Time after weary time, I’ve had to sit through tedious conversations on why London is such a rubbish city. ‘Oh, its impossible to buy a house anywhere in London, ordinary people are getting priced out’; ‘The crime rates are shocking! You never get that sort of thing in Bath…’; ‘It’s too crowded, I can’t breathe on the Tube’; ‘There’s no greenery, it’s such a concrete jungle!’
I sit there with gritted teeth, scraping the side of my plate irritably with a fork, hoping that the conversation will pause long enough for me to express quite politely how everything they’ve just said is a LOAD OF BALLS.
Because, as you may have guessed, I am a born-and-bred Londoner and proud of it. I have grown up joyfully in this beautiful city. So when someone disses something you love, you get angry, right? This Croydon gal certainly does, innit.
And here’s the funny thing – in my experience, the negative comments have hardly ever come from the mouths of home-grown Londoners. Almost always outsiders. People who just don’t ‘get’ London at all. Or sometimes from people who grow up somewhere else, come to London for their job and are already planning to bugger off when they get married and have kids. Because you know, there’d be nothing worse than bringing children up in London. They’ll automatically join gangs and become drug dealers. As if that doesn’t happen in the countryside where there’s nothing to do but smoke weed every day in the park with your mates when you’re thirteen…
I’m sick of people banging on about house prices (it’s hard for everyone of our generation, not just Londoners), knife crime and poverty. Of course there are problems that we need to solve but they don’t go away just by whining about them. Forget all that for a minute – perhaps one could pause to consider that London really is one of the best cities on this entire earth.
I may be just a little bit biased, sure. But I can justify my stance in many ways.
1. London is a city steeped in history.
Where else would you be able to see a thousand-year-old building in the foreground of a 21st century skyscraper? From the Great Fire of London to the Blitz to the 7/7 bombings, it’s had its fair share of tragedies but has never failed to pick itself up and dust itself off with a typically British ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude. You only have to visit Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and laugh along to one of The Bard’s timeless comedies as a groundling to appreciate the glory of London’s rich and wonderful past, and how it’s still so alive today. London is a city that preserves but also progresses.
2. Everything is in London.
When something new and exciting happens, it happens here first. Music, theatre, restaurants, fashion, exhibitions, you name it.
When tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were released, I had mates in Belfast who bought tickets and now have to plan their flights and accommodation, spending three times the amount of money they spent on the tickets. But me… All I have to do when I see that show is hop on a five-minute Tube to the theatre on the way there, and then a half-hour train journey will take me straight home. And I’ll get to see the London skyline out of the window as I do. Utter bliss.
3. London is the culinary capital of the world.
No jokes about jellied eels and steak and kidney pudding welcome here, mate. Apparently Paris doesn’t really hold this reputation any more – France is exceptional for French food, but London is great at every other cuisine you can think of! New York may be the only other city in the world that would match London’s flare for culinary fusion, creativity and diversity. From the curry houses on Brick Lane to a killer brunch in Covent Garden, there’s something for everyone.
Borough Market is teeming with the best produce and finest ingredients from up and down the country. And did you know that before the bagel became a staple for New Yorkers, it was first popular in mid-19th century London? Of course it was. Because London is amazing.
4. London is home to the widest variety of people in the country.
One thing I never had to worry about growing up was being the only brown person in the class at school. Everyone was from everywhere. Some of my Northern Irish friends can actually recall the first time they saw a black person. Seriously?! You REMEMBER that?!
I’m so lucky to have been brought up in a melting pot of different colours and cultures; where our differences are celebrated, not just tolerated. Where the LGBT+ community can flourish and be themselves, where women excel and ethnic minorities feel as though they have as much of a chance as anyone else.
You can talk to me about Leeds, Manchester and Bristol all you like, but London has been the home of British multi-culture for decades.
Unfortunately, this is what some people will never understand – that London has a very special place in the hearts of us first- and second-generation immigrant Londoners. London makes us feel welcome and wanted in a way that other cities don’t quite manage. And yeah, maybe I’ll never be able to afford to buy a place here and will be forever paying into the pockets of rich landlords with more money than sense, but every time I cross the Thames river on the train, I sigh contentedly and think, ‘Wow… I LIVE here…’. And that, Treasures, makes it all worth it.
So, as New York is said to have been the fifth leading lady in Sex and the City, I feel as if London is my second sister. She’s awesome, she’s cool, she’s beautiful – and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out ‘London Commuters and the Conundrum of Consideration’?