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95% of Britain's live in the towns and cities and times are a changing, Britain far more multicultural and exposed now as the Empire crumbles and its ability to make money from its lands slips away. We also know from the banking fiasco that tax revenue has been falling long before the banks were asked to raise 25% of the counties wealth anyway they could, and as we no longer make anything we are just one big call-centre/ distribution centre. Whether we like it or not China and India are the new super powers and Blair has kicked the Great off the British sign into the icy grey North Sea. ... My A-Z of big city life A is for Aging We are getting healthier and so getting older, the NHS paradox where the longer they keep us alive the more care we need, and that means cash. Wards are now jam-packed with people with dementia because the council care homes have been closed down and the governments just don't want to talk about this growing catastrophe. Wealthier old folks are having their homes stripped from them to pay for care and so their kids lose their inheritance, often their first home too. By 2020 there will be more retired people than people working in the United Kingdom. Its no coincidence the law is being tweaked on assisted suicide as the government will clearly need a 'mechanism' to 'reduce' those extremely unproductive octogenarians with dementia. My dad got dementia and he didn't know he was or who I was and regularly attacked my mom, between wandering off or strip naked in your living room. They are no longer your parents and need secure accommodation, but you they dumped on parents or kids who have to give up work or sign on to contain them. It's so counter productive and we need a radical solution soon, one that doesn't involve euthanasia. B is for Banks In the Wild West they robbed you with a six shooter - in the new millennium it's with a fountain pen in a tax haven. The banks that didn't end up as pubs are now another bank, merger after merger, and collapse after collapse. The international banking model is broke and I think we will see great changes in the tertiary sector in the coming decades. For me the reason why Gordon Brown gave The City the green light to deregulate was purely to generate cash for the country, not so much to make bankers filthy rich. They will achieve that anyway. We don't make much as a nation anymore and we can't even hold onto our call-centers. 25% of the countries wealth was coming from the banks before the crash and still is today....be it from a much small gross national product. The banks are our biggest earner, simple as. Some areas of Wales have 70% unemployment in men, unable or unwilling to retrain in less macho jobs in the mine lands. The city has to find their dole and incapacity cheque's from thin air, quite literally! You guys took the credit cards out and mortgages you could never see through and so have to accept some of the blame here. The world went to crap because you wanted the latest white goods and dreams you could never pay for, just because the banks gave you enough rope to hang yourself with. The only time guys should spend money they haven't got is to try and get laid by sexy women or pay your bills to keep your kids fed and under a roof. C is for Crime Crime is surprisingly tumbling in America and is falling in Britain too, not because we have fewer criminals (those are at record levels) but because we have less money and stuff to nick, some US cities seeing their lowest murder rates for 40 years. It's a simple equation where people go out less so less likely to be mugged and so must be inside more so to deterring burglaries. Youth crime has risen 13% under New Labor though whilst burglary has fallen 13%, mainly because the value of stolen electrical goods has crashed. Drug addicts are the robbers and they sell on their booty quickly and because DVD players and the like in homes or businesses are so cheap first hand they are not making them much profit second hand. With heroine and crack so cheap now its better to mug people in the street for their cell phones and I-pods than get longer sentences for burglary. And to get the bravado to mug and burgle they take those drugs, the vicious circle... D is for Devolution Wales and Scotland have been given there own 'pretendy' parliaments and Monopoly money to shut them up, but now taking the rest of the UK for mugs as they demand free this and free that. A renegotiation of the Barnet Formula would see them seriously out of pocket on the amount of revenue their countries generate for the big pot. Glasgow is an appalling city for health and wealth in the European Union and has the highest for social security claimants for cities in Western Europe. These guys can not make it on their own and Alex Salmond talking about a vote on independence but not actually doing it makes him look a wee pratt. E is for ethnic wealth The immigration argument is raging and may settle the election; people in recession entitled to vote with their emotions for once. White groups are the richest in the country with an average household wealth (house value and income, which includes benefits and pensions) of £221k, the hard working, respected and educated Indians second on £209k. Then there's a big drop to Pakistanis in third at 97k and then Black Caribbean at 76k, the latter due to the highest levels of single parent occupancies. Other Asians manage just 50k and then it becomes troubling with Black African at 21k, a figure surprisingly low to me. Bangladeshis are rock-bottom on a feeble 15k and yet 10,000 a year are still allowed to take up their entitlement to live in the UK. The Irish traveling community does not even register, it's that 'unknown'. (Please not this was in the daily Mail so may not be entirely accurate) F is for Fines Croydon council employed a smoking warden on 44k a year and backed him up with a 38k assistant plus two part-timers, the idea being they would go around pubs and businesses and clamp down on smoking in public places by handing out fines. You would presume this was to produce some much needed revenue but it turns out they handed out exactly zero fines or warnings in a two year period, the jobs purely about creating needless employment to bring down the doll queue. In Peterborough they did get their act together on revenue raising jobs with their litter wardens, employing them on a keep £35 of the £80 fine basis so to pay for their salary, the council getting the other £45, over zealous wardens soon all over the town centre folk who were dropping crisp packets and fag butts, so the scheme having zero incentive for the wardens to stop the people littering in the first place. If you pay inside 21 days the fine is dropped to £50 and the council gets just £15 of it. 1,772 fixed penalty notices were handed out in 2008. The question now is will Peterborough council be using anti-terror snooping laws to double that number of wardens and fines as the people stop littering? G is for girls and babies Even with the morning after pill there's no fall in teen pregnancies in our big metropolis. The use of emergency contraception doubled in the last six years but it has failed to achieve much, actually increasing doubling sexually transmitted diseases as girls see it as some sort