A Londoner's Diary; MP Tim Yeo on Hitching Lifts with Exotic Ladies, Shocking Sharks at the Aquarium and Insulting Prue Leith by Mistake Knew

Article excerpt

I was a Londoner in spirit from the day I bunked off school and ventured up to the great metropolis. Brought up in the depths of Sussex and sent off to a secluded boarding school in provincial Surrey, the bright lights of the city were an alluring prospect. One Saturday I slipped away and headed for the A3 where I struck lucky, hitching a lift with an exotic lady in an American car who took me all the way to Sloane Square.

Then, as now, the quickest way around London was by Underground so I went down to the platform at Sloane Square station where a bar was open. I screwed up the courage to order a beer; the barman clearly thought I was too young but served me all the same.

I was an Ian Fleming fan and wanted to see Dr No. Bond wasn't yet the box-office draw he soon became and the movie had just opened at a cinema opposite Goodge Street Tube station, probably the last time Sean Connery started anywhere except Leicester Square. I've seen hundreds of films in London since then but none has given me the thrill I had that afternoon, anxiously looking round the almost empty cinema for anyone who might know me and absorbing every second of an exciting day.

My ideal London day is a Sunday when the streets are traffic-free. The first pleasure of the day requires preparation on Saturday evening. That's when newspaper junkies like myself sneak out to buy the Sunday papers so we can lie in bed and read them in the wee small hours.

Years of weekending in the country means this is now a rare treat so I wasn't sorry recently when I had to come back unexpectedly from Suffolk one Saturday afternoon. It was too late to book a theatre so I persuaded my wife Di that Closer was the film to see. After supper at the French House, we strolled across Leicester Square, still thronged with people after midnight, before rounding off the evening at Victoria station buying papers from a vendor doing a thriving trade despite the cold.

On the way home I wondered if there wasn't a niche market for a business delivering the first editions to your doorstep the night before. Even on weekdays the timings would make this possible.

These pleasant reflections were swiftly dispelled when I got into bed and read the lead story. It was about the defection of a Conservative MP.

My bedroom overlooks the Thames, a wonderfully peaceful outlook. Living only a mile from Parliament but just outside the congestion charge zone means I now often walk to work. This doesn't necessarily produce a health benefit as there's no longer any reason to refuse an extra

glass of wine with dinner when you're not driving home.

I suppose Ken Livingstone would claim this change in behaviour is what his anti-motorist policy aims to achieve but not everyone has the luxury of being able to walk and the Tubes just get more crowded. …


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