Yesterday afternoon, I decided to amble up West to take in the Van Dyck exhibition at the Tate. No congestion charge on Saturdays, so thinks, why not drive? Big, big mistake.
I left my corner of South East London at 3pm. I arrived back in the evening at 8.10pm. Of this 5 hours 10 minutes, a paltry 1 hour 50 minutes was spent not in the car. The distance I travelled, by the way, was under ten miles each way.
Before you reach for your keyboard to suggest using public transport, I would say that I have manfully tried that on two recent occasions. Two overland trains cancelled for no apparent reason, the full suspension of the Jubilee line and the part suspension of the Circle line amounted to just another level in Dante's hell.
Our vibrant, dynamic, blah blah city is slowly packing up. A decade ago, this car journey would take 50 minutes each way on a bad day, 35 on a good one. At the weekend, it was usually a bit less. Now, all these times have more than doubled in length.
Massive, seemingly arbitrary sets of roadworks cause gridlock. Sections of roads are suddenly closed off by cones, with no discernable reason given. Amongst drivers a sense of resignation reigns. Nobody is craning their neck to see what the problem is. It's like we all know, or feel that trying to find out would be pointless.
Some people start to break the rules. They block up crossroads and bus lanes. Nobody, but nobody, takes issue. Signalling has become a memory of something quaint. The breakdown in civil behaviour means that, understandably, people fear being attacked - not an unrealistic conclusion in a week in which we heard of the death of a man after a woman encouraged her boyfriend to attack him for supposed queue-jumping in a shop.
Along with this, there is a general undercurrent of menace. On your average day, this same journey will be punctuated twice, three times, by speeding police cars, and about the same number of roaring ambulances. Why? Are people getter ill more? Are these vehicles making their way to crime scenes? What's happening?
Radio bulletins use the same words - 'due to sheer weight of traffic' - when giving out their traffic reports. But I would ask - is it not likely that it is actually sheer weight of people? The South East of the UK has taken an influx of maybe two million people in the last decade - nobody knows quite what the figure is - but one thing is certain: it amounts to a social experiment which, in its scale, is without precedent or parallel.
Like many Londoners, one doesn't want to be defeated. You don't want to be one of those types who tick the 'quality of life' box when asked by pollsters why you've decided to move to some village somewhere. But it is getting harder and harder.