of contraception. There has been a much bigger increase in abortions too. Genius! H- is for households The South East, of course, has the richest average household wealth, their properties and salaries averaging £ 288,000, second placed SW of England at £277,700. London is surprisingly down in 6th place, just £173,400, that due to rented and multiple occupancy housing. Rather contradictory London has 10% of the richest people in the country but also 25% of the poorest. Wales is the lowest at £150,600, a country that seems completely bloody hopeless and needy without the mines they are always going on about. I- immigration The top five countries for Brits to emigrate to are the ones that the folks coming the other way are as equally productive here as far as not signing on or costing the country money. One million plus have legged it to Oz whilst 398,000 middle-class types have meandered down to their French farmhouses. A lot of these emigrants have worked in Britain and paid taxes here most of their lives and so have no problem with claiming their £250 heating allowance in their summers and our winters. Around 64,000 British pensioners living in the EU claimed the £250 payments in 2008, some £14 million in total, a similar total of Poles claiming child allowance in the UK for their kids back in freezing Poland. Fairs fair! -Immigrants- India 1.6 million Pakistan 1.2 million African Caribbean 1.1 million Bangladeshi 500,000 Poles 500,000 -Emigrants- Australia - 1 million plus USA 830,000 Canada 608,000 Spain 447,000 France 398,000 The Eastern Europe migration the other way, although huge, has been surprisingly successful because adults could not sign-on until they have been here for 12 months, living on their own funds or money earned here. It's the same for young Brits having a year out in Oz and encourages you to work so to stay up to the year or even longer. For that reason alone we have seen few claims for jobseekers allowance by Poles in the U.K, these guys and girls coming here purely to work. That may not be the case with unemployment rates in other ethnic groups here. But in April the rules change and that 12 months drops to 3 months, a seven year E.U ruling coming to an end that enforced the 12 month limit and that could wreck the Poles reputation as the temptation in recession becomes huge to sign-on here, our dole three times theirs. Just 20 per cent (by ethnicity not passport) of Bangladeshis, 30 per cent of Pakistanis, and 40 per cent of Black Africans of working age are in full-time work here, compared to more than 50 per cent of white British people of working age ( although if you strip out the middle-class that number would crash). From these numbers we know that of every 10,000 Bangladeshis that come over one-in-three will sign on. Will the Poles join that statistic now they too have a way to opt out from doing the cra**y jobs? History says probably. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/occ82migrantuk.pdf J is for Jail As you know it peaked last year at 84,000, even though the PM tells us violent crime is falling, police station cells packed full of baseball capped 'chavs' and foreign nationals to cater for the over-flow. With increased un-metered immigration its no surprise 1-in-7 prisoners are now foreign nationals and it would be much higher if police stations actually charged all of those foreign nationals committing crime, expensive translators and human rights lawyer's costs discouraging the cops passing them on to the CPS. 15,500 foreign nationals were sent home in 2008 alone on Con Air style flights, many of those also wanted for crimes in their own countries. The Polish government is surprisingly strict on recovering Polish nationals who have committed crimes in Poland and fleeing the country and very happy to come and get them, the bulk of the 15,000. Sadly few other countries are as keen and prefer not to come and get them, knowing full well those annoying human rights lawyers will keep them in the U.K's cushy prisons. To put it in perspective there are just 2400 British nationals serving prison sentences abroad. I'm making a point on foreign criminals as, although they are equal to any white underclass crooks as a group and so not about their skin color so much on why they commit crime, we are still importing this criminality and so can control it somehow where as we can't deport white underclass criminals. Soft touch Britain is not the half of this. An example of the type of crime Eastern Europeans bring to Britain happened in Northampton this week. A young English couple on a regular housing estate went out in their car to go for a meal. When the husband returned to get his wallet some 25 minutes later a Romanian family had brazenly forced themselves in to is house and were preparing a meal in his kitchen, parking their car in the drive and given the small room to their child, unpacking their stuff in the various rooms, all in a half hour! The Romanian family were given a 100 hour community work order, which, as they don't speak English, was unclear what that would be. Can you believe that! -Top 10 offenders- White British - 60,000 (70%) Black British - 10,000 (13%) Jamaican - 963 Irish - 752 Vietnam - 620 Poland - 617 Somalia - 463 Pakistan - 445 Romania - 357 Lithuania - 330 K is for the knowledge economy What happened to city centre wi-fi! We had free terminals in the local shopping centre walk ways but they heated up too much and were taken away, never to be seen again. The local library do internet but charge £1 for 20 minutes to email! L is for lite touch As you know political correctness has taken over city and work life and you can get nailed for just about anything said out of place in the 'employment space' these days. Police in Kent on the job have been told not to ask people their Christian names, use the phrase 'good afternoon', use handshakes or words like 'love' or my dear', and describe people as 'mixed race'. I can just about see why mixed race would offend someone but for the love of me I cant understand why you cant say to a foreign chap on Maidenhead high street 'good afternoon sir! It's truly bizarre. The irony is that the soft cap policy in Afghanistan to 'try' and win the support of the locals would be to say all of the above. We really are stripping away police authority with feeble PC nonsense. Imagine if the beat bobbies had to carry around a manual of politically correct law. This is insane! M is for Murder One-in-five homicides in the UK are now done by foreign nationalities with one third of all killers currently incarcerated classed as non white British. Eighty-five per cent of people aged between 10 and 19 who died violently in London between 2007 and 2009 were from ethnic minorities, the London Serious Youth Violence Board revealed. Whilst an incredible 77% of young black males have been arrested for suspected criminal offences and entered into the police database, a racist policy if there ever was, 10% of all violent killings nationally happened in just six inner city boroughs in that 2007-09 period. The most common killing in society in general is still one of passion with many still happening in the kitchen with a blunt or very sharp instrument. Guys, don't row with the misses near the cutlery rack! Sadly the highest murder rate is still in the 0-12 