It had been a long day. I had been up to Leamington Spa for the day to run a workshop and had a pretty miserable journey back to London on a train full of kids on half-term holidays, all playing their favourite “choons” through the tinny speakers of their mobile phones. I was tired and cold, but eventually made it as far as Tower Hill tube station, where I once again came up to ground level. Where I was met by rain falling in what can only be described as biblical proportions.
And me with no umbrella.
I wrapped up as best I could and stepped out into the filthy wet darkness along with the many other London commuters bracing themselves against the weather. You know how it is – you raise your shoulders until they meet your ears, forcing your chin into your chest, in a vain attempt to prevent the rain from seeping down your back. In this awkward pose, I slalomed between people, making my way towards a nearby bus stop for the final leg of my journey home.
Suddenly my path was blocked.
By a chugger.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, these are people whose sole mission in life is to stop you in the street – normally with faux friendliness and some slick one-liners – and bully you into handing your money over to a charity they work for. I case you can’t tell by this point, I hate chuggers. I have my own favourite charities and donate to them directly. I don’t need some halfwit in a charity sweatshirt bullying me on the street.
This was not to be his night. I stepped to one side. He mirrored my movements and again blocked my way. I avoided eye contact (I’ve been living in London for eleven years now and have this down to a fine art) and stepped the other way. So did he, again preventing me from making any progress. He started to flop his head from side to side, puppy dog eyes and sickly smile pleading with me to remove my earbuds and listen to his request for my bank details on a direct debit form for some obscure charity.
I tried to get past him one last time but again he moved to block me, now motioning for me to smile. Smile? I snapped. I stopped and took my earbuds from my ears and looked him straight in the eye. In a moment worthy of the great Victor Meldrew I roared: “What makes you think that I – the only person in London who doesn’t have an umbrella this evening – would like to stop in this rain and talk to you? Can’t you see I’m trying to get past you?”
And then he made his fatal error. He asked me to “relax, man” like some ageing hippy (he looked about 19). I responded with what I felt was excellent comic timing (or perhaps not). “Relax? Relax my bollocks, you tree-hugging twat!” This was said loudly enough for other pedestrians to hear me over the traffic and turn to watch. He shrank visibly and walked away at speed.
The worst bit? It felt wonderful and I didn’t even mind the rain after that.
Chuggers of London beware, this Londoner isn’t going to take it any more.