Somebody is soon going to have to do something about the traffic conditions in modern Britain. Having not so long ago failed to reach a funeral in Fulham because on the day the roads of south-west London were in the grip of in a ten square mile gridlock for unknown reasons, I’ve recently had the misfortune to make three trips around the west side of the M25 and been caught in a snarl-up on each occasion.
They say things happen in threes and yesterday my third – during a long travelling day – was to find myself involved in another horrendous traffic jam in the West End on my way to lunch in a club.
It was, of course, not a great day for getting about in London by road because of the occasional torrential rain showers that persisted. However, Her Majesty the Queen (or indeed our television, radio and newspaper proprietors) could have done more to warn us that – with the State Opening of Parliament in her schedule for yesterday – the Met Police were going to cordon off vast parts of the area around Buckingham Palace, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and the West End.
Having set off to collect an elderly relative from the south coast at 0415 hours and already spent over four hours driving even before our limo arrived to convey us to lunch, I had been hoping for a smooth an uneventful ride. Instead, we ended up spending over an hour trying to get from Hyde Park Corner to St James’s Square via three different and complicated routes – two of them ultimately unsuccessful – accompanied by vast convoys of vehicles of every conceivable description seemingly engaged upon a similar quest.
There’s little more frustrating in life that being within half a mile of your target, with an hour’s contingency in your pocket as back-up, when you’re hosting an important lunch … only to find that you use up the entire contingency sitting in one traffic jam or another and arrived slightly frazzled, only to discover that your guests have left a message at reception to say that they are also hampered by the same issues and might not make the 1.00pm lunch until 2.00pm.
Especially when you’ve booked your return limo for 2.45pm …
After much consideration over what happily turned into a very convivial lunch, our party decided that in future the Government should give us personal warnings whenever great swathes of central London are about to be fenced off, invest another £1 billion in the national weather forecasting centre in order to make it possible to control the weather – and/or provide a free helicopter service for all those seeking to lunch in the West End.
It would be a start.