Nowhere else I’d call home

  
I had a conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago and it’s still rattling around in my head. He had moved to London from New York and we were discussing the differences between the two cities, along with other comparable world cities. 

I found myself really criticising London’s infrastructure, its weather, its people…before I realised what I was doing. I’ve lived in the UK for fifteen years now and only two weeks ago did I realise I’ve absorbed the British apologist attitude. Starting sentences with “I’m sorry” and looking sheepish when someone points out that something isn’t perfect. 

I was actually playing down how fabulous London is.

Why?!

I quickly backtracked and started to list all the things that are great about London, especially when compared to other places. Its historic buildings, the river than runs through its middle, its diverse population and the very, very different neighbourhoods that combine to make London. 

I spent Friday evening on the South Bank with an old friend I’d not seen in over ten years. He was visiting from Newcastle and we enjoyed a wander, a meal, another wander and then a walk back to Waterloo station. For me, it was a little snapshot of what’s so great about London. There was a free music festival taking place at the Royal Festival Hall, underneath which we enjoyed some sushi, after which we walked by the river. 

All the time enjoying a distinct lack of rain and some fading early evening sunshine. 

London is actually a fairly excellent place to live. Now that I think about it, even considering my many and varied gripes, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live. I’d put up with poor transport infrastructure (which, to be fair, is getting slightly better), terribly unpredictable weather (I’ll go abroad for consistent sunshine on my holidays) and hugely inflated prices for everything. Speaking in a purely personal capacity, I love it. 

If London really is so terrible, why do so many people, from all corners of the world, come to make it their home? If it’s such a cesspit, why do millions of tourists flock here every year?

Because it’s not terrible. It’s an ancient city, creaking a bit under the strain of accommodating so many people and so many cars and new buildings. But it’s continuing to evolve and I’m happy to be living here during such an exciting time. 

So there.

  1. While it has been some years since I’ve had a stay, let alone lengthy one, in London, it’s one of my favourite places.

    It’s easy to find the things that bother about where we live and for the Pollyanna, easy to be too gung-ho.

    Paris is good to visit–as is London or any capital city–but IMO London is a place that I could live, even though I prefer mountains, young or old (Ozarks are very old, oldest on Earth I’ve read more than once), the incredible things London offers be it history or cutting edge modernism is amazing. I wouldn’t really want to live in a proper city apart from London, if I go by all the places I’ve stayed.

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  2. London is a strange place. On the one hand it’s a vibrant city where everything one could want is, generally, within easy reach (or at worst a short tube journey) while on the other hand I find I can only take it in short doses these days. I did spend 8.5 years doing the weekly commute thing (latterly, living in a shoebox flat near Russell Square), but I found that within a few minutes of getting off the train at Paddington on a Monday morning I’d turned into a different, and much less tolerant, person…

    As to poor transport infrastructure, frankly you don’t know you’re born. London is far and away the best place in the country for public transport, in my experience. Try moving out to (e.g.) Bristol and its environs for a while and it will give you a new appreciation for decent buses, the tube, the best train services in the country, Boris bikes, zillions of taxis and even the ability to pretty much walk everywhere in the centre of London. It’s not perfect, but I find it very irritating that many MPs (who spend a lot of time in London) preach about trying to get people onto public transport… completely forgetting that outside the M25, public transport (in a usable, practical sense where one could rely on it most of the time) is virtually nonexistent.

    The amenities, the cosmopolitan approach, the lifestyle, the buzz… are all completely different from any other town or city in the UK, and it’s great to visit a few days at a time. But the cost, the pollution, the attitude and the sheer crowded madness of the place have to be set against that in my view. It can be a great place to be… it can also be paradoxically isolating and depressing. Just like many other places.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Paul. Agreed – London has definite good and bad points. And as someone who can’t drive, I’m really aware of the state of public transport outside London. I suppose I compare it to other major cities outside the UK when I talk about its infrastructure.

      I can definitely see how London can be a shock to the system – it was for me when I first moved here from Dublin. But now I thrive on the place.

      Horses for courses, as they say. I like to visit other places, but after 15 years, London feels like home and is a welcome relief after trips elsewhere.

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