The Splash Dabbler: An Inky Splatter

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London Calling

Splash Dabbler Columnist

Is London Evil?
October 30, 2006


A friend of mine recently bought a miniature London Guide. It contained lists of all the good bars and restaurants of course, and a list entitled ‘You Know You’ve Been In London Too Long When…’. I read through the list while sitting on the tube the other day, and it made me laugh, because EVERY item on it applied to me. Things like:


- You’ve learned to block out the sound of sirens


- You’re instantly suspicious whenever a stranger is actually nice to you


- You think 40 for a hair cut is entirely reasonable


- Queuing becomes a way of life


- Hookers and the homeless are invisible


- You consider eye contact as an act of overt aggression


- Essex is ‘the countryside’


- You roll your eyes and kiss your teeth at the news that someone has thrown themselves under a tube train, because it means you’ll be delayed


- You pay 3 without blinking for a drink that cost the bar 28p


This last one especially made me laugh, as I was reading the list next to my friend who was visiting for the day from Reading (50 miles west of London for those not familiar with UK geography). Earlier that day, we’d been in a bar and ordered cocktails that cost 5.50 a throw. My other Londoner friend and I thought nothing of it…in fact, I thought it was quite reasonable. Our other friend however, nearly had a small heart attack when she saw the price. At that point, I began to wonder about life outside London. And I realised that, aside from the 3 years I spent in a much smaller city at University, I’ve never experienced any other way of life.


I’ve also spoken to a couple of people who have recently moved away from London to smaller towns, and they have found the change in pace and price to be really noticeable, and refreshing. One of these people commented that he felt healthier since leaving the big city for Brighton. A close friend of mine recently told me that at one point recently,  that when she was working in the centre of London full time, she managed to spend over 1,000 in one month, purely on going out to bars and clubs every night after work. I was a little shocked, but could understand how this would be perfectly possible, as I can easily spend about 50 on a night out ‘uptown’, as opposed to a much more modest 20 or so on a night out more locally, in outer London.


Armed with all this information – the expense, and the fact that we Londoners are definitely ruder, more suspicious and a lot less laid back after several years of roaming the centre of town and the tube, I wonder if I’d be a better, not to mention richer, person if I left it all behind to go and live in the countryside…or at least a smaller place far away from the capital of the country. After all, the countryside isn’t so bad. The air feels cleaner, the pace is slower and far more relaxed, and strangers actually say hello to you when they pass you…and they won’t try to pickpocket you either.


As if I needed any more evidence that the big city is evil and the countryside is better for you, this past weekend, a list was published of the official top 10 worst places to live in the UK – taken from a recent study conducted by Channel 4 (a big TV station in the UK). 4 of the top 5 of these places are in London. Places that could be considered ‘rural’ didn’t feature at all, with the remaining 6 boroughs being located in Nottingham, south Wales, Middlesbrough and Northern Ireland. So that settles it really – London is officially a BAD place to live. It’s expensive, crime is high, and apparently, the environment is pretty rubbish also.


So that’s it – I have all the evidence laid before me – TV polls, terrified visiting friends and news of happy people who have fled for the simple, country life. But actually, I don’t envy those people. I can’t imagine not living in a place where the centre of what I consider to be the most fantastic city in the world (ahem…having not been to many of the other capital cities in the world…but that’s just a detail) is only 20 minutes away by train, bus, car or bike. And you only have to read my previous columns to be able to list the pros for living in London. Pigeons! Hare Krishnas! The Underground! Legendary music venues! It’s all here, and it’s sitting on my doorstep and yes, it’s expensive, and yes, there are constant sirens going off at 3 in the morning…but I still love it. And terrified as my friend may have been when she came to see my city, I think she enjoyed being shown around. And I enjoyed being a tour guide.


Maybe one day I will leave, and go far, far away. But it’s not going to be soon. So I’ll continue to pay over the odds for hair cuts and avoid eye contact in case I get mugged, but in return, I get to be part of the diversity and culture, and hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke…and that’s fine, thanks.



Name: Anne Freeman
Comment: I know that much that is stated here is fact but there is another side
to this beautiful city that I loved when on a break there. Excellent writing

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