Why I Love Living in Filthy London

A riposte to our 'Northerner's Guide To Living in London', here's why it's not all doom and gloom living in one of the world's greatest cities.
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London is the boyfriend (or girlfriend) who gives you the best sex you’ve ever had. Orgasms on tap. It knows exactly what to do and where to go to get you off, and although most of the time it’s satisfyingly filthy (the Maccy Ds on the Strand, the Oxford Circus Topshop sale rail, Tiger Tiger), it can be surprisingly tender too. (A ninety nine with a flake on a sun dappled Hampstead Heath, eavesdropping on toddlers at Brockwell Park, discovering every single one of your two hundred best mates from uni under different trees at Clapham Common.) London is glamourous (Moira Steward queuing behind me at Chiswick Sainsbury’s with sixty five small packets of honey roasted peanuts in her trolley) and surreal (see previous example). Ultimately London makes you smile and feel special, but it can also send you on a 5AM MDMA inspired crying jag that leaves you beating both fists on a mascara stained pillow yelling “why don’t you care? WHY DON’T YOU CAAARE?”

Because it doesn’t care.  It doesn’t give a tiny, compact, Gillian McKeith sanctioned shit about you. You can stick around for the good times and when the invariable bad times happen, you have to suck it up or bog off.

Sometimes I think me and London are forever. (I’ll move under the arches on Villiers Street outside Heaven. We’ll have baby Travelcards together. It could happen.) There are also lots of days when I think “fuck it, I’ll put all my clean pants in a promotional cotton tote and get a one way Easyjet to somewhere in the Eastern Bloc.” But I’m still here, still surviving. If you’re a native Northerner or from somewhere else far, far away, here’s how it’s done.


The Monies

When I first moved here from Dorset I seriously thought some invisible ninja would guide me to a cash machine, ask for fifty quid and erase all memory of the event every time I left my flat. But London is actually a friend of the freeloader – you just have to be a bit socially inventive. So yeah, there’s Sam Smith’s pubs, BYOB at Leon, watching old-ish films at the Prince Charles for a fiver, free wine tasting at Majestic and erm…borrowing library books.  But it’s also well worth hanging around poncy hotel bars in Soho, pretending you’re there for a product launch and scarfing all the canapés for dinner. Or going to work dos with your mates, because their boss will probably buy you drinks – especially if you pretend you’re going out with them. Or keeping your camera handy for celeb spots and flogging the results to pictures agencies. Or looking for sugar daddies on Craigslist and legging it from Gaucho before you can say chip and pin (if this necessitates any dressing in drag, make sure the cost of the wig and grooming is not greater than the cost of the meal.) If we’re going down the ethically dubious route, I have a friend who swears there’s a Tesco Metro in Lewisham where they turn a blind eye if she self scans her pricier items as ‘onions.’ Follow these tips and when you end up miserable and not quite drunk enough in On Anon, about to pay £93 for three bottles of beer and a vodka lime and soda, your credit card won’t get declined.

Making Friends

A fundemental connection that I have with other Londoners is that I HATE people I don’t know. Hate ‘em. Anyone who has the audacity to let their bag get in my way when I’m running up or down the left side of a tube escalator, or push into me when I’m having a nice quiet stand on the right can rot in hell. Hanging’s too good for them. Talking and commuting don’t go – which is why we love iPods and Kindles. When you’re immersed in someone else’s imagination with your own personal soundtrack, why would you start chatting to someone who might turn out to be an accountant? Especially when they’re reading Freakonomics. But that’s in the AM. At night, London becomes a completely different city. Oh, look, a homeless person grabbing my ankle! I’ve never smelled a wee smell like that before! Here’s a tenner! And have my cigarettes! Admittedly, people who already have their own abodes and friends and lives are a bit harder to speak to. But for every miserable bastard who doesn’t care if you like their hat and think you saw their band at Field Day, there will be another one who will do a big smile and buy you a washing up bowl of tequila. If you really get on, you might even have sex!

If we’re going down the ethically dubious route, I have a friend who swears there’s a Tesco Metro in Lewisham where they turn a blind eye if she self scans her pricier items as ‘onions.

Speedy Speedy Speed.

Um, I like walking around really fast. I do it a lot. As long as you make an appropriate musical choice, you can too. The Message by Grandmaster Flash makes you feel like you’re part of the urban wasteland. Or in a student film project.  Alternatively something silly and whimsical (any Rough Trade Indiepop complilation) makes you feel a bit smug. “Look at all these silly, rushing people!’ you will think. “I bet they are listening to Wagner! They would be so jealous of my whimsy – if they only knew.” When you’re broken hearted and walking around London very fast, everything you play makes you feel like Dusty Springfield, which is also enjoyable. If you really don’t like walking fast and no music in the world can fix that, maybe move to Barnes?


This is the point where I began to lose sympathy with Mr Waller. MEN and WOMEN DIED in TWO WORLD WARS so that IMMIGRATION could happen and there might be GREATER CULINARY ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN THE CAPITAL. Anyway, I really like Barbecoa and La Chapelle. And Nando’s. And the all you can eat vegan place by the market in Angel that’s only four quid a pop.


It is a bit grim, but then I like my lovers/cities dirty. Don’t wear flip flops. Carry wet wipes. Avail yourself of the Superdrug perfume testers as much as possible. And don’t give into paranoia. That garlic-cooked-in-turd smell really isn’t you.

La Musica

I’m assuming that wherever you lived before London had the internet. Well, we’ve got it here too. And whether you want to dance to mid-nineties garage or next millennium electronica or The Smiths, there’s a club night for that. How do you say ‘Google?’


On a good day, London is a pervs paradise, but on a crappy one, the proliferation of beautiful people about town will only make you feel crappier. So head to Trafalgar Square, where there are always at least five overweight people in shell suits. Stand next to them. Have your picture taken. If that doesn’t work, there’s a patch on Oxford Street where every single person I know has been model scouted if they’ve been standing up straight.

There are moments in London when you feel like you’re surviving, not actually living.  But it’s a land of ghosts and ghouls and pop stars and one night stands and free samples and rude cabbies and kind bus drivers and grass and flowers and vomit. If you can love half the things on that list a little bit, you’ll be just fine.

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