London Types: Carrie the Commuter
3,674 return journeys
987 announcements apologising for lateness
59 vomiting incidents
98 over-friendly people (drunk, born-again or Northerners and, yes, she does do this everyday)
42 curry pasties eaten due to evening meetings
3 school carol concerts attended via iPhone (breaks down once in front of packed carriage)
Carrie is a London commuter, in case you couldn't guess.
She's been travelling the same identical route for the past twelve years. Love, birth, death, promotion, dejection. She's known it all, usually to the accompaniment of men who sit with their legs apart and women who tell each other it is raining while it is doing so. She feels like a refugee travelling between two worlds, neither of which seems to want her. Every night she smells of newsprint and someone's else's Sub.
People who don't know any better say it must be wonderful working in London. But, quite honestly, Carrie wouldn't know. The Shoreditch art scene? Gourmet burgers? The theatre? She reads about them in her rapidly shrinking lunch break (13 minutes at the last count). And the last thing she wants to do at weekends is come back, especially as she needs to do everything she hasn't had time to do during the week, like speak to her family.
She has a weirdly dependent relationship with the shops on her mainline station. The lingerie shop (since closed) where bosses could buy minute thongs and knickers and girdle-like things for their secretaries. The horrible card shop that sells the kind of greeting cards you give to people you don't like very much. The Boots where in a moment of depression she bought herself a £150 bottle of anti-ageing serum with a silver bow - a company re-structure - and had to take it back shamefacedly the next day.
The bright young single things in her office tell her about how they spend their evenings drinking exotic cocktails and being rowed along sewers blindfolded as part of immersive theatre. Carrie reminds herself that they all live in dingy one-room flats in parts of London where Pound shops have closed down. They'll be forty-five before they can afford somewhere east of Shoeburyness and need to commute like her. She doesn't know who to feel sorrier for.
At least, she calculates, she only has 17,406, journeys left to go.
London Types: Frederic the London Frenchman
London is the sixth largest French city in the world with 300,000 French people who are confused by Jammy Dodgers. Frederic can't understand why Nigel Farange or the editor of the Daily Mail haven't noticed yet but he's keeping quiet.
Apart from his incredibly well-paid job in the City Frederic has no reason ever to leave his London arrondissement, sorry post code.
There are French dentists, veterinary surgeons, psychiatrists, midwives, divorce lawyers. Shops sell their terrible pop music and bookshops invite over French authors no one outside the Boulevard St Germain has ever heard of.
The Lycee makes sure his children can write Descartian graffiti on the school wall. The Lumiere shows all those French films about adultery starring Kristin Scott Thomas. No one need ever be more than a kilometre away from a Petit Bateau or a Pain Guotidien brioche.
Frederic loves the English for their eccentricities like why have they have never guillotined their Royal Family and the evil Marmite. Wales, Scotland and Ireland he sees as strange foreign countries and he is puzzled by Scotsman's sporrans. Like his friends he admires the capital's diversity (he once visited Acton by accident) and its multiculturalism. In fact they say amongst themselves that London is much better now there are fewer English although this is just a joke, you understand.
Naturally there's rather a burning question: if France is so wonderful, why uproot his family from the Rue Claude Bernard and have to sit so long in Foxton's to find a new home? Frederic doesn't like to mention money but on his reckoning he earns five times more in London and he pays the person who cleans his dog's private parts more than he does in property taxes. He has been handed it all sur une assiette. No, he can't believe it either.
In fact the only price he's paying is a result of London's traffic and the terrible underground. They make cinq a sept heures sex with his mistress such un cauchemar that they must resort to sexting from their separate traffic jams.
No one even seems to realise that like many of his compatriots he is - dare he say it - a banker. But Mr Cameron and Boris Johnson have said how pleased they are he's over here and, unlike his English colleagues, he hasn't yet received a letter with Sex Pistol funny block capital writing threatening decapitation. Frederic gives a Gallic shrug. They are funny, these English.
London Types: Roland the Reluctant Millionaire
Roland is a millionaire. He's can't help it. He's never made a sensible financial decision in his life. He didn't think he was buying a property investment that would be worth over a million pounds in 2013.
When he said he was buying a house in Hackney in 1989 even people he knew looked aghast. The novel London Fields (he lives nearby) had just been published and Martin Amis had had a field day, no pun intended, with the local terrain: dog shit, used condoms and broken windows. Roland thought Mart had probably spent a couple of afternoons in the place giving himself and Julian Barnes some nice literary frissons. It had made him even more determined to live there.
Happy days actually. Sitting on Gro-Bags at Earth Exchange eating mung bean burgers. Watching a feminist troupe at Jackson's Lane Community Centre giving birth for four hours. A little light scoring beside the Wicca section in Compendium Books on Saturday afternoons. Gentler times.
All of which fills his son with self-righteous horror and fury. Even though Roland worked as a community arts worker and estimates he got through several tons of papier mache in his career and can only afford to shop in Morrisons, according to his son he is a selfish baby boomer intent on the pauperisation of the next generation.
Brought up on a commune in Notting Hill his son believes that having to share his Etch a Sketch with ten other children maimed him for life. This was followed by a year-long sojourn around the UK in a gypsy caravan (they saw Vashti Bunyan coming back in hers on the other side of the A4) after which his father decided it was time to find somewhere connected to the electricity supply where they didn't have to sleep on pallets..
His son now wonders if the house isn't a little too big for his parents and if they might like to re-mortgage and let him modernise the place while they move to a bungalow in Lincolnshire. Who needs Ian Duncan Smith and his Bedroom Tax, says his father, when you have offspring who believe you are selfishly sitting on their birthright?
Roland's house is a home, not an investment, and he won't put a price on it despite all the estate agents' cards that regularly drop through his letterbox. His son will just have to wait until his parents are in their eco-recyled coffins. Papier mache in matching Yin and Yang of course. He's designing them himself.