interfering with my grumpiness, stop it for gods sake stop it or I might actually smile, train approaching the platform after a very outrageously long 3 minutes, the guy standing in my platform spot is shuffling already, getting ready to pounce and in bad form gets in before passengers get off, at this point I want to take him to court for breaking underground rule including minding the gap, when I finally manage to get on the train, I shove my bag in his face and mutter “sorry”

He’s onto me, he knows I hate him already so he stays away from me, girls can be very scary on the tube, we wear stilettos and can make a scene particularly if hormonal, which let's face it ladies it is about 19 days out of 30.

Five stations later, train alights at my stop; I get off first because my face was cleaning the glass door and start running up the escalator (on the left hand side naturally) pacing myself for a whole days' work, I feel I have been through war and welcome a day in the office with joy, I walk away happy to be alive and off the train of death, only to find the whole office outside for a false fire alert and start shuffling again trying to get into the building with the rest of the herd.

07h35: alarm goes off again, I overslept, realise it was all a bad dream! Good lord I have to go through all of that again!
(1) potatoes potatoes…farmers selling local produce from their trucks
(2) charity – usually couscous or a meal to be given to all neighbours or to the mosque etc
Picture from ©


  1. fantastic and realistic, at least I'm not the only one having these episodes of bad dreams (every day), well at least nobody used you as a pillow nor fighting over the arms rest,last year while i was on the jubilee line enjoying reading my "memoirs of Geisha" a heavily pregnant lady got on my carriage and stood right in front of me, obviously not noticing her as I was enjoying reading my book, the lady end up stepping on my foot (grrrr from me and ooye it hurts) and then looked up at her to finally realising her huge belly with a badge of "pregnant on board" so polity I offered my seat just to be embarassed by this lady telling me "no thanks, too little too late", i was like wtf? sorry i dont scan people when they got on the train and probably you are simply fat, so I blankly ignored her and sighted "oh dear", and since then my "ma3rouf" has stopped , the only people I offer my seat to are young children only.

    Naima -

  2. Cheers Naima..glad you agree! and thanks for sharing your commuting story, what a nightmare I miss the days when I could just walk into work... but now that the days are longer am going to start cycling in. YAY

  3. Wonderful !! I like it ^^
    but tell me , I taught the guy he stopped shouting batata batata from his Peugeot 404 , he is getting old :)

  4. Hello DZLondon - y a la releve...his kids (the ones who didnt run to Algiers to live the Algerian dream) are taking over...sometimes you hear: le3nab le3nab, della3 della3

  5. so depressing and funny at the same time. i am by no means a literary expert, i like your style of writing with all the little interesting observational details that mark one's otherwise boring routine.

  6. Thank you Tonton DW! a Londonders routine is his confort. you're a Londoner then! ha :)

  7. how's your couscous et tagine anyway?

  8. hahaha c'est la meilleure celle la...My culinary skills are relevant because?

    I used to be good at cooking; now I am quite awful.

  9. hahahah i like to be random. why is it not relevant though?

    you are what you eat and very often you eat what you cook so ... (am saying you, i don't mean you, if you see what i mean)

    but why do you try to rationalise everything? you're always trying to be one step ahead with some sort of tactical mind game. i have no agenda.

  10. I analyse everything that is what I do. However, I never thought you had an agenda and am certainly not playing any mind game tactical or otherwise!

    It was such a random question...I answered it didn't I? even though I questioned it at first. get used it and stop moaning dawood.

  11. so charmingly bossy. anyway, the weekend is nearly upon us so have a good one.

  12. You see...this is why I am single :)
    Have a lovely weekend

  13. it can be endearing, why such a defeatist attitude?
    just go with the flow.

  14. lol DZ-Chick, you analyse everything that you what you do? sounds to me that you are a banker from RBS??? and im 100% sure you are!

    have nice weekend and please write more of you blog, Im loving it lady

    Naima - (who is inspired to start writing her own culinary blog)

  15. Maybe ;)
    I think that's a brilliant idea, it would be nice to have a food blog and you can have all the Algerian recipes.

  16. @Naima - food blog would be awesome

    @DZ-Chick - maybe you should have a post comparing cultural toilet hygiene in the workplace. how about that for an idea hmm?

