Don't Envy Inner City Dwellers

Christopher Fowler
londonsmog0706aApologies in advance for today's downbeat post - we've woken to a hung parliament, an un-negotiable Brexit and appalling economic figures that place our growth at Europe's lowest level (the highest is that of Romania). 'You're so lucky living in the centre of town,' say friends. 'Well, I was born there and never moved further out,' I counter, but I usually end up apologising for being so damned lucky. Of course there are benefits to being in the centre, but plenty of deficits too. If you live outside a city, think yourself lucky in these ways. The Cost of Living For years we had nowhere to buy food because there were still real shops in the heart of London. Then they closed down, forced out by raised rents. The last real butcher's shop, in Dover Street, became a T-shirt shop. Even Selfridge's switched to selling junk to visiting super-rich teens. It's impossible to buy fresh produce anywhere. The city now caters for its workforce, not its few residents, so prices have become ludicrous to anyone not employed by a corporate giant. Heard about that fantastic new restaurant? No-one in a real job can afford to eat there. Pollution London is the dirty old man of Europe (see above). A succession of half-baked ideas have been abandoned. Boris Johnson lost interest in his 'end pollution' strategy when it didn't work. Plans to pedestrianise neighbourhoods come to nothing. Noise pollution has worsened, with helicopters overhead on every vaguely fine day, ambulances and police cars using piercing sirens 24/7.
Light levels are heightening in the name of security. London has a giant dustbin lid of cloud over it, thanks to planes leaving contrails. SWOMP Sheer Weight Of Miserable-looking People - stations have to be closed at peak hours. Nobody considered the environmental impact of allowing ten bars to open next to each other in a single street.
You can always tell you're getting near London on a drive back from the countryside, as you see depressed-looking workers reappear. Dirt Those electric vehicles with brushes don't work without real street cleaners following them. We clean our own streets now, picking up everything from McJunk food boxes to bottles and used needles. Local office workers will drink a coffee and daintily leave the cup on a windowsill rather than take it to their office. Do not engage any Londoner on this subject - you'll never get away. Safety Cycle deaths
are appallingly high, but politicians merely shrug. Life for working-class teens is fraught with dangers. Terrorism is ever-present. Living here takes years off your life, and sometimes ends it. Of course, inner city living takes on different meanings in different places.
As I cut between the centres of two large conurbations, London and Barcelona, I can see that despite its (easing) economic problems the latter has arranged the balance to be more beneficial to its dwellers. The Mediterranean city still has cheap food, affordable homes, quiet neighbourhoods, responsive local government and a good community life - you can tell because there are children and dogs everywhere. Add sun, beaches and mountains and you have an idyllic place to live. Okay, its population is a quarter of London's, but
Tokyo has 13 million residents and is just as calm and relaxing to walk around - cultural differences clearly count. So why do we stay? Most of us are tied to our location by work, or a partner's job. Invite us to the country - we need the break!
Posted in


Jan (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 08:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

But you don't actually LIKE the countryside much either do you Chris?

Cheer up my old mate there's another general election just round the corner!!

At least the papers and the media gave poor old Corbyn such a rough ride the public looked again at him. I likes that. On telly the other night there were lots of older people (60s and 70s oops the new middle aged US) at a golf club (of all places ) who said although they would n't be voting for Jezza they admired his principled stand on things Younger voters liked him and his stance on tuition fees. At least they voted.

Brexit - another blow to the Fowler outlook on life at the time- might be a very different beastie now.

Cheer up petal it's only politics. As Mr May is probably saying to his Mrs.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 08:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I did write a reply detailing how difficult austerity has made countryside life but pressed the wrong button and it drifted away!
Am in Plymouth at present on way to Dartmoor a Labour city not just Devonport the whole city.

chazza (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 08:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

For me, London died with the death of Berwick Street Market, the demolition of Soho and Charing Cross Road and irs environs and the growth of Smug Bastardville (formerly Covent Garden).

craig (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 09:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

And now the Tories are going to do a deal with the DUP, who are the political wing of loyalist terrorism, after an election in which the Tories and their mainstream media acolytes attacked Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity for his alleged sympathies with the IRA.

