Ah, tourists. If you live in London, they’re everywhere, like rats. There are about 8.3 million people living in London, and last year over seventeen million people visited, more than any other city in the world. That’s twice the population. Of course, it’s not really twice the population, because most of them only visit for a few days. If you do the maths (or the math, if you’re American; interesting, isn’t it, how British English pluralises the abbreviation and American English doesn’t?), assuming that each tourist stays an average of a week, on any given day there will be 3.7 million tourists in London, or nearly half of the permanent population. To put it another way, one out of every two and a half people you meet in London will be a visitor, and will have no idea that they’re meant to stand on the right on the escalator. And they’re all in the small area bounded by the Circle Line. No wonder the tube is bloody unbearable.

A friend of mine has compared them to labradors; they get in the way a bit, but they’re relatively benign. I’m afraid I can’t muster as much warmth towards them as towards a labrador, but I suppose I could regard them as I do cows. Near where my sister lives there is a large area of common land, Nailsworth Common, on which cows are grazed. A road runs across the common and, such is the nature of cows, they often end up standing or sitting on the road. If you are driving across the common and are blocked by a cow on the road, you have to learn that blowing the horn at them doesn’t work; they merely look round with a “What’s that noise?” expression on their faces. You just have to proceed forward slowly, until at last they get the message and slowly lumber away.

In future, I believe for my own sanity I shall have to treat tourists like cows. I shall remember that although they are large, stupid, slow-moving and in the way, none of this is their fault and that honking at them will not help. I will breathe deeply and move slowly, knowing that eventually they will lumber slowly to one side. And I will think about all the lovely cream they produce. For despite being incredibly annoying, tourists are also incredibly beneficial, bringing London more than ten BILLION pounds of revenue every year. Mmmmm!!