Some of you may have seen a recent Facebook comment that I made after a day trip to London. A place that I love and feel very comfortable in.
You may have even read previous posts that I have made that tell of many adventures in London, when totally strangers have come up to me, complimented my style and asked many times to take photographs with me.
I don’t say this to be big-headed or to show how damn wonderful I am. Just to point out that I don’t really blend in, and people are always so lovely about my bright style of dress, my accessories and just how happy I seem.
You must all know by now that this took many many years to happen after hating my size and shape for so long. I can honestly say that every trip to London has been a wonderful experience (apart from one last May where I was inappropriately touched on the train) and I have only ever faced positive people.
So why was it so different on a recent visit?
Don’t get me wrong. If I was walking down an area of London which was conservative and dressed in a way that was totally opposite to my style, for example an area with a large Middle Eastern community, my dress would be potentially considered disrespectful. This is something I would NEVER do.
But I was in Camden Town! The home of hippies, goths, punks, millennials and every else and their dog! Camden, the birthplace of Amy Winehouse. But not very accepting of me!
It was a packed sunny day. People were lounging around, having a beer by the side of the canal and just enjoying life. And I blundered into their view.
First it was the whispered comments. Then the sly looks and sniggers. Then it was outright pointing and giggling.
People had no compunction is pointing and saying rude comments out loud. This literally was something I had never experienced before.
And I certainly didn’t expect it to happen in Camden!
I tried to keep my smile bright, meandering around the markets and stalls. But the comments and looks were flying fast.
The other half was gobsmacked. He is used to people coming up and talking to me. To ask me to have a photograph. He has taken many snaps for total strangers. But he was really perturbed as to what was different about this particular day out.
Coming out of Camden Stables were were stopped by a young lad in his electronic wheelchair. It was a pretty technical affair. A huge fabulous camera attached to a tripod, connected to a tablet, he was very well set up.
Looking at this lad, he quite clearly had some issues. He had many scars and marks and looked like he was missing his left hand. It seemed like he had been burned in some kind of incident. He was also getting as many stares as I seemed to be.
Since posting this blog, a lady on a Facebook group recognised my description and I have found out that this lovely lad is called James and he actually has a very rare skin condition. Whilst he was not actually burnt, this illness causes him to suffer from blisters the equivalent of 3rd degree burns.
This rare condition RDEB means his skin tears and blisters at the slightest touch, leaving him in constant pain. This is not something you would know, as he had the greatest smile and attitude.
In a strong Liverpudlian accent, he politely asked me if he could take my photograph. Les moved out the way and struck up a conversation with his parents who went on to say that he loved doing “Street Photography” but some people could be quite rude.
I happily posed for him, watching as all his technology worked in sync, taking a couple of snaps of me. We went onto to have a bit of a chat about the camera he was using, as I was considering getting the same one myself.
He thanked me for posing for him and said I had epic style. His parents also thanked me for stopping and engaging with him. Like it was a big deal. To me it wasn’t, I would happily stop for anyone who asked me to. He literally was the highlight of my day!
We carried on walking around and it felt like I was a circus freak in a normal world. Camden really didn’t embrace me for my individuality, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the area.
I would like to say that was the end of the strange and negative day. But it only got worse, if you can believe it!
We headed to the British Museum. A place of ancient artefacts and belongings. And not an eyelid was batted. I sailed through it’s revered hallways and no-one pointed, stared or sniggered. Surely it was only going to get better.
We left the museum tired, hot and very thirsty. Just around the corner was an Olde Worlde looking pub called The Plough. It was my idea to pop in for a refreshing drink. A chance to rest our tired feet before heading back home.
I sat at a small high table whilst Les went to the bar. Opposite was a group of four Irish gentlemen having a pint or two.
One lent back in his chair and shouted across to me. “Missus, you got an admirer over here, come and have a chat with us”
Not wishing to cause a problem or start something, I apologised and said I was with my husband.
At first they didn’t believe me and I pointed him out at the bar. Loud comments followed about how he was a lucky man (although said with many more explicit words)
When Les came back from the bar they called him over and asked what his secret was, and how he managed to catch a woman like me. Les responded in a jokey way “With charm and boyish good looks, although it was 27 years ago now”
They responded with a laugh and said he was a very very lucky man. I thought and hoped that was the end of the exchange.
