Only in South London
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Tut, tut. So when Saboteur Josh Surtees recently found himself walking up Balham High Road, one of the most inoffensive parts of South London imaginable – and, I might add, home to a cracking branch of Argos – he decided he didn’t like what he saw. He considered himself superior, the snooty git.
You see, to us residents of Down Here, he’s just another ignoramus. Another lost tourist from the gak-encrusted streets of North London. No doubt he was too embarrassed to tell the real story; that he was delighted by the suspension of the Northern Line. That even when it was up and running again, he spurned it, instead choosing to wander the streets of SW12 with sweaty palms, salivating at our exotic concrete structures, delighting in our bountiful branches of Chicken Cottage, pinning his eager little face against many a cafe window just to watch the silent soap opera inside until somebody inside noticed and the shop owner had to come out and chase him off with a broom.
Eventually, I’ll bet, many hours later, he stumbled – blinded by our consistently superior architecture and vast rolling greenways – into the doorway of a successful independent retailer where he then spent the night cradling a copy of the Wandsworth Gazette.
Most probably, he was delighted to have a reason to stay away from North London. You see, the trouble with North London is it’s just so bloody up itself. It thinks it’s it, when actually, it’s just insanely run-of-the-mill. Not even a very good mill, at that. Pebble Mill, maybe. And Pebble Mill wasn’t even a real mill. So here we have an area of a major city pretending to be a fake mill. You just couldn’t make it up. Plus the place is full of moustachioed, skinny-jeaned men in vintage Wayfarers clutching iPads and jojoba and celery smoothies yowling “Have you got free wi-fi?” hopefully into the mid-morning air.
It’s a self-congratulating pageant of berkdom. It’s a merry-go-round of morons. I feel sick just thinking about it. Shame I have to go to work there tomorrow.
And when it’s not masquerading as a fake mill, it’s living on past glories too. Newsflash, guys: Camden was cool in about 1995, when Graham Coxon was still drunkenly hugging traffic cones in the high road and a schoolgirl called Amy Winehouse was tittering at the word “crack” because she thought it was slang for “bumhole”. These days Camden’s about as exciting as a margarine ice lolly.
The other awful thing about North London is that it’s home to – and is a rich soil for – the very worst kind of small-minded London media stereotype. The kind of geographically-ignorant berk who guffaws that Watford is “north” – hilarious! Please do tell it again – and thinks that Ashby De La Zouch is the lead singer in Rage Against The Machine. To them, the M25 may as well be the Kuiper Belt, for beyond it lurk only a few vaguely recollected remnants from their secondary school education. Let’s see now, there’s Norwich, Scotland... and, ah, what’s it called? Jupiter. And, North Londoners, although Hull actually is a black hole, that’s just a coincidence, so you don’t deserve that pat on the back you just gave yourselves.
Of course nobody’s perfect, and nobody’s really better than anyone else, either. It just grates on us Southerners that we’re sneered at for living in a part of London that is exactly the fucking same as North London, except that – for the most part – it’s substantially nicer. It’s like being married to Scarlet Johansson and having Pat Butcher’s husband call your missus ugly all day long.
Ach well, whatever. We’ll turn the other cheek. We should all be above this, anyway. I mean, think about it. We’re divided by a thick, slow-moving slurry that’s nothing more than the diluted piss of Oxfordshire by the time it gets to Tower Bridge. Is that a yardstick you want to be measured by? Which side of Inspector Morse’s doo-doos you live on? I don’t. The Thames smells bad and has at least half a dozen corpses in it on any given day. The one time it got a bit of nature in it – I refer to the national hysteria that was the Wally The Whale saga – the fucking thing died. It was overwhelmed. “This isn’t water,” it thought, dodging another needle in the muddy sludge, “I’ve swum up Pete Doherty’s arsehole.” It only suffocated because it was terrified of breathing in.
What I’m getting at is that we’re Londoners; we hate each other for a load of other reasons anyway - taking ages at cashpoints, standing on the left of an escalator - there’s no need to add an extra one to the list. Besides, we’ve got The South Bank, the Imperial War Museum, and, er, the Catford Cat. So yah-boo.
The Catford Cat, a stirring papier mache symbol of South London identity, hovers majestically over the finest KFC in all of Lewisham.