“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson
I decided to write this post after a commenter on this blog appeared to confuse my worry over the Islamisation of parts of London with a negative diagnosis of the city as a whole. More specifically, he/she wrote…
“I knew Paris was bad these days, but I had no idea London was a dump too!”
That word – ‘dump’, got to me a bit. I knew perfectly well what he/she was referring to and how I might have given that impression, but I nevertheless felt somewhat traitorous to my home for having given it.
Now, of course it’s true (and after the murder of Lee Rigby, even liberals won’t deny) that London has a problem with Islam. There are more Muslims as a proportion of population in Greater London than in Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, New York, Washington DC, Boston, Rome, Moscow or Berlin. A great mass of historic land has been culturally paved over with something entirely foreign and historically hostile.
Even away from recognized ‘Islamic areas’, this presence makes itself known in countless ways, almost all of them negative. Most of the heroin trade in London is now attended to by Turkish gangs. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis monopolise organized paedophilia, low-level thieving and terrorism. The Albanian mafia is feared throughout central London by businesses, indigenous criminals, and newly smuggled immigrant workers alike. Most visibly, the diet of the general population is being constantly degraded by an ever-expanding number of kebab stores which themselves have displaced traditional British eateries throughout the inner city.
But… And it’s a big ‘but’ (and I cannot lie), London remains by any measure the greatest city in the EU, and one of the most interesting, vital and exhilarating in the world.
At 7pm, on any day of the week, if you place yourself somewhere in Piccadilly Circus say, with about 100 pounds cash in your pocket; then from that position, with those means, and without ever having to travel more than a subway or taxi ride, you can experience almost anything. London has it all – good and bad, legal and illegal, loving and hateful, healthy and lethal.
You might say, ‘Well, that’s nothing special. Most cities are like that’….. But you’d be wrong.
Paris for example has become notorious across the continent for its lack of nightlife, over-enthusiastic police, and draconian licensing laws. Berlin hasn’t been a city of pleasure since the Weimer Republic and Rome is more an open-air museum than a living environment.
London – by contrast – is the capital of the EU for pretty much everything; Sex, art, business, pleasure, music, violence, sport, history, drugs, conversation, fine-dining, luxury etc….
I still remember the moment I decided to devote my energies to moving here. I was on a day-trip to the city with my parents. We went to see a West-End musical and did some shopping on Oxford Street. Both the shopping and the musical bored me to tears, but the rest of the experience enthralled me. I found the buildings and atmosphere quite magical. Everything was bigger here. Everything was brighter, louder, and more important than in Bristol or my parental hometown. I began to dream of setting up a life within the M25.
My favourite part of the Capital has always been the connected but various districts of South Kensington, Earl’s Court, Hammersmith and Fulham. These aren’t the kind of places which attract tourists (the exception being Exhibition Road in SK), and on first sight, they don’t seem to be particularly interesting, but it is the gift of experience that one grows fond of small trees, rough stones, and local faces, and these streets are now far more impressive to me than Charing Cross or Westminster. If one walks down Exhibition Road on the opposite side to the Science Museum, one can notice small craters in the marble along the walls. A small plaque informs the visitor that this damage was achieved by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the Blitz, and that they have been preserved to remind us of the national sacrifice of that period. It’s little things like that which endear me more than Elephentine monuments or crowds of pigeons.
The only real rival to London in the Western world is, of course, New York. For at least 100 years, these two cities have been both hard-hearted rivals and good-natured siblings. Both are centres of global finance, and both usually make up the alternating No.1 and No.2 positions in global rankings for the best place to eat, holiday or study etc… Still, despite any similarities, I have no desire to live in New York as long as London remains standing.
Educated conversation in London these days involves a variety of dystopian predictions about the future. For Liberals, the Thames is rising perilously, alongside national debt and economic inequality. For the Right, the skin-tone of the city is ‘browning’. None of these fears interest me. I don’t particularly care about the ‘ethnic balance’ of my town, and I would never believe a word from anyone self-described as ‘green’. It is Islamisation alone that concerns me, and gives me cause to worry for the future. Everything else appears compatible, even synergistic.
Anyway, this is just a clarification. In spite of everything, London remains a wonderful place to be.