Today I received an invitation to a PR event at Spitalfields. I have no idea where Spitalfields is. I don’t even know what Spitalfields is, although the name suggests something quite revolting. I don’t know because the invitation didn’t say.
I find it very hard to swallow the arrogance of people who don’t feel the need to complete an address, presumably because it must be obvious to the recipient that we’re talking about London. Ask a non-Londoner where they live, and they’ll give you a town. Bristol, York, Hastings… Ask me and I’ll give you the name of my town, then add a helpful pointer to counteract your blank look. ‘Where Rebekah Brooks lives,’ usually does the trick. But ask a Londoner where they live, and they won’t say London. Instead their answer will be some obscure district, perhaps an Underground station name, or even a postcode. I once made small talk at a bar in Athens, with a sweaty man in an inadvisable pair of Bermudas. ‘Whereabouts are you from?’ I asked. ‘E17,’ he countered.
E17? Was he a postman? Or should we all be referring to our postcodes in lieu of anything recognisable? Should I be saying airily, ‘I’m from OX7, just up the M40 from HP18’? Oh, FFS.
What’s the big deal about London, anyway? I can’t bear it. Granted, I’m really a country girl. Too long in the city and I start gasping for air like a stranded sardine, searching frantically around for a park which isn’t surrounded by iron railings and smog-filled junctions. But I spent a couple of years in Paris and miss it terribly, so I’m not anti-cities per se. I just don’t see what the big deal is about London. Friends of mine would rather cut off a limb than move out of ‘town’, others have grudgingly crept out to the ‘burbs, where it scarcely feels like London at all, but they can lay claim to a tube station (albeit at the end of a ten-minute bus journey).
‘Oh, London’s just amazing,’ they gush. ‘I mean, if I want Lebanese food at 3am it’s like, right on my doorstep.’ Frankly nowadays the only thing I want at 3am is a wee, so I’m still missing the appeal of the Big Smoke. It’s filthy, it’s expensive, it’s full of tourists and it’s impossible to buy a house with a garden unless you’re rolling in cash or want to live in an ‘up and coming’ neighbourhood which currently boasts abandoned mattresses, a muttering madman with dreadlocks and a shopping trolley, and a bloke who urinates against your front door on his way home from the pub.
London, baby? You can keep it.