month's category, the news littered with child killer every week now. I would never judge a mum as bringing up a kid as it's not easy but the system does allow for women that really shouldn't have kids to have child after child so to stay on state benefits and its they who are the ones that malfunction the most. Again, a deterrent can be used there to stem this abuse to children. If we cant and don't want to protect our own children we are a feeble nation. N is for Noise and pollution You can be fined for playing your music on '11' or get an Asbo for being too noisy in the sack but if you ring the same council to complain about a noisy pub under the 24 hour license law you can forget it mate! Nationwide the councils have closed just 30 pubs for noise pollution. You seem to have to wait for the smoking ban to close them now, that method claiming 40 a week at the peak. Noise and pollution has also increased in the town and city centers as cars try to find somewhere to park. Although the congestion charge has cut car journeys in central London it has increased pollution and jams, believe it or not, motorists terrified of getting a ticket so always running the engine or on the move. Westminster handed out three times its population in parking tickets in 2008 alone. O is for Organized crime When the police talk about gang related crime they mean ethnic crime. Many of the Somalia pirate operations are being coordinated by Somalia nationals in London whilst gypsies from Romania and Moldova are running 75% of the cash point thefts here. The Vietnamese run 80% of cannabis farms in Britain and the Sri-Lankan garages forecourts run up 35% of all credit card fraud in the U.K. Crime is franchised out by social class and ethnicity it seems. The white underclass love to steal cars, rob houses and beat people senseless after 16 pint but they don't like to do organize crime as much for some reason, which is quite refreshing in a perverse way, their only redeeming feature. The gangs form by ethnicity because the people feel more comfortable around their own when first arriving in the U.K and as the first point of call is normally the rough areas for most then criminality is part of that life, often the life they have just come from. behttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/11/somali-pirates-london-intelligence P is for Pubs The smoking ban has decimated the trade with one-in-four pubs closing since Labor introduced the anti working-class new law. I have a theory that the ban was the straw that broke the camels back and what flung us into this devastating recession. Risk takers tend to smoke and the sub prime gamblers in the city of London were quite literally left out in the cold in infamous city type London boozers in the square mile and so no heads were banged together in leisure time to soften the blow of the financial maelstrom to come. Deals are done over booze and in good restaurants in the city of London and the ban scratched a line between the smokers and non smokers like running finger nails down a chalk board. It's just a theory. Its not been great for pub workers either, the biggest irony being the 50,000 jobs lost in the trade in the last five years were mostly employees that smoked, before the ban pub these workers the most likely to smoke so making a mockery of the law that the ban was a healthy & safety one to protect them. Bar workers and landlords also have the highest alcoholic numbers in the work place (irony number two being second only to health workers) yet there's no move to ban booze in pubs, although you just can't put that past New Labor. To cap off the absurdity the first landlord to be jailed for allowing smoking in his pubs, Nick Hogan, was asked in court whether he would like to go to a 'smoking or non smoking jail', with likewise inmates, the human rights lawyers insisting prisoners can smoke in public places. You can't make it up! Q is for stealing the Queens Coin The MPs expenses fraud is just about acceptable for me in most cases as our MPs are poorly paid for the job they do. They need a flat £100,000 salary just to function in London and keep their office going. Instead we should ban then from second jobs and claiming expenses ad pay them the 100k. I know politicians take payments on the side for representing companies but to actually see it on C4's undercover cameras sickened me more than I thought. Not only were they arrogant and blaze in their body language, it became pretty clear they were prepared to soften the law to help big business to the detriment of their electorate, which begs the question - has New Labor been introducing this absurd amount of new laws in their 13 years-some 38,000 so far- purely so the same big business can give them bribes to change those laws back again to favor big business? This is why we didn't believe them on the war in Iraq and global warming. I'm voting Liberal again. R is for Railways New Labour has tried to nationalize some of the services to improve punctuality but it just means more people stuffed into carriages. Marxist Bob Crowe is again threatening strikes because the network franchises want to hack safety track inspectors across the country and so now we can't fly or train for Easter. Rail and flying jobs are particularly union protected jobs and when you see twenty guys in fluorescent gear hanging around the track just up from the platform doing nothing that would be the safety inspectors. Saying that we haven't had a big crash for a while now so it is working. But more trains mean's more services and more cars and vans getting taken out on crossings as impatient drivers and suicides run the gauntlet, that number alone making up for the lack of the big one. S is for salaries 90% of full-time employees in the U.K earn less than 45 grand a year. The richest 10% of the population has an average wealth of £853,000 whilst the richest average £2.6 million per annum. Only 1% of the population earns over £100,000. The poorest 1% has a net income of £ 3,840 pounds or more, the standard Jobseekers hand out. Rather impressively migrant men take just five years to catch up with those born here once they have done their apprenticeship of 'crappy' jobs, the jobs the ones born here tend not to want to do, why most migrants that want to graft are here and soon employed. Migrant women, alas, never catch up, Islam behind that. T is for Transport You need the brain of a four year old if you think global warming will affect our lifestyles in next thirty years. Few people would complain if there were a few more high tides at some of our 'grotty' seaside resorts that seem to have more benefit claimants in the bed & breakfast than actual holidaymakers in the summer. The real fear is the oil price getting out of control as supplies decrease and demand increases, meaning more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan to control what's left. So scary is the prospect of oil running down in the next fifty years the news media just leak out startling statistics like the fact China's oil consumption has risen a terrifying 28% in just one year! This in the worst recession the modern world has known. China will need HALF the world's oil by 2050, meaning someone is going to have to go without, meaning WW3. I believe the hype over global warming is purely to get people