Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tired of London?

The Telegraph blogging team are busily discussing the New York Magazine's provocative article on the merits of New York versus London. It seems a bit pointless, but newspapers love declaring, for example that Paris is the best at A, London the best at B and other places the best at XYZ.

Readers humour them by continuing to buy their papers whilst not really caring who is the best at anything because it's all moot anyway. Good luck to those who are in 'the best' city for XYZ, and tough luck on the rest of the world. Still, no one's losing any sleep over it, except maybe some promoters of tourism.

I can't comment on New York since I've never been there. I have known peope who live there who are quite nauseating about how wonderful it is, and I'm sure I'll get there one day to see for myself, at least to visit. It was apparently founded in the 1620's by the Dutch. This is quite a long time after the Romans founded London in AD43. London was burned down several times, but this in no way detracts from its history, which, afterall, does not re-set after every disaster.

I used to work in London, and live in the Green Belt. I remember wishing the GB was greener and that I could access free countryside more easily. Everywhere seemed to belong to someone. I would travel daily on the Northern Line which, in the mid '80s was a dirty, smelly underground hell hole. Have they installed ventilation that works now? It was exhausting travelling for 2 1/2 hours per day and by the weekend, the last thing I wanted to do was go back in for pleasure.

These days, I visit, and I find that suits me just fine. I can go and take what I want and leave the problems for someone else to sort out. The boys adore going there to ride on the train, tube and a nice red bus, visit the Science Museum, or one of the transport, military etc museums. They love going to Hamley's, and eating out.

I find it all cosy and familiar - I know where to go, and how to get there. The museums are FREE and have super shops. I loved being able to skate at the Natural History Museum this winter, and intend to try the one at the Tower next winter.

My parents can travel all over the London transport system for nothing which means they can have super days out for free if they take sarnies.

There are lots of marvellous aspects to London and the ones which are important are the ones which apply directly to the individual. I would not, however, want to bring up my children there. I prefer the fresh air and open spaces that living where I do provides. They have the best of both worlds. They live healthily in the country, but make regular visits to London with mum, and Paris with dad.

Who cares about London vs New York!


  1. For me the comparisons of this sort are off beam. The most wonderful place to live is probably there where you are happy and feel at home.

    In my little nest all white and minimal with my garrigue pure sud garden, little dog, and loved one's near in my village, my own village, it's heaven. London, New York or Tokyo to me as a unreal as the planet Mars!

  2. I've only visited London a few times as a tourist (being a Northerner myself) and I loved the sense of history I felt. Yes - I know it's corny but going to the Tower was awe-inspiring for me - I kept touching the stone walls of the prison cells and imagining who had touched these same walls...and I had a drink in The Cheshire Cheese and walked down Pudding Lane and I stood on Westminster Bridge...I'd love to have a proper historical tour of the city one day...

  3. I am tired of London I work and live here. The people are rude nobody has any manners anymore, if you did happen to be on fire nobody would bat an eye lid or perhaps a few would light a cigarette from your flaming corpse.

    The transport system is always breaking, its overcrowded, the bus drivers are all zombies who cant drive.

    The streets are dirty and stink of piss.

    Apart from that its fine.

  4. Comparisons are, as ng says, pointless. That said, I was recently in London for the first time in 15 years and couldn't believe how appalling it was. And I lived in New York for four years; wound up hating it there, too. The last time I was back, I really couldn't see why people make all the fuss. I'll take Paris or Rome any time or, in the States, Chicago or San Francisco. Elsewhere, I love Hong Kong. First and foremost, of course, Toronto.

  5. There's nothing like the expatriate who says that the old country is going to the dogs. And I can understand that, having been an expatriate for quite a few years myself. So well done, Sarah, for not pulling that line.

    I prefer to live in the Green Belt, too, rather than in the city. Like you, there is much about London that annoys me, very often. And perhaps it has taken me years as well, yet every time I visit London now, I realise just how much it really has to offer.

    The city is on our doorsteps, and we see it all too easily through jaded eyes. And so many tourists have seen more of it than we have.

    I was on the South Bank at Tate Modern yesterday (of which more later, perhaps). It was a perfect morning in wonderful sunshine, and it was really hard to think of a more pleasant city to see the spring come in.

    The people I was meeting there told me that although they'd worked in London for many years, they'd actually never been to Tate Modern before. Or even to St Paul's. Or the London Eye. They didn't know that there was once a Roman chariot arena just north of where the Millennium Bridge now stands.

    So I say, just wake up, and look around you. You don't have to run 26 miles in one day to get a sense of it all (although it surely helps).

    You simply need to gaze upwards, just for a lunchtime or two, beyond those mean commuter tunnels and drizzly bus stops.

    This is a world city, with its history right in front of you, and waiting to be unlocked at every turn. It takes some effort, but the more you look at London, the more there is to find.

  6. I used to live next door to a family who, despite living 20 minutes from the centre of the City by train, had never ever been into London.


    Actually Roads, I regret some things. Harrods, for example. The rise of Estuary English, the cost of living, and getting rid of Roadmaster buses.

  7. That's fine, Sarah. You're allowed.

    It looks as though you set me off on one there. So much so that it eventually turned into a post. Thanks for that.

    I quite like the new buses, both bendy and double decker, and I never shopped in Harrods, so those two aren't on my list.

    Estuary English. Well, I can't throw stones. As a Romford boy brought up as half a Midlander, RP has never been my strength.

    What annoys me about London ? The tiresome complaints about the cost of the Olympics, from people who live in posh houses in Fulham and have never see the Lea valley regeneration area, let alone lived in it.

    The gripes about the congestion charge from 4 wheel drive owners who leave their engines running whilst they're parked outside the school gates or just texting friends for hours on their phones.

    The people who decry the arrival of Polish newspapers in the kiosk at Tesco. Typically these are the same people who always complain about never being able to find a plumber, before bragging about paying the Polish plumber in cash.

    The rise and rise and rise of so many brash estate agents at the expense of food shops in every suburb. Those same estate agents who keep their shop displays burning brighter than the fourth of July, all night, every night.

    How many West London residents really browse the housing market on Acton High Street at 4am ?

    Er, well, maybe that's enough from me for now. I love it here, really. Honest I do.


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