  17. Tonton dw: what a great idea... and have so mnay stories!! horror and PG ;)

  18. i know, i just got inspired myself from a trip to the communal bathroom where i was almost assommé with some emanating toxic fumes.
    this is the sort of situation where you wish you'd practised more underwater breath-holding ;).

  19. What communal bathroom? you live in a dorm? ;) or you mean Public toilets?
    Go on you write a story and publish it here...

  20. Salam..
    DzChick I love your blog entries ^^ your style is so enrapting and funny. You remind me of my Urban Fantasies heroines.. Keep it up.

  21. Thank you Anonymous, that's a nice compliment. I shall continue :)
    ps: I dont know what enrapting means...but I understood the sense!

  22. Salam..
    Enrapting= enthralling, captivating..

  23. i could ... i kind of have one already which i wrote a while ago although am no blogger. it's politically incorrect and a bit crude (i.e. really funny :p)

    should i just leave it as a comment or mail it?

    and no i don't live in a dorm ;). i like how you try to extract a little bit of info here and there lol.
    i just meant the toilet at work.

  24. Mail it to me and I will post it :)
    And yes am good at extracting information!

  25. don't see your mail anywhere.

    and am good at spotting information siphoning.

  26. Send it as a comment I won't post it and then will put it through as a blog post :)

  27. I know the version "aya sardine sardine" but here at sidi yaya we don't like the smell ^^
    Actually sardine is for zwawla , we don't eat it !!


  28. Sardines are for Algerians what sausages are to the brits!
    @ Tonton Dw: I don't know what to make of ur text...a bit crazy!! Has it got a title? Like perhaps "holly Shit" which was my 1st thought when I read it.

  29. I don't know what to make of ur text...a bit crazy!!

    Please no censorship!
    We wanna see/read it!


  30. Who is T? And I need a title please! And I disclaimer lol

  31. there's no title so you can make up one if you want (maybe something other than holy shit, corporate shits/dumps?). as for a disclaimer, am sure there are more offensive things on the net or that you are familiar with those small print clauses enough to come up with a generic one :p

    also, well you don't NEED to post it.

  32. @ Tonton dw: Your expose is somewhat unrelated to my blog and subjects tackled...I am interested in the following topics:
    Algerians in London and elswhere, Algerians stuck between cultures, foreigners in London, London life...etc but not corporate dumps lol
    Feel free to send somthing in the above fields. I like you penmenship.

  33. oh well i can only write about what i know and am passionate about :p. plus i don't really fit in any of those categories. i guess i'll stick to asking irrelevant questions and making random comments but thanks for your compliment.
    how did you like it anyway?

    on an unrelated note, people are so dirty these days, i feel bad for those muslim girls going out with dirty non-muslim guys lol.

  34. I liked that it was unpredictible and outragous, funny at times...

    Please stick around, I like your contirubtion to my blog and all your comments are constructive however random they may be.

  35. wow, what a nice thing to say, you're in a good mood! Thank you.

    also random and irrelevant,

  36. lol you know me so well already! am I that transparent!!

  37. you're zenga zenga lol

  38. A very fascinating insight into your daily routine, I enjoyed the algerian element which you've added, the sellers always wake me up! I think i prefer the adhan tbh ;)

  39. AAHHH I thought I have read a résumé of my life in Paris... consider yourself lucky though, your subway is not as smelly.. Plus, people get stabbed in there.

  40. AMAZING piece of writing DZ-Chick.....the similarity in our struggle to get up (30 minutes snooze) and the lack of preparation (pick an outfit in the morning) made me smile. However our journey to work differ greatly.

    One would safely assume you do work in Zone 1 by the sound of your horrid journey. Thankfully I live in Zone 2 and work in Zone 3 hence i ALWAYS get a sit, get to read and listen to music simultaneously without any hindrance.

    "the guy standing in my platform spot is shuffling already, getting ready to pounce and in bad form gets in before passengers get off, at this point I want to take him to court for breaking underground rule including minding the gap, when I finally manage to get on the train, I shove my bag in his face and mutter “sorry”.............HA HA you are so fun, spirited and boisterous, you never cease to amaze me.


  41. Thanks Miss Polemique. Yes it’s nice to know everybody goes through the same routine and the same calvair, all the same inner small talk and inner crazy thoughts…


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