to save energy and for companies to find alternatives energy sources rather than there's any real threat of the world warming to dangerous levels. In fact the world temp has plateau'd over the last ten to 15 years. Councils are being offered huge bribes here to introduce mileage charging in big city congestion zones and we also know they want to lower the drink driving level to zero alcohol. Both these measures will not only drive cars off the roads but will reduce fuel taxes and so they can recover that lost tax through green tax, and to be fair finally there's something honorable about this plan. The last century belonged to the car but things have to change guys. We know the congestion charge in London has worked in reducing traffic and increasing revenue and at least with a mileage charge in big cities it would tax the drivers causing congestion where as petrol tax penalizes those driving alone on a country lane. Some rather adventurous council's are already investing in carbon cutting schemes, Cambridgeshire council coming up with the 'guided busway, an extremely expensive concrete track that's basically a tramway for buses. It has all the hallmarks of a future fraud case and reminds me of The Simpson's 'Monorail' episode where the town is persuaded to have a pointless monorail over Springfield for 'status reasons'. I suspect this call for carbon saving schemes will eventually see monorails. U is for Underclass boys Britain's inner cities have changed a lot; the last white guy in London called Winston was Churchill! White working-class boys start school at a similar educational level as black Caribbean boys and ahead of Bangladeshi boys, but quickly deteriorate soon after. AT the age of 16 home grown white lads perform the worse of all kids in our metropolitan schools. White working class girls are also the worse at 16 but still out perform white working-class boys. This statistic is where this neglect of the white working-class nonsense has come from that ethnic minorities get more help and housing etc. It's not the case and your kids just fail because your parents haven't succeeded and probably didn't want to. It takes hard work to do well in life. V is for Vacancies One quarter of Britain's' working age people aren't actually working. Some are classed as not looking for work (the middle-class who never sign on as its humiliating) whilst another quarter are in higher education. It's believed nearly ten million people don't work in the United Kingdom that are over 16 and under 65. One quarter of those who do work, in the public service, Gordon Brown, creating 200 jobs a day on the public payroll to try and mask rising unemployment. As public service rarely makes money for the country it's left to just 15 million private sector workers to raise the bulk of the tax to run the country. The banks were raising half of that middle-class burden as late as 2006. It's all very worrying where the next big tax revenues are going to come from. W-is for Wind turbines I have started to notice them more on my travels around the county but, unlike many others, I actually quite like to see them. They have a certain beauty and a haunting whirring sound. But what they don't do is make economic and environmental sense. They quite simply need huge public subsidies to run and they don't generate much power either. The energy companies bung extra money on your bill to cover their costs as they to know they make no sense and so don't want to pay for them, but only build them because they have to under nonsense EU law. There's a reason why new house aren't green and don't get mini turbines and solar panels and that's called the energy lobby, peoples who's job it is to keep us hooked on fossil fuels. X is for XXXX Why is British suburban porn so rubbish still! Ok, we don't do plastic boobs and pecs but at least make it sexy guys! What's with all the tattoos and front rooms in Essex? Its either some ex army guy taking some council house bird with her boobs swinging away like pendulous two liter Coke bottles, or a middle aged man with a beard smoking a pipe and blowing smoke rings in rhythm as he pumps away on the misses from behind. It's enough to put you off your cornflakes! Not that I eat cereals watching me porn. If I did I would tell you next week as it's a cereal, boom boom! British flesh without the sun tans and muscled torsos is not sexy! At least the Japanese have the decency to blur out the naughty bits when they are ashamed of what's on screen. Leave the Dutch and Americans to make the porn guys! Y is for 'You should drink and drive'? I'm reading the sequel to the book 'Freakonomics' and the opening statistic is that you are eight times more likely to be killed walking home drunk from the pub than you are driving home drunk from the pub. The authors calculate this delicious stat by adding up the number of miles driven in America by drunks and the deaths caused-some 13,000 in total-by the number of miles walked by drunks and their rates of fatality. I've always known the vast majority of road deaths in towns are drunks staggering into traffic and so it makes a mockery of speed cameras being put in places of high fatalities. It's hard to fathom but in America you are indeed eight times more likely to be killed walking drunk than driving drunk. Z is for ZZZZZZZZZZZ
A recent survey has published that 169 countries in the world are less pleasurable to reside in than good old Blighty, and so, I feel a tinge of excitement that Britain has done something right. I wasn't asked to throw in my two pennies worth, but if I was asked, I would say:- "It comes down to patriotism and the evolving door of foreign nationals that has diluted the raw burst of British pride that made Britain 'Great." Family members have often, perhaps too often told me about the 'gruff bulldog spirit' that supposedly walked these shores on a 'full english breakfast' with grit and purpose like soldiers and workhorses fighting for the same cause. No time for tea breaks and just about enough time to roll-up a woodbine. This is all I can recount before I nod off, usually. Those were the days when sweat and toil determined whether you could go home or not; compared to the soft-handed, computer hugger, British worker who barely loses any moisture from hard graft, since the days of Douglas Hurd's Mister Whippy haircut was fashionable. What has shaped our British cities has been the over sized lobes of the financial sector in London, leaving the huge manufacturing cities such as Sheffield, Hull, Bradford, Newcastle, Leeds, Chatham, inferior to the deep pockets of London's clammy palmed leeches. Investment is not an option for these century old corporations who practically invented the word 'sweat' and 'toil' and 'bread winner'. The most recent demise of 'Corus' is heart shattering; Teeside, has lost a major recruiter and source of income for nearly two thousand employees. Social clubs and small businesses will go under due to the Corus plant closure. It wasn't anything to do with having no clients, or taking the manufacturing material overseas, it was all to do with 'greed', the filthy rich CEO's who saw pound signs. The unions were powerless, even after pleas from the unions to Westminster,they were abandoned, like a fighting fit, middle aged cat, sent to China, never to be seen