I have to admit both of us were feeling a little uncomfortable as they kept throwing comments out at us, and there were far more of them than us.
The ringleader called across and said one of the men wanted to serenade me and I should listen clearly to his song as it was dedicated to me.
I kind of knew this was not going to go down well.
He started to sing about the World going crazy and there being too much hatred. This segued into “Show them to me” A country and western song all about a women getting their tops off and showing their “fun bags” by Rodney Carrington.
It is actually a pretty funny song, meant as a light hearted joke from an American singing comedian. Think Tim Minchin or Victoria Wood and you aren’t far off.
But when you are in an unknown pub, wanting a quiet drink it was very disconcerting.
Needless to say we finished our drinks in super quick time and left the establishment. I think I was more worried that things were going to get even more rowdy and out of hand.
Les being a black belt first dan in martial arts was getting a LOT wound up and I could see it going very pear shaped.
We decided that it was time to go home. Heading back to Tottenham Court Road tube station to get back to Hanger Lane where we had parked our car. I was fed up with the day we had experienced, but the weirdness didn’t end there.
We walked down Museum Street onto New Oxford Street. We passed a male approximately 60 years old standing outside a restaurant. I didn’t think anything of it.
Then he walked at a really brisk pace to get in front of us, before stopping a little way ahead. He had his camera phone pointed at an angle towards me, and as I walked up to where he was, I heard the camera “noise” go off.
I carried on walking, thinking it was a little rude but shrugging it off.
Then he raced around us again, positioned himself against a wall and pointed the phone at me. Again I heard the sound as he took a picture.
What happened then?
Yes you have guessed it, he raced ahead again and did the same thing for the third time.
Les was starting to lose his temper, but I told him it wasn’t worth it. You don’t know what will happen if you challenge strangers in the street. I didn’t want to have something bad happen so I also chose not to ask him what the hell he was playing at!
What Les did next was to block him from walking around us. Every time he tried to get in front, Les used defensive tactics and he couldn’t get ahead of us.
This didn’t stop him however. We came up to a crossroads that we needed to go across and then take a left turn, cross again and enter the tube station.
This random stranger tried his best to take even more photographs, or video. I simply don’t know which.
Les shielded my body every step of the way so the photographs just weren’t possible.
It felt like I had a bodyguard stopping paparazzi from snapping me!
Now, I don’t think I am that bloody popular that I need a bodyguard, but equally why would someone go to such great lengths to take pictures of an absolute stranger?!?!?
We went down into the tube station and got on the Northern Line to take us back to the car. My confidence was certainly heavily knocked and Les brought up the subject of what had happened that day.
We both agreed that it was the strangest, most uncomfortable day we had ever had in London.
It made me question my style. My looks and size. My happy-go-lucky attitude,
What had made people act so negatively towards me? Did I look that ridiculous? Did the outfit I chose to wear offend people so much? It was not like I had never been to London before, dressed like this.
Mentioning this on Facebook I got lots of positive comments and reinforcements from friends and colleagues. The insults towards those rude people flew thick and fast, and I was left feeling that it was them and NOT me that had a problem.
But WHY did they have a problem?
When did it become acceptable to point, laugh and ridicule someone for their looks or style.
When I was growing up, I was always taught “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and I have tried to bring my children up on that adage too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am the first to spot someone who maybe looks a bit unusual. We all are guilty of perhaps thinkingsomething about someone. But I never make my feelings known . I do not want anyone to be left feeling uncomfortable or awkward because of something I have said or did. So I may think it, but not say it.
When did it become okay to shake someone’s confidence and make them question themselves?
Many of you could say “Seriously Love, get over yourself. You need to have thicker skin”
But why should I? Three years ago those looks and comments would have brought me to my knees. Reduced me to a crying wreck. And It was pretty close yesterday.
I choose to dress the way I do, to make ME happy. To live, laugh and have a good time.
Why do people need to bring others down. They have no idea of the trials and tribulations I have been through.
Or the trials I am still to face.
One thing I can say though, is these people may shake my foundations, but they are never going to break me.
As a very special close friend said to me today ” One w*nker in many many times of people loving you and your swanky wear. It is easy to go to the bad, but the good outweighs so much”
And he is right. Why should narrow minded people make all the other positive experiences less.
Will I stop going to London?
I just might not go to Camden again in a hurry!!!