We Heart Boris

A friend of mine was recently cycling through Islington on her way to work, when the straw-haired figure of our Mayor pedalled up alongside her, crash helmet slightly askew. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed in surprise. ‘Hello, Boris.’ ‘Hello, friend!’ he boomed back with a majestic wave, before wobbling off through the traffic.

This pretty much sums up why I love Boris. And I’m not alone. The bumbling, cheerful ex-journalist has risen in our estimation so much since he took the mantle of Mayor of London from Ken Livingston in 2008, that there are now entire websites dedicated to ‘I heart Boris’ merchandise. Despite initial hiccups, you can’t walk through London for more than a few minutes without seeing a commuter whizz past on an unmistakable blue ‘Boris bike’. He may be behind schedule in his war on bendy buses, but several of my local routes have switched back to the good old double decker, and, it has to be said, are vastly more efficient as a result.

In fact, the only person I can think of who isn’t a fan is my friend’s grandmother, who, when Boris was on the news a few weeks ago, shook her head and said: ‘Oh, it’s such a shame – he really has let himself go since he won Wimbledon.’

The Mayor’s critics say he’s untidy, unprofessional, a disaster waiting to happen. There may well be an element of truth in all of this – at the Olympics handover we all watched with baited breath praying he wouldn’t knock out some important foreign dignitary with the end of the flag. He did look a little bit like he’d got dressed in the dark. And he does have a habit of talking first and thinking later. And yet, most Londoners just can’t bring themselves to dislike him. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Boris is a wonderful, larger than life postcard for everything that makes London what it is.

Boris has that eccentric charm that is quintessentially English, and the slight sense of chaos that is unmistakably London. He sums up our bumbling politeness, our unapologetic individuality and our slight scruffiness. London, like Boris, is often a little infuriating, always unexpected and may gloss over what it doesn’t want us to see. But we love them both anyway, most of the time.

As London welcomes visitors from all over the world in preparation for the Olympics, I can’t think of a better figurehead for  the city’s undeniable charm as our eternally cheerful Mayor, weaving through the traffic on his bike shouting ‘Hello, friend!’

Image by Sarah G courtesy of Flickr

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