again. Teeside, has a huge void to fill, a chasm more to the point. You can't make 'Steel Makers' into 'Financial, 'Yes men, pen pushers!' They're too honest and use to real graft and real ale, not like what you get down 't South', where all is not what it seems; like 'Pukka pies,' more air than proper meat. No wonder the South has gone 'veggie.' Broadband and the internet to these social groups, are a means to an end while the lass popped off 't Bingo' on a Thursday night. These groups aren't wagering up financial portfolio's, scratching their heads, deciding whether to buy shares in Chelsea hotels, where Mr. Terry would play away, or be finding loopholes in avoiding 3rd property inheritance tax, but will be finding interesting facts about 'Milky Mandy' assets. In Britain, we have a fundamental problem when it comes to lifestyle priorities across the spectrum. It is evident, that Philip Woolas the 'immigration secretary' may sound like a true Northern lad, who wears a string vest on his day off, even if it is freezing, acts to the contrary. He left the 'Newcastle Brown Ale' for 'gerbil drainage' and herewith forgot his roots, that is why all the illegal migrants have invaded the Midlands from Birmingham upwards. They cannot reside in Slough anymore, because the Polish have occupied all the bed sits, at 6 to a room. When you've got 'migrant town,' adjacent to Calais, all looking for a lorry to hop on, carrying 'gerbil drainage' to London, the average Briton realises, that the only way to stop illegal migrants is to stop drinking, 'bottled beverages' transported by dozy Greek drivers, who are evading tax, and can't be bothered to search their mountain sized vehicles at regular intervals. Mr Woolas, your demeanor is of a field mouse on valium, wake up and get writing to all the Northern Breweries and build up our Northern trade. If I'm ignored and find your asleep, I'll send Miss Lumley round, that'll wake you up, that's for sure. Amusingly, I've written on subject titles several times via 'TV programmes' on the serious lack of inner city infrastructure investment; whereby affluent members of society try to make a difference to the most needy; except it is much bigger than just choosing areas of interest and social groups, then systematically throw money at the problem. This is a trend that Westminster has frequently tried to solve, yet still money gets squandered along the way. Cash is haemorrhaging without a plan of action, even if it has been injected into these inner city areas. It sounds very familiar doesn't it? It is in all areas of government, it is a disease. First the diagnosis of the disease has to be resolved before any investment is made. Liverpool is now a more stable city on the outside, after the well publicised inner city problems, had spilled out of the local broadsheets. It got worse before it got better. Its Infrastructure is still an impending project. I fear that it is bound to revert back to organised crime and ride-by shootings; too many groups are within throwing distances away for sustainable compromises. In a magazine, called 'International Living,' Blighty has dropped to a record 25th position. Does this suggest that Brits are overwhelmingly uncomfortable with the multi-culture, that the government has spelled out as a great success? I can denote that France came out on top, thanks mainly to their own strict laws on French-ness and foreign integration into the French lifestyle - 'la conformación al estilo de vida francés'. In comparison, ol Blighty, is run by two Scotsman. Their idea of englishness is to ban the 'chip butty', due to obesity. Rundown all the British public houses' till there are none left, thanks to the supermarket alcohol unit prices, and make a feminist a 'Deputy Leader'. The Scots must be laughing their heads off. When it comes down to British cities and the quality of life in them, there is a deluded understanding; that prosperity leads to bigger expectations. Many Parliamentarians have echoed this phrase. I feel that most cities collectively in Britain, haven't seen lengthy prosperity. The people residing in them, are slaves to their mortgages and even the retired are now feeling the pinch, when it comes down to interest rates. Now we've been inundated with supposed foreign nationals and rising Islamic groups transcending into our British cities like a phoenix in the fire, Britain is potentially a sitting duck and incapable of doing anything about these groups without being called the unmentionable. These groups are paid for by the taxpayer, the same taxpayer who is being alienated by the same groups. No poll has been implemented to see how big the divide is, concerning all groups in the cities,and the inner cities. In this climate of eager 'knee jerk' racist quips, and in an increasingly uneven playing field, due to living in a state overtly imbalanced; a poll will never be published. The fear is too great, the slander far too fierce. So we Brits hope for a honest valid balanced city society; our city life qualities have diminished with every piece of bureaucratic 'red tape,' that deciphers higher living costs, poor community spirit, and sponging from a tired British taxpayer, claiming it is part of living in a democracy, when it is plainly not.
I have lived in Birmingham most of my life, and Cardiff since I came here to go to Cardiff University in September of this year. So I know about city life. I also worked on a summer camp this year in the remote Brecon Beacons for 5 long months, so I can see the advantages and disadvantages of cities and rural areas to live in. Now I have asthma, and the pollution in Birmingham doesn't exactly help. I live on a main road, and just waiting for the bus I am forced to breathe in exhaust fumes that make me wheeze. Wheras when I was on the summer camp there was lovely fresh, clean air (apart from the smell of burning foot and mouth infected cattle, but that's another story). I suppose the main attractions of living in a city are the facilities. The thing is, cities stretch far and wide. Where I live is about 6 miles out of the city centre and the facilites in the area are no better than a small town. Living right in the middle of city centres is becoming more popular now, and I can see the advantages of this. There are only about 2 council blocks in the centre of Birmingham and I have been told that there is a huge waiting list to go into them. Most of the housing in city centres is modern renovations for the middle class. How good would it be to walk home from a club, not having to worry about the taxi fare? And what about getting up 10 minutes before you have to go to work? Now that's what I call city living. However, this totally depends on the city you are in. Here in Cardiff, the student area (Cathays) is less than a mile from the city centre, so you can benefit from the point I've already made. Since I have been here I have never used public transport. Public transport has to be one of the worst things about our cities, although this does again depend on the city in question. Most cities have a good network set up, although the standard and prices are questionable. When I was on the summer camp, there was one bus a day, wh ich was the same van that collected the post from the villages in the area. So if you wanted to go to town at any other time, you could walk the 6 miles or get a taxi. So at least in the city you have the choice. Safety is another factor in the difference between city living and countryside living. As cities have a higher concentration of people, inevitably the crime rate is higher. In many cities, seeing crime on the streets is a daily occurence. In Birmingham, I have seen people being beaten up and once I saw a man who had been stabbed. Our house was burgled twice while I was growing up which was a horrible experience. It was not the material objects which mattered but I hated the thought of these people having been in our house, looking at our things. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in the living room again. Of course there is still crime in the countryside, it is just that there is a better community spirit in my opinion. I have lived with my boyfriend in our flat for a year and a half now and we barely know any of our neighbours. In the countryside (in general) neighbours become good friends (to rip off a famous theme tune!) My ideal place to live would be a village that is small, beautiful and within reach of a city. Today, people who live in rural areas can use the internet to do their shopping, but come on, every girl (and boy!) needs to do a good shop every once in a while! Good things about living in a city include bands coming to do concerts, exhibitions (especially at the NEC) and theatres. For minority groups such as people from other countries and homosexuals, cities provide support groups and many cities have gay areas. So it may be easier for people like this to live in a city. It is quite rare for minority groups to live in rural locations. In Birmingham and most other cities, areas that are predominantly Asian/black/Irish/Jewish emerge, because groups like to stick together. It can be stressful living in a city, sometimes the crowds of people and the pollution just get too much and you need to escape. In Cardiff though, escaping from the hustle and bustle is easy-in 45 minutes you can get to the seaside or to the Brecon Beacons, with a car or without, using the train or bus. I think it would be very difficult to live in the countryside without a car as it would be very restrictive. There is a case for living in either a city or countryside. Many people like to live in suburbs with lots of trees and parks, so to some extent they get the best of both worlds. I can't decide which is best. I get stressed in the city and bored in the country, so maybe I'll never be happy. Sometimes on the summer camp though, it was great to be in the open air with loads of other young people. Living in the countryside permanently, I imagine, would be somewhat different.
Up until the age of 10 I lived in the Essex countryside. My home was the fields and my friends were the trees and birds and animals. At 10 my parents upped sticks and moved to Northampton. Initially we lived in a downtrodden area whilst they experimented with the idea of owning a newsagents shop. I remember the day we walked into that shop and can still feel the shock and the horror of not seeing any fields behind our house. Just an ugly brewery and downtrodden railway and dirt, dirt, dirt everywhere. I was never one to bunk school but my “I’m just going round to so and so’s house” really meant “I’m off for a long walk up the main road that leads out to the countryside.” Where town met field, lay a manor house set in several acres of land and I’d often sneak up there to pet the horses. Of course my parents found out and were horrified as several girls had been assaulted up there. They banned me from going and to this day don’t know I rebelled and continued to find my solace. The newsagents became the bane of my parents life so again we moved; this time to the other side of Northampton in the new part of a village. When I say village I really mean suburbia but I could just about see the fields of Earl Spencers land from my window and I was a little happier. Even though I was still young I thought nothing of taking the dog for a walk in the forest and losing myself in the scent of pine and grass and the quietness of the woods. As a teenager I shunned the local disco, the shopping, the loud music. I hated the way my friends suddenly became obsessed with other boys, other girls, drinking, sex, dancing. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t want to understand it. Everyone seemed to be somewhere else from me and I just craved the silence. College years saw me in Warrington and I tried to make the best of the flat industrial landscape. At 21 I had a nervous breakdown and soon after land ed up in Manchester as this was where I had finally discovered some people I connected with. My best friends were here and I wanted to be with them. For the first few years I enjoyed going out to clubs, busking on the streets of Manchester and generally having a good time. I guess looking back I was experimenting with what everyone else had been doing when I was a teenager. However something in me felt like it was dying and the partying was just filling the gap. I began to feel as though nothing was real in this big city and retreated from it. I started allowing myself to be me and stopped worrying about what I was “supposed” to do. People seem to find it difficult to understand that sometimes. Apparently I am supposed to enjoy bright lights, big crowds, the hustle and bustle of city life. My friend often says to me “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” Well – in that case I’m 92! I live in what was once known to be one of the roughest areas in Europe. However over the last few years we have been “regenerated”. This means the old housing was knocked down making way for decent accommodation with gardens and a strong awareness of security. Community spirit is strong here. This place is full of creative types, eco-warriers and a vibracy that gets things done. An organic garden lies at the back of my house now which is beautiful and is a big rebellion against the city council. I have started to join in with the gardening, try to cut out the smell of the city by growing lavender and night-scented stock. Try to lie down under the birch trees and look at the sky and pretend that there are no roads, no concrete, no muggers, no smack-heads, no loud screaming parents of loud screaming unwanted children, or bitter people dropping litter. Try to put something good back rather than feed my resentment. I have been mugged three times in Manchester, assaulted twice, witnessed two murders, seen people beaten to a pulp, watched a man try and run over another man. I’ve refused to tolerate people abusing their dogs and nearly been beaten up for it. I’ve watched the slow decline of people on the peripheral of my circle of friends as they sink into drink, drugs, depression and apathy. I’ve also witnessed my own decline mentally as I became more and more afraid of this mass of chaos. I stopped going out after dark about three years ago unless I have a lift or a taxi because in this place the vampires really do seem to come out at night. I do not have adequate words to describe how much I HATE living in the city. This city – any city. I do love to go to London for a day and visit the theatres and the museums (as I do here) but that is it. I rarely go into town but when I do, I see