My London

 Ant shares his views about living in London in this article which was originally published in 2001 on a now defunct site.


London is wonderfully amorphous: a disparate mix of colour, class and creed that I still find completely intoxicating - a veritable cosmopolitan and cultural melting-pot.

In my street we've had Cornish landed gentry (waiting to assume their family seat) living amicably alongside be-tattooed, huge keyring-jangling characters straight out of "Minder" - whereas in the country they would be separated by the high walls and trappings of privilege!

Indeed, it is widely held that people in London are unfriendly compared to those in the countryside.  I believe this to be an illusion!  There is certainly a veneer of friendliness in the countryside - people say, "Good morning" but, from my experience, it's often a rather loaded greeting that both judges you and censors you if you are out of the ordinary!  The great thing about London is that, within reason, you can be anything, do anything, wear anything and no-one gives a damn!

I love having all the cultural scenarios  - cinemas, theatres, galleries, concert halls - at my fingertips (even if I don't always use them!), and the ability to do things at the drop of a hat.  For instances, deciding on the spur of the moment to go to the Summer Proms, being there in twenty minutes and hearing the best orchestras and soloists in the world in a wonderfully informal atmosphere for less than a fiver!

One minor drawback is that the extensive cloud cover generally excludes the inspiring spectacle of a clear night sky, and of course the air in the summer is decidedly grotty at times.  However, a great consolation to those of us who hate the cold is that you're two or three degrees warmer than everyone else in winter!  I'm always putting on extra sweaters when I go to the country and sit, suffering, with tingling toes!

I never cease to be amazed by the myriad of beautiful buildings, so richly steeped in history, that I take for granted and spend most of my time not noticing!  For instance, Somerset House with its exquisite central courtyard adorned with statues and bizarre gargoyles.

As an occasional drinking man, I must say that the vast choice of pubs is a huge asset, though England's antediluvian licensing laws - nowhere to relax and drink after 11pm - remain a national embarrassment.

I love the strong and distinctive character of each neighbourhood - whether it be Notting Hill, Chelsea, Maida Vale or Clapham - and it find it fascinating observing the individual styles of dress and deportment that seem to occupy each locality.  Question: do you you choose to live in Notting Hill because you're innately a Notting Hiller, or do you become subsumed into its ways once you're there?

London may be a little fast and furious and unlovely if you're down on your luck, but nothing compared to New York where stopping a passer-by or policeman to ask the way is a fearsome prospect!

Gentle London, and generally speaking, friendly and approachable people once you've broken through that initial English reserve.  I think I would tire of life before I tire of London!

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