AKA ‘how to survive in the city with nothing but pants and a travel card.’
I spent three days in London last week. I bloody love London – always have and always will. It is a filthy siren calling me to poke and prod its nooks and crannies, aloof yet quietly adorable. And coming as I do from a relatively small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it’s wonderful to spend time in a place where not only does nobody know me, they don’t give a monkey’s chuff what I’m up to. Whatever ridiculousness you get up to in London, someone else is being more ridiculous and probably has a hat out asking for change for the privilege of watching them do it.
In the 72 hours I was away, I did the following: stayed three nights in three different places (Tottenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, FYI); visited the ‘Terror and Wonder’ Gothic exhibition at the British Library; saw Einsturzende Neubauten, Frank and Walters, Sultans of Ping FC and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine live; had my nails done (and chipped them within thirty seconds of leaving the salon but you can’t have everything in life); visited the Natural History Museum and the V&A and popped into the Institute of Sexology’s ‘Undress Your Mind’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.
Normally I’d have dragged a wheeled suitcase with me, but because I had to go straight from Euston to the Neubauten gig on the first night and would then have to carry everything with me between my overnight stops, things were limited. I ended up taking only a small handbag and a tote bag. After panicking for a few days about how to do it, I decided to go to the opposite extreme and take as little as possible.
The handbag on the right (a bit smaller than an A4 sheet of paper) is a Christian Lacroix, bought for a bargainiferous thirty quid from the clearance rack in TKMaxx. I have no idea how this gem wound up in the bargain basement – leopardprint is never not desirable and Bet Lynch is a fashion ICON, goddammit. The black tote is about the size of a small gym bag (the Alphabet scarf from Matalan is this week’s New Favourite Thing Ever).
So, this is how you survive four days and three nights in the metropolis* with the tiniest luggage ever.
*rules actually apply pretty much anywhere, but London is my favourite place in the world. Or maybe Liverpool. Anywhere beginning with L. Except Leeds, which is possibly the coldest greyest place I have been to in many a year. Sorry, Leeds.
Chances are you are either staying with friends or in a hotel. Don’t take anything in your case that could be provided elsewhere. Even the most basic Travelodge provides towels and your friends will too, if you ask nicely. After all it’s in their interests to let you have a wash before you sit on their nice clean sofa.
I bloody love my Oyster, it is a symbol of freedom from small-town tyranny and I have been known to stroke it whilst crooning softly. Yes I know you can use contactless cards now – very clever and all that, but what about those of us whose banks don’t trust us with technology, huh? Exactly. But whichever way you do it – Oyster, contactless, travel pass – it means that you can get around without carrying a heap of cash and never have to fight the queues at the ticket machines.
SMARTPHONE WITH TRAVEL APPS
I use City Mapper and Tube Tamer. Saves carrying paper maps and looking like a dweeby tourist. Just don’t carry the bloody thing in front of you lit up like a Christmas tree whilst wandering down back streets. Oh, and check tube connections before you go down the escalators. Why has nobody invented 4G that works underground yet? I’m pretty sure that a lack of constant internet connection is contrary to the Human Rights Act.
FACE AND HAND WIPES
Cities are GERMY. All those manky hands touching everything, not to mention constantly blowing your nose when the inevitable Black Snot of Doom kicks in. I buy the little travel sized packs from Tesco (insert usual ‘other supermarket are available, yadda yadda’ here. I can’t be arsed to go anywhere other than Tesco).
I managed the entire trip with only six items of clothing – leggings, black stretchy miniskirt, long sleeve top, tshirt dress, hoodie and a leather biker jacket. Everyone should own a biker jacket – they go with anything you could ever possibly want to wear and never look tired – and a hoodie can be layered underneath it or taken off and tied around your waist when TFL hold their daily ‘how many gullible humans can we sandwich into a tin can hurtling around the bowels of the earth’ competition.
Living out of a tiny bag for four days is not sexy and never will be. Don’t even attempt to pack attractive pants – buy a five pack of basic cottons ones from the supermarket – wear one pair to go in and stick the rest in the bag. Ditto socks. Black ones. Oh, and you know those nappy disposal sacks that everyone uses to pick up after their dogs? Brilliant to put dirty laundry in – you can tie a knot in the top and they’re scented so you avoid the whiff of eau de sweaty-foot permeating the rest of your belongings.
IF IN DOUBT, DON’T TAKE IT
Even if you think you’ve packed the bare minimum you can probably still chuck a of it third out and get by just fine. I bought a tour tshirt at the gig on the last night and ended up wearing it for the trip home, but even if I hadn’t, there are these things called ‘shops’. Better to take a lighter bag and do a Primark run if needs be. I also chucked out a notepad, book, and a onesie – however much I love all of those things, I can live without them in a pinch.
So – next time you’re packing, think ‘do I really need this?’ The chances are that you don’t. Remember – the less you have to carry, THE MORE GIN YOU CAN HOLD.