people rushing from one place to another – too tired to think of why they are doing it, too run down to do anything about it. The sense of being lost is so strong here sometimes it overwhelms me. Each day I take my dog and walk across the empty spaces where the old houses once were that for now have been left to the wild – it won’t be long before this disappears as the council don’t see the land they just see £££s. They don’t see that people need space to breathe or a view other than grey. There are two places where the cherry trees and the birch and elm close in and create a mini-clearing in the noise and pollution. Everyday I see an old man who sits almost hidden away behind one of these trees. We never speak as I know he is trying to find his own quietness. I just walk past and let him be. Sometimes I have to really look to find anything good here because otherwise I would fall apart. Why don’t I move? Because at this moment in time I cannot afford the high rents of rural areas. I have one more year to go then I will have a qualification that will get me away from this place. I am tired of finding need les outside, of hearing people shouting at 2am in the morning or playing music like there’s no tomorrow. I’m tired of broken glass and empty drink cans and human vomit. Despite my hatred of this place I have also learned a lot here so I know that it has a purpose. I have learned that life isn’t all hearts and flowers and Enid Blyton stories. I have learned that the system is fundamentally opposed to the growth of the human spirit. I have learned that bad things happen to me, to others and people suffer. I have seen how authorities categorise, label and dump “non-functioning” members of society and leave them to rot. I have also learned that community spirit has been bashed almost into the ground because it doesn’t suit the powers that be – I am glad to see what people have accomplished here in the face of adversity. I have learned to be more aware and less naïve. I know that my reaction is quite extreme and that many people live happily in a city. I would not want to take that away from anyone. I have friends who love the bright light, the clubs, the 24/7 life – these perhaps are the positives. There are jobs here, careers, entertainment, shops and all manner of groups and societies. However what I have experienced is the other side of city life – the areas that are rundown and poor and carefully hidden away from tourists view. I guess I should think myself lucky that we have become “up and coming”. But in all this I ache for open fields and safety. I love my friends who live here and the people who’s names I don’t know but say hello to every day. I love the cat that sleeps on the car outside, the swearing magpies, the latch-key dogs who come for a walk with me in the morning. I love how the grass fights its way through the concrete because it gives me hope. I have had to make this home out of necessity. I am sure that I will be homesick for these thi ngs however unhappy I am being here but rest assured as long as I live, I will never ever live in a city again.
I was born in a city, albeit a small one – Lincoln, a beautiful and historic city, one that is far too laid-back to be compared with bigger places. When I was eleven, I moved to a small village seven miles away called Welton. This was an idyllic place for a child to grow up in the 1980s, but began to look rather more boring as I hit my mid-teens. 1988 came, it was time for me to move on. I went to Portsmouth to study Russian and Soviet Studies, a whole 210 miles away from home, a huge step! Portsmouth is a big city, a seaside and a naval area. Like most cities, it has its good and bad points, but was a rather daunting step from a quiet village. Ten years later, I moved to Bristol, where I live now. I don’t live right in the city area itself and thankfully, the part we live in is pretty nice. In the area my daughter goes to gym club, there are regular incidents of violent attacks and the occasional murder. The crime here scares me. We had a burglary in the corner of our street and the car crime is appalling. Since we moved here, we’ve had our car broken into several times, we’ve had the car battery stolen and even had petrol siphoned out! In the sleepy village of Welton, nothing like that ever happened. Admittedly, things are slightly worse there now than twenty years ago, but in a community of a couple of thousand, people know everyone and that is a huge deterrent to petty criminals. Our local police station employs two policemen. I think that says a lot. I certainly felt safer there than I do in Bristol. Another annoying thing about living in a city is the poor air quality. Yesterday, I made another trip to see my GP, after waking up and fighting for breath again. My hayfever and asthma combined, added to the poor air quality and high pollution levels here mean that I am on more medication than ever before. My asthma has never been so bad. Two of my children have asthma too, it is an ever increasing prob lem amongst children, especially those fighting for air in the big cities. As for the pace of life, yes, things were much slower and calmer in Lincolnshire. But I think you can dictate your pace yourself to a certain extent. I don’t visit the town centre much, finding it too fast, too pushy, too loud and too stressful. I could not travel into the city centre by myself. Due to fears I have of public transport and not being able to drive, I find living in Bristol can be quite restricting in some ways. When my fiancé was ill on Saturday, I had to get my mother-in-law to drive me to the supermarket, as there isn’t one near enough to walk to. But it’s not all bad! The schools here are much better in several ways, I like all the mixture of pupils with different races, religions and family backgrounds. Being brought up in a very Conservative middle-class school with one black child in a sea of white faces, I was eager for my eldest daughter (whose Dad is Indian) to be one of many non-whites, not the only one. I think being integrated with all sorts of children at this age will increase understanding, tolerance and hopefully limit any racism in the future. I like the fact that anything you want to do will just about be possible in a big city. If I want to go to the cinema, I have a choice of several multiplexes or a handful of more traditional cinemas. My kids can go bowling, to the zoo, to city farms, to a choice of indoor play areas and so on. Lincoln has one cinema, Welton has none. Growing up in a village, I had the choice of the park, the chippie, the occasional disco at the village hall or later on, the one village pub where you couldn’t get drunk without someone telling your parents. In Bristol, there are some top sports clubs, which means my daughter can train at one of the best gymnastics clubs in the country. This gives her a much better chance of realising her potential than I had tr aining in Lincoln. My eldest is a member of an all-girls’ football team that plays in the local league. Girls don’t play football in Welton. Basically, there are advantages and disadvantages of living in a city or a village. I have enjoyed living in all the places I have called home. Circumstances brought me here and I plan to make the most of it. Will I move again? I hope not, I have some good friends here, the kids are settled and anyway, I HATE moving house!
