Arguably the greatest feature of the internet is that it provides a voice to pretty much anybody who wants to be heard. Unfortunately, this is also its greatest drawback. It is home to a glut of blogs, articles and Christ-knows-what else about the pros and cons of living in London. Jesus, it sometimes feels that if you’re not contributing to this ever growing, but incredibly repetitive, list along with the hoards of self-congratulating bloggers then you couldn’t possibly know what’s going on in “The Big Smoke”.
The vast majority of these pieces are written by individuals who, only a few years ago, were referring to London as “The Big Smoke” from their Middle Class abodes in the home counties and further afield. These individuals, now between the ages of 25 and 30 and having lived in Clapham since finishing university, have decided that the world needs to hear what they have to say about the city they have lived in for just a handful of years.
Anyone who lives or grew up in the less salubrious parts of town will, without a doubt, be patronisingly told the place is now "up and coming", as if we've all been sitting around waiting for those from the home counties to ride in and save us by opening a gastro pub. Guess what – just because the young middle classes are starting to spread from their traditional strongholds and buying cheap housing as an investment to move back out to the shires with, that doesn’t instantly improve things in the area.
This argument works at both ends of the spectrum; a colleague (who unfortunately writes an excruciating blog about his experiences in the capital since moving here after university) recently attended the launch of a new bar in a part of the East End that has, for as long as I’ve known of its existence, been what can only be described as a shithole - the sort of place your mum would almost beg you not to go as a teenager. All of a sudden a few hipsters move in and it becomes “urban” and “gritty” and this guy is raving in his blog about how it’s the new Dalston. What he fails to understand is that nobody who is actually from London likes the old Dalston.
Apart from three years away at university, I have lived in London my whole life. My entire family, on both my mum and dad’s sides, have lived in London for as long as anyone’s ever been bothered to trace back. I recently bought my first house in South London, where I grew up. The excitement of firstly scraping enough money together to buy a home, and secondly the emotional homecoming feeling I experienced (having spent the past few years renting in other parts of the city) was huge and, naturally, I wanted to share the news. The reactions I received ranged from congratulatory handshakes to looking like I’d just crawled out of a swamp (one person actually checked to see if I knew I’d have to get a TRAIN to work – the horror!). I mean, why would I want a nice Victorian terraced house with a garden where, for the same price, I could buy a tiny one bed flat somewhere near Clapham Common or Angel?!
I love everything this city throws at me on a daily basis – the noises, the smells, the chance encounters, the scope for personal and professional growth. What I don’t love is someone who has only spent as much time in London as I’ve spent out of it (and have spent their fleeting London life so far in the most well-trodden way imaginable) telling me what I should and shouldn’t enjoy about it.
I am as interested as the next person to hear about new experiences to be had in London. You went to a new bar? Fantastic – tell me more. There’s an open air cinema showing classic films? I’ll be there. Just don’t try and shovel a load of crap down my throat about why your opinion on a city you barely know is more important than anyone else’s.