So, I was in London yesterday – drinking in Borough Market, actually, only a couple of hours before the attacks, having had a day out at the Globe, so my natural horror at the event and sorrow for those affected is also tinged with a visceral relief that my friend and I weren’t caught up in it.
And I remember, as I sat in the sunshine watching a throng of people just going about their weekend – having enjoyed a theatre production that took a work of England’s greatest writer and made it into an inclusive, vibrant, diverse show for a modern audience – thinking just how much I loved this city, in all its busyness and bustle. I love that you can be on a bus and hear conversations in 10 different languages. I love that you can be surrounded by people who don’t look, sound or dress like you. And I love that London, like Manchester before it, reacts to such horrors with kindness and defiance and a fierce determination not to let an evil few taint their cities and communities.
So I am sad that I’m reposting this, which I wrote on Facebook after the Westminster attacks, but I believe it more than ever…
“And it made me think of what London is…
London is a city that is stoic in the face of disaster, but apoplectic in the face of inconvenience.
London is where we casually joke about keeping a spare pair of comfy ‘bomb shoes’ under our desk at work in case we have to walk home, but lose our minds at a five-minute delay on the Hammersmith and City line.
London is where we have no time for your ‘Not all Muslims are terrorist but all terrorists are Muslim’ bullshit because we remember the IRA and the Admiral Duncan bomber and know that extremists and evil come in all stripes. London has always survived worse.
London is where you can visit some of the world’s best galleries and museums for free, but the price of a pint afterwards might bankrupt you.
London is where it’s unacceptable to hate people because of their race, religion or sexuality, but perfectly fine to wish strangers a terrible death for walking too slowly or standing on the wrong side of the escalator.
London is where in a tragedy people will go to extraordinary measures to help those who, in ordinary circumstances, they would go to extraordinary measures to avoid speaking to or making eye contact with.
London is imperfect: inequality and unfairness is baked into its bricks. It is flawed and full and noisy and dirty and frustrating. It defies your idealisation. Romanticise it and rhapsodise about it, and the next minute you will find yourself with your head in someone’s armpit as you listen to a braying posh boy brag about his skiing holiday.
London doesn’t care if you love it, and it hardly ever loves you back. (Oh, but when it does…)
But London is all of us, London is all of ours.”