Comment: As the world falls to pieces, it’s wonderful to call London home
- Credit: Empics Entertainment
Living in London is hideously expensive but, in many ways, the events of 2016 show that it’s worth it.
One could almost suspect that the series of dire events that has been 2016 were designed expressly to remind people why they continue to live in the capital, despite the expense.
There can’t be a single middle earner in north London who didn’t think ‘I could buy a flat/have post-rent cash if I moved to Hastings AND I’d be by the sea’ at least once in 2015. Then 2016 swept in an endless wave of bad news and the tide began, slowly, to turn.
It’s always nice to feel the area you live in has contributed to greatness, and from Bowie in Maida Vale to Leonard Cohen in Hampstead, north London boasted far more than its fair share of links with those great and good who departed this year. Even Prince hung out in Camden in the 90s.
On a more serious note, north London has a proud history of welcoming displaced people (explored during our brief flirtation with Pokémon Go) and with the refugee crisis raging with full force in 2016, our readers lobbyied the government and their local councils, opened their own homes, raised money, ran theatres in Calais – the very best of liberal luvvie London in action.
During the EU referendum, while the rest of England morphed into an angry racist, xenophobic and, at times, murderous monster, Londoners were as close to united as you can get. Yes, people living in an international financial centre benefit from free trade and immigration in ways that people living in ex industrial or rural areas do not. But over the summer London’s diverse and tolerant population began to feel quite utopian.
In areas like Camden, with its deep rooted openness to newcomers, knowing that 70 per cent of your neighbours had the same basic vision of what constituted a world we all wanted to live in was a ray of light in the darkness.
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People live in London because they have chosen to live here – we don’t make it easy so you’ve got to really want it. And people do. Because, aside from the restaurant openings, world class theatre and jobs, the capital also offers a haven of open-minded mutual respect, regardless of race, faith or sexual orientation.
You can be a Londoner no matter where you were born. Asking north London-based European friends if they were planning to move ‘home’ after Brexit I was met with a resounding “no”. “We are home,” they said. “We plan to stay and fight for London.”
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Me too. Because if nothing else, this oddest of years has brought that embattled feeling to the fore. The task for 2017 is to not fall foul, Joni Mitchell-style, of only knowing what we had once it was gone. Oh, and some affordable houses would be nice too.