You can be be pretty certain that the media are not going to start digging into the terrorist links of the Tories' new allies but hopefully this gruesome malformation of a bigots' alliance between Brexiteers is not going to last long as a government.

brooke (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 11:03

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My sympathies...as a committed inner city dweller, I mourn over what is happening to our urban areas, especially New York and London. The only thing I can say is that we're not in Detroit---yet.

Brian Evans (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 11:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Having lived in London from 1971-2002 (and loved it till later years), I am now so pleased to have gone back oop north. I still have to spend some time back at our flat in Kings Cross, but I go less and less. I really used to like the buzz, but I can't get away quickly enough now.

Mr F-litter is all over the country-it's not just London. I watched on the old blog of yours three days ago (for the first time) the old 1950s London street scene film. Fascinating-absolutely no litter. I think all these junk food shops should be made, by law, to clear the streets of their own litter. It was also very nostalgic to see all the long since gone lovely old shop fascia from the days when there was much more in the way of "everyday shops" and with much more variety of choice than there is now. And virtually none of dreadful road signage which blights the urban landscape now. A set of 10 traffic lights every 20 yards or so etc...etc...

And Mr F-don't forget they do have the "farmers' " markets in St Pancras Station and the Brunswick Centre. I don't use them myself as I think they are an overpriced affectation, but perhaps they are better than nothing.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 09/06/2017 - 11:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hm. The 'farmers' market in St Pancras Station sells, er, doughnuts and bread. So basically it's a Greggs with awnings.
To me the countryside is a village with a one-way system, a Pizza Bella and three bored teens smoking dope in a bus shelter. But I may have to give it a go some time.

Chris Webb (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 11:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mr Fowler goes to countryside
Sees cow
Sees tree
Gets bored
Goes home

(Discovers while he's been away Ghost of Ian Paisley made Deputy PM)

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 11:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Apart from the increase in take away rubbish littering the streets, which is blamed by those who litter on the scarcity of litter bins because they can't possibly carry empty cartons until they find one, can they; the other topics you covered have always been there in London.
It has always cost more to live in London(weighting allowances), smogs and hordes of glum people(even the foreign visitors look fed up), and safety issues have ever been with us. Be it bombs,traffic muggings or drink fuelled violence,you just have to be careful.
Our son who lives near Arundel,visited last Sunday and remarked how noisy it was, sirens,helicopters,aeroplanes etc. He had forgotten the ambient noise levels since he moved out. We don't really notice it unless it's a police chase around here in the early hours. Enjoy your working sojourn in Barcelona,Chris and cheer up! ;-)

Steveb (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 12:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Look on the bright side, Kenneth Williams 1ac on times xword today. Not forgotten!

Brian Evans (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 13:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mr F, why on earth would you want to go all the way to a country bus stop to smoke dope, when you can do it in the comfort in your own home? Metaphorically of course-perish the thought that you would actually want to.

Joking aside-I've never really been keen on the idea of drugs-but when I lived in Kings X I wouldn't have had a clue where to have got them even if I had wanted them. However, now I live in a country lane in the middle of nowhere, I know that a bloke down our road knocks out "stuff" at very competitive prices.

Debra Matheney (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 15:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Finding a bright-side on either side of the pond is increasingly difficult. Your election- totally unnecessary and a bust for May. Ours unleashed a mad liar on the world.
I agree. London is unlivable now- too crowded, too expensive,too dirty. Much prefer smaller towns like Wells or Bury St Edmonds. Relaxed, but not country country.
I have struggled to be cheerful since last November and wish you luck with that. Enjoy Spain and keep writing. B and M are a real comfort.

Peter Tromans (not verified) Fri, 09/06/2017 - 16:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Things to be happy about:

However unsuccessful his marriage may have been, our Mr May isn't and never has been married to Mrs May (she of the Strong and Stable).

Oxford West has been won by the Lib Dems.

Laura Humphrey (not verified) Sat, 10/06/2017 - 08:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

you need to live in a town by the sea, I left Greenwich for the midlands about 25 years ago and now live in suffolk, best thing I ever did. When I visit London I can't wait to get home again, there a dirty sheen on my skin and I can't stand the amount of people