Life & Culture

Man of many accents tours London’s sights

Peter Rosengard is taking a summer holiday - at home in London


The iconic Regent LCD screens with tourists and a red bus passing by in Piccadilly Circus late in the day.

Sunday 11am

l I’m sitting on my Vespa at the pop-up traffic lights at the end of my street. As always, they’re are on red. They’re there for the roadworks, only there haven’t been any roadworks since they popped up three weeks ago.

I’ve just zoomed past a gold Lamborghini, a Bentley and 50 other cars. To annoy the Lamborghini driver I push my scooter through the lights, walking past a large, yellow, metal, out of date “DO NOT ENTER” sign — and ride off.

I pop in to see my friend Goldsobel. Tomorrow he is off on a pandemic version of the Caribbean cruise — six days with 4,000 other passengers around the UK. “We stop in Liverpool and Grimsby.” I have no difficulty restraining myself from appearing jealous.

“Grimsby is not Guadeloupe, Goldsobel. Remember to pack a big box of sea sickness pills.”

“What about you, Rosengard?”

“I’m going on a summer holiday to London.”

“You’ve lived in London your entire life.”

“I’ve always wanted to visit London as a tourist. I’m five minutes on my Vespa from every famous tourist site. No seven hour queue at Heathrow and no quarantining.”

Monday 9.03am

l I have decided to be a Swede on my London holiday. On my Vespa at the lights at Piccadilly Circus. I ask a taxi driver, “Excuse me, sir, do you know the way to Buckingham Palace? What time can I have tea with the Queen?”

“Do a U-turn and keep going, mate, all the way to Balmoral, I’m sure Her Majesty will invite you in for a cuppa.”

“Thank you, sir. This Balmoral, it is far?”

“Only about 500 miles up the road. You might just get there in time for tea…tomorrow.”


l At the lights by Hyde Park Corner.

“Where is your famous Marble Arch?” I ask another taxi driver.

“Right behind that new pop up hill, mate, the Mound. Yesterday took my son in his car 20 minutes just to come up Park Lane, now it’s got a cyclist lane. Go on, guess how many cyclists were using it?”

“I have no idea. I am from Sweden.”

“Not one. It’s a joke!”

“I am from Sweden. What is a joke?”

Dinner 8pm

l Tonight I am a New Yorker, sitting outside an Italian restaurant in the West End.

I order: “A bottle of the house red.”

“We don’t do a house red.”

“Okay, I’ll have your cheapest bottle in the £25-30 range. Have you worked here for many years?”

“Two days,” he says.

When the bill comes after dinner they’ve charged me £69 for the bottle. For ongoing legal reasons I can’t tell you what happened next…but don’t ever try to screw a New Yorker! 
 The joint’s made my next book, Places I Can’t Go Back To (it’s a very long book). It will include that St John’s Wood restaurant where I asked the waitress to sprinkle some pepper from her pepper grinder on my salad. “I’m not a dog!” she shouted and stalked off.

Tuesday 7.35pm.

l Tonight I am a German tourist.

I’m sitting outside another Italian restaurant, in Marylebone.

The owner comes over and coughs right in my face…the biggest cough I’ve heard since beginning of the Age of Coronavirus - an epic zuper zpreader cough and he is not wearing a mask . “Sir, you had just coughed all over me! Zis is unacceptable behaviour. You might have given me zee Covid!”

He goes totally — how do you English say? Apples? Bananas? Like that man from your Faulty Towers. He starts shouting in Italian to all the other guests about me. As I do not vish to be insulted, I immediately leap to my feet and I leave.

Wednesday 1.15 pm.

l Today I am an Aussie.

I am at lunch on the terrace at my English friend Toby’s house. It starts to rain.

“Would you like the parasol up?” he asks.

As he struggles to open it, a gust of wind catches it and he topples off the four foot high veranda, landing on his back in a patch of rhubarb. He’d just been telling me how he grows all his own food. His vegetables have just saved him from being a wheelchair gardener.

Thursday 7.30pm.

l Tonight I am Scottish.

For a change I’m sitting outside an Italian restaurant in Portobello Road. My friend, sitting opposite, coughs. I dive under the table … but he’s coughed straight into his elbow. “That is how we now do it down here,” he says. “The elbow Covid cough!”

“ Ocha noo an’ a hey! Jimmy!,” I say as I get up from under the table. “The trouble is, you’ve only a split second to decide is it an innocent ‘clearing your throat’ cough? A ‘piece of chicken stuck in the throat’ cough? Or a Covid — that might kill you — cough.”

Back home later I call Toby. “You still aching after that tumble, mate?” “No, that’s fine, but this morning I went for a walk and at the end of the street by the roadworks, waiting at the temporary pop up traffic lights, a gust of wind picked up a large metal ‘DO NOT ENTER’ sign and it hit me on the head!”

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