Thusly do I follow in rather oddly assorted footsteps by my Tube-imposed sequestration here in Kew during the thirty-six hour long 24 hour strike of the London Underground. I do not complain; there are worse places to be sequestered (and let us not reopen the file on Slavonski Brod...).
However, I am not here to discourse on the Kings and Queens of England. Nor do I propose to give a guided tour through the Royal Botanical Gardens which I understand are spectacular and into which I did not enter under cover of rain.
Nor do I think I will focus on the irony of a post-revolutionary American being confined to Kew much like the once-detested monarch who never accepted the loss of the Colonies.
The Underground strike is what has fascinated me. Firstly, I was fascinated at my own bad luck for having chosen to come here in the week of the strike. Secondly, I was fascinated to see how this massive city can be effectively stopped in its tracks by the closing of its underground railway system. Kew Gardens is not far from Central London if you have access to the Tube or to a car, but Tuesday having neither, I was trapped here.
In those 24-36 hours, I got to know my neighborhood. The local Starbucks came to know my coffee habits without asking, the local rubbish collector having swept around me three or four times began to say hello to me as he passed, the shopkeepers began to recognize me. The transformation from visiting foreigner (where are you from, Russia?) to accepted temporary resident was amazingly fast.
Now that I am free to move about again, I am still spending time here in my adopted home in Kew. This would seem to be a form of Stockholm syndrome by proxy.... And I will be sorry to leave it again tomorrow night, even if I never find my way back to Kew again in my mortal existence.
The strike was also interesting in how much it was followed by the unions.
But here a strike is a business. They organize themselves. They ALL adhere to the strike. They were forced by the City of London to keep about 40% of services running, out of concern for safety, but otherwise Tube workers were actively NOT working.
Most people found ways to get around - by bus and train and bike and boat - because that is the kind of Keep Calm and Carry On attitude most people strike up in London. I of course engaged in the throwing up of my Balkan-stained hands and lamenting.
It is what we do best, after all...