London – Thursday – I get on the bus and take £2.40 out of my pocket for the fare. The driver informs me London buses are now cash free.
‘So you’re a comedian now,’ reply I, attempting to hand over the money as I do so.
He shakes his head glumly and says, ‘No cash’.
A number of the other passengers nod in agreement. I ask, ‘Why?’
The driver tells me 99% of passengers find it more convenient to pay with Oyster cards (travel cards). My Oyster card is at home.
‘And the other 1%?’ I enquire.
My question is met with shrugging, gesturing, perplexity. I find myself back on the pavement, where I proceed to complain vehemently to any people waiting for a bus who care to listen. A teenaged girl says I can use her spare Oyster card for a fee, which is slightly in excess of what the journey actually costs, but needs must.
On the upper deck of the bus I find myself in a reflective mood, contemplating what it will be like living in a cash-free Britain. It is only a matter of time. In my mind’s eye I see myself aged about a hundred remembering the nostalgic days of my relative youth when money was still used. No doubt I will be met with shrugging perplexity when I tell youngsters about those distant memories.
So deep in thought was I that I missed my stop and was forced to hurry back on foot so as not to be late to meet a friend. We went to a Mexican restaurant, where I ordered chicken fajitas, and my dining companion a seafood enchilada, or was it a burrito, or perhaps a fajita – I forget. There was a group of very friendly Japanese lawyers on an adjoining table, who communicated with us in broken English. There was also a table containing amiable, smiling Spanish tourists, who were also keen to converse. I couldn’t remember London ever seeming so friendly and welcoming. Then I looked up and saw this group (see below). Note the individual with his back to the camera wearing a West Coast Choppers biker t-shirt bearing Nazi insignia (Eagle and Iron Cross).
I was so astounded that I took a photograph of the group, much to the chagrin of the baseball cap wearing one (facing camera). Several of them stormed over to our table and made various threats to our wellbeing, instantaneously destroying the restaurant’s friendly ambience. It was evident from the not particularly threatening nature of their threats that they weren’t genuine West Coast Choppers, but rather English wannabe bikers, which was most fortunate, as otherwise I suspect I would have lived to regret my actions.