It used to be, as Samuel Johnson once opined, that ‘He who tires of London, tires of life.’ And, being a dyed-in-the-wool Londoner, I once believed this with heart and soul. Only now, on a late train home and passing acre after climbing vertical acre of soulless buildings being sold-off to the overseas rich, it feels more like he who tires of life stays to London.
We can’t house our existing population, yet so many luxury apartments are being marketed overseas for ridiculous amounts that it makes you feel like giving up on the whole metropolis,. I mean, how many apartments are sold on the promise of buying into a thriving capital?
And how many buyers will even visit their investment? What if they actually arrived to find it situated in a soulless sector where their only neighbours are construction companies and cranes?
Of course we can’t all up-sticks; the capital is too much of a magnet, but perhaps we should withdraw our after work activities, our over priced morning coffees, and our keep fit classes – a 21st century consumer version of scorched earth? We pull out and build our communities elsewhere. Somewhere we don’t have to pay through the nose for commuting just to justify the crazy politics of investment and aspiration. Let the oligarchs invest in river side ghettos of Waitrose Express and pubs that have all had to aspire to ‘gastro’ status when all you want is a pint, a pie and a chinwag with mates without tripping over digs and having to mind your language in case the local private school kids find their ears penetrated with uncouthness and barbarity by hoi poloi.
No, Johnson wouldn’t be allowed to spin in his grave now for fear of receiving an injunction on noise or lowering property prices. London now is as soulless as those who own it: the corporations and investors and the owners who will never live there. Yes, the city has always been about commerce. For millennia it’s been the place to make money and to make a fortune for yourself. Only now it doesn’t compare. It’s not for those who make their fortunes and live within her bounds. Its for faceless foreigners and their collaborators in the city who slink back to mansions in the home counties having ripped the soul out of one of the greatest cities in the world.
I hope they sleep well…