London is the city I was born in. I popped out my mother as she looked at Big Ben. I attended schools in Knightsbridge, Islington and attended Goldsmiths in New Cross before changing to the arts central, hipster university London College of Communication where for three years, the ugliest shopping centre you may ever see South of the River, greeted me everyday and getting on the bus was a day to day struggle made harder by pushchairs and those who don’t know what a queue means. I have a London accent (what is that?! I don’t know either) and I know bus routes extremely well. I can navigate Soho in ten minutes and navigate Clapham Sainsburys in ten. Those last two things mean something, I assure you.
But London is not mine. A recent talk with my mother, highlighted a problem that I had failed to understand. I was born here, inside this grey, steel city but it is not mine. I cannot say I’ve conquered a day here. I’ve not conquered anything. My conquering consists of getting a seat on the number 2, to be bounced out of it later by a ‘Baby on Board’ badge wielding, sharp faced woman who doesn’t have the bump to back up the badge. London is not mine. Its not even about immigrants for those foolish enough to believe that EVERYTHING is immigrants fault. Immigrants did what my father and my grandfather and my colleagues ancestors did. They came here because they needed money. Who can honestly say that you would pass up the life you know, a life of comfort, pleasures and easy going happiness, to come somewhere where people tut if the bus doesn’t move after five minutes or somewhere where you can put a deposit on a flat only to be kicked out two months later because the landlord sold his soul to Foxtons or whatever because the flats are being changed into even NEWER flats because flats built in 2011 are old flats. 2011/12; old. 2015; brand spanking new. What’s four years when there’s this much monochrome to please your eye as you come home from riding the line especially built for you by old Mags, the Waterloo and City with its shiny turquoise colour that sticks out at you as you stand at Bank waiting for a train a good 15 inches away from the platform. The Waterloo and City line. Probably a line I will never ride in my entire life. Mission of the day: Mind that Sodding Gap.
But that’s London isn’t it?! A gap. London is a series of gaps that, lets face it, will swallow us whole. Mind the gap between the train and the platform. Mind the gap between the employment line and starvation. Mind the gap between classes. Mind the gap between the seats on the bus or else tuts will rain down upon you. Mind the oh so thiiiiiinnnn gap on the newsstands between the now Buzfeed inspired, spelling error clad; free Metro newspaper and the journalism for the quinoa classes whom recently decided that selfies at awards ceremonies and bitchfests about dresses that their staff could not afford in a month of Sundays, was ample journalism. Mind the gap between what flat you can afford on £20k a year vs £24k. Mind the gap between Nandos and MeatLiquor. Mind the gap between 50 Shades of Grey and any random arthouse film (with a similar plot about a pretty French girl with hair black as her sexually starved soul that makes the story a winner at Cannes). Mind the gap between job centre sanctions and being genuinely late for your appointment. Mind the gap between having two part time jobs and paying too much tax meaning you really get a one job income. Mind the gap between being seen as hip in New Cross and shady in Lewisham. Mind the gap between honest living and surfing the property wave because you can afford to do so. Mind the gap between being free to drive and the Congestion Charge zone. Mind the gap between having a degree but not having experience for a job. Mind the gap between the life train coming into the platform. Oh. You didn’t. You’re now dead.
London is not ours because as a population, we have to ride that thin gap between surviving and blatant insanity; seeking pleasure in absolutely everything that every other country sees as pretty much normal. Put the quinoa to one side darling because Bolivia needs you to. Quinoa by the way, is not a fad. It is not a thing for you to pick up as you did Thai food and everything else that the media has managed to take and fad and twist until it trickles down the shelves and becomes available in packet version for 0.57p in Tesco Metro.
London is not ours because we should not pay so much money for basic human needs such as shelter, food, clothing and water. Someone tell me why, when I’ve found somewhere in London that I really want to live (I’m not saying where because that area is mine and I’ll be darned if I say where it is), I cannot afford it on a salary lower than £25k. A salary so far away despite a degree. A salary far away because I’m an £8ph temp. This is what London has given me. A temp job. In a media company that I’m struggling to get into after three rejections even though I’ve been here since September. And that last sentence has probably burnt my bridges.
In Twitter fashion, I say living in London is the lifestyle equivalent to YOLO. Why YOLO? YOLO means you only live once so you better have a good time, you sassy, body painted, beach wave haired fashionista! I say YOLO. Not because its cool, but because apparently, YOLO also means I’ll grab a selfie stick, somehow get tons of money and spend time selfie sticking my way around Asia annoying the people of each town by bearing down upon them with my beaded bracelet clad arm permanently fixed around anybody who stopped long enough to cross a road, shoving selfie sticks at them for them to join my pose! I’m so fun! YOLO in London means I’ll spend £17 on a burger because the guy cooking it has a beard and smells like a farm. YOLO. YOLO in London means you’ll stand for ages to get into a restaurant because restaurants have decided that they no longer want venues that seat more than 30 and those outside better work for their food. YOLO means I have had a cold since November but if I don’t go in, I may lose my job then my flat then my stuff etc. YOLO in London means….so many things. Thankfully, YOLO is not a London saying.
No to YOLO.
No YOLO allowed here. Here, in London, we have ‘yeah alright’ because that’s what life in London is. London is alright. London is cool. We have a beautiful (cough) transport system that was once the best in the world, still is…if you don’t travel on a Saturday…or Monday…Tuesday….Wednesday…Thursday or Friday between 5am and 7pm. We have a city that behaved itself for two weeks during the Olympics which proved by the way, that London can do stuff right when the world’s eye is upon us and we have Russians in awesome sports jacket walking round Stratford. Oh London. London knows how to get prettied up and show its best face. Just don’t look at the tan lines on its back or the lipstick on its teeth.
Anyway, London is not ours because we’ve let it slip from our grasp. We sold Canary Wharf to the Qataris (again, not racism but true) and insist upon letting rich people from anywhere in the world, buy anything they want. London, when did you become a whore?! Allowing someone to do what they want to you, whilst you lie and take it, because you’re paid to do so, is being a whore. OK fine. A Lady of the night then.
London isn’t mine. Its not my mum’s or my best friend’s or my brother’s nor is it any of these people’s who have become so disillusioned with life here that they’d rather move to the North of England than stay here.
We as Londoners need to be honest and say London isn’t ours and we want to try to change that rather than just leave. Because if we leave then what are we doing? Allowing someone or something to take our place. I live in SW2. I guarantee that if my family moved, a new family would move in and it would be like we never existed. Everywhere is like that but its still a worrying idea. Then it’ll be like we never existed. But for goodness sake, could we also not exclude our own people by taking on everything that happens outside of the UK, in a desperate attempt to be different?! Ok fine, lets take on the street food mentality but for the love of goodness, don’t tell me I can only find your food in some particular corner of Southbank on a Saturday night IF its weather permitting! I don’t care how good your food is.
Can we stop getting rid of anything remotely linked to our image as a whole!? No matter how ugly it is? No matter how many times someone has thrown up against it at 4am?
London is mine. London is yours. London is ours. Just don’t expect anything of it but to take your money every January for the same tube service that delayed last year and tell you to pay £17 for a cinema ticket.
And yes yes yes I know I could move. But doesn’t mean I will. Or want to. And yes, some may say, well why not just not use some services.
Here is a plastic cup. Here is some water. Do you want to use your hands instead of the cup?
Buck up London. You’re losing the people who truly know you.
I started writing this post after reading this halfway through. I never do get to finish an article in an hour. Someone needs a room booking. But read it. You can read this too if you want. An article bemoaning of London being privatised every which way but up.
Oh no sorry, the sky is being privatised as we speak.