London Thoughts…

History feels both intriguing and heavy here. Intriguing for a guy from a place (Minnesota) where the recorded history goes back to the early-1800’s…and heavy since it sometimes feels like the burden of homage to what’s past outweighs the imperatives of today and tomorrow.

While the world is doing less homage to tradition and more forging for the future, I’m somewhat stymied by observing mobile behaviors in London. In other cities I’ve been in worldwide, voice and data use were common and people were really using their mobile devices. Here…it’s all voice. I’ve observed absolutely zero pecking away at a phone keyboard for SMS or any larger smartphone devices performing much interaction. It seems odd to me.

The internet cafes are lightly used. I had lots of issues with the broadband in the hotel — turns out the router was bad in the hotel — but the unusual aspect was that the technical support folks were pretty clueless about it vs. what I experience when contacting tech support in the States. Tech support can usually ping the router and pretty quickly determine if it’s my machine connection in the room or elsewhere.

The cafes are heavily used for typical human interaction. Though online use feels sparse, people seem to have a life here vs. rushing around glued to their devices. The photo above was a fun street near our hotel and all the street cafes were full. No one talked on their cell phone while talking with others. Even during the day there was little phone use for either voice or data.

The only other observation was how filthy this city is and how bad the pollution has become. Though in the days of coal burning in fireplaces and the thick, pea soup fog of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes it was certainly worse. Speaking of Jack the Ripper, my wife, kids and I went on an East End London walking tour tonight. It was enlightening and was very interesting to see the East End being regentrified to the point that 55k pound houses just 10 years ago are going for 500k-1M pounds or more as the area explodes.


  1. David Gagne on July 4, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Get a life! :-0 doing a blog entry on the 4th of July??????


    Happy 4th

  2. Steve on July 5, 2006 at 5:36 am

    Thanks for reading it ON THE 4TH OF JULY Mr. “Hey I Need a Life Too”.

    I thought better of celebrating the independence event over here…especially last night when the Italians were celebrating in the streets rubbing the Brits noses in it.

  3. David Gagne on July 5, 2006 at 10:56 am

    Have a safe trip back and give me a call when you get here……Try the restaurant in the middle of Holland Park….

  4. James on July 8, 2006 at 3:19 am

    The thing about data use over here is that it’s so darn expensive. I ping my IMAP account a few times a day, browse the BBC news WAP site and check my RSS feeds though a WAP aggregator. For the past few months this has doubled the bill I pay to o2 – and that’s using about 4MB of data.

    There’s so many free calls too – I get 500 free SMS messages and 100 minutes any time, any network voice calls. Checking the stats on the website last night I sent 11 messages in the whole of June. More free data would obviously be better.

    Phones like the o2 XDA – phones and PDAs in one running Windows Mobile, are picking up in popularity. A new one has a proper qwerty keyboard, a screen that swivels round, touch screen, two cameras, bluetooth, wifi, 3G and so on.

    That’s interesting about seeing a low use of SMS. About 30 miles from London in a small market town there’s always a few people ‘texting’ their friends or family. If you started texting in London you’d walk in to someone, or be walked in to yourself.

    Again – I find internet cafe’s quite expensive, and Wifi (as I think you mentioned previously) isn’t much better. If you’ve not heard it yet – “welcome to rip-off Britain”. 😉

    E14 has undergone a massive change. If you take the Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich (I think) you go right through the Isle of Dogs, from Canary Wharf you see big, expensive houses and apartments, down to big, older blocks of flats which didn’t change much since all the work was done.

    Standing around Canada Sqaure you wouldn’t imagine just a few miles away is an Asda superstore and hundreds of flats and houses.

    As for London being filthy – I don’t think it’s much worse than any city in the UK, to be honest. Around Westminster it isn’t too bad – the area immediately around Tottenham Court Road and especially the Tube station isn’t great though. Some tube lines and stations are better than others – Westminster (Circle, District, Jubilee) is very nice inside.

    Whenever I’m in London I go to Golden Square off Regent Street. Home to the worlds most listened radio station online (apparantly) it’s only a few hundred yards from the bustle and noise of Regent Street and Picadilly Circus on the other side, yet remains oddly quiet. With a very clean and tidy square with benches and a Starbucks, it’s a lovely place to have lunch or just sit down for a moment.

    Have a nice trip. 🙂

  5. Steve Borsch on July 8, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    I agree with the expensive part. Everywhere I looked the prices — even without conversion — seemed high for mobile data as well as for plain old internet.

    Stopped some Bobbies and asked about trash cans since it seemed there was trash *everywhere* that easily could’ve been placed in containers. One looked at me quizically and said, “We don’t have them since bombs can be stashed inside.”


    I thought about what London has dealt with during “the troubles” and having the IRA bombs…and now with the tragic 7/7 bombings. Ironically, we had just stepped into St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle about 3 minutes before the Noon 2 minutes of silence for the victim’s of 7/7. The brief remarks by the pastor were poignant and then we observed 2 minutes of rememberance.

    I have a new appreciation for trying to protect a city with the volume of humans and ethnicities in it. Remarkable, actually, when we were standing in Trafalgar Square and there weren’t any scuffles, or any issues. Not that there isn’t crime, but with the volume of activity, one would think there’d be more danger.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.