At heart I'm a country person. I was born in Buckinghamshire, my family moved to south Devon when I was 3, I've lived there (I mean here) ever since, and I love it; I can see no reason to move. However I have had a taste of living in cities, or rather 'The City' for the best part of two years. In the 70s I was at Ealing Technical College, previously Ealing School of Art, and long since changed out of all recognition into Thames Valley University, and stayed at the hall of residence, only returning home for holidays. I had rather fallen in love with London, in a manner of speaking, on my first visit to the city – a three-day stint with my parents when I was 13 to do the main sights of the city. Having loved history since I was small, I was in my element. A couple of day trips at school, four years later, as part of an A-level Art and Art History group to see a few selected exhibitions increased my appetite even more, and I was determined to attend college in London. The chance of having all those museums and galleries close at hand, to say nothing of book and record shops, new and secondhand, plus the fun of markets in Portobello Road and elsewhere, was too good to miss. Moreover, when I needed a sight of the green spaces, Ealing Common was only a few minutes walk from the hall, and when I was in the middle of the city, St James's Park and Kensington Gardens were close by. Since then, I've always made a point of going back to London at least three or four times a year. These are generally day trips, but once a year I make it a couple of days, staying overnight with an old schoolfriend in the Docklands area. So why, as a few people in Devon have asked, don't I think about living in London permanently? The reason is that I love the place in small doses. A couple of days in the city, dashing up and down escalators and playing sardines in the tube with hundreds of other commuters and tourists half a dozen times a day, is quite enough. More than enough, in fact. I'm relieved to know that the return National Express trip back to Devon is never more than 48 hours away and generally much less. It suits some people fine, and I won't argue with them for a moment. As Samuel Johnson once remarked, "He (or she) who is tired of London is tired of life." I've used this quotation more than once to family and friends locally when they've responded to my news of an imminent trip to the metropolis with an expression of pity. There's always something to do or see, whether you're talking museums, shops, eateries, cinemas, clubs; and public transport links are much better. And at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I was always brought up to believe that London was the centre of the universe. If you're British, it's in your blood. Unless you get a transfusion…no, I'm getting frivolous here. So what's the down side? Living in London, or in any large city come to that, throws up a host of problems. I work in Plymouth and commute daily, a round trip of nearly 40 miles, so I can speak with some first-hand knowledge gleaned from workmates. Things like security and damage to property, particularly to cars which can't be garaged and have to be parked on or off-street. Things like the constant noise of traffic and crowds (daytime) or revellers (nighttime, especially if you're within earshot of clubland). Moreover the reduced life expectancy of cats is a major factor where I'm concerned. One little exchange a few years ago underlined the major difference between country and city for me. Every summer I stayed for a few days with a brother-in-law in rural Hampshire, so well off the beaten track that he rarely locked his door if he was going out for a short time. (He always told us there was nothing in the house worth pinching – even so, I'm not giving out his addre ss!). While I was there I would go to London and stay with said schoolfriend. We went to the shops in his car, in what I would have said was a fairly quiet area by east London standards. Though we were only shopping for a couple of minutes, he told me to hold on to my travelling bag at all times, and on no account to leave it in the car, even hidden out of sight, as it would invite thieves. The contrast between that and my brother-in-law's house – say no more. Last but not least, what about the health and environmental considerations? My workmates with the worst sickness records (respiratory complaints and the like) are those who live in or close to the centre of the city. One of them, who lived and worked in London for several years, says her health has improved since she moved to a small town not far from Dartmoor. Those of us who live furthest away from Plymouth, out in the sticks, are rarely ill. I'm convinced that the quality of life in rural or semi-rural areas has much to do with it. My London-based schoolfriend was brought up in Cornwall and lived there till his student days. Unlike me he decided to settle in the thick of it, and has been there for over twenty years, doing a variety of jobs. In the last three or four, he has started to find the endless pace of city life increasingly wearisome and draining. Once he has the financial security, he has decided he will probably sell up and move back to the westcountry. It will be further away from the hub of activities, and mean a drop in income, admittedly which he would be able to afford. In conclusion, we're all different. City life suits some of us better than others. Me, I love waking up to the sight of rolling Dartmoor tors out of our window, green fields nearby, and the dawn chorus – or, in the evening, the evening bird chorus (even though I'm a cat lover), and the faint hum of the river and waterfall less than a mile away. Havin g said that, how long is it till my next trip to London? Better get my A-Z Street Map out and start planning the itinerary. Victoria Coach Station here I come. Can't wait…
Having spent considerable periods of a mis-spent youth between Leeds and Manchester, and moved to London just seven years ago, I can't claim to be well-versed in the joys of urban living as opposed to country life, having never really known any other alternative, and like most ways of life, it has its good and bad. Cities are fun, but dirty, they have more to do and more people to meet, but they are 'less friendly', that is the perception anyhow. I hated London when I arrived at 21, I didn't know anyone and it seemed to big, but it was where the work was, and it is still where a lot of the work is. My job (I'm a social worker or was, until last Friday!) has enabled me to glance behind the glossy surface, and see a very different London from the one I am lucky enough to live in. Behind every window of every tower block there is a story, some of which I have had to share and others which I have wanted to share, and the range of experience of life at its best and worst, is held within the heartbeat of this fine city. Cities in general and London in particular, are more accepting of difference, they are more tolerant in some ways, because there is nothing that London, (and some Londoners!) haven't seen before. No challenge they are yet to face. Yes, there are problems here. I have seen them almost every day, but there were never enough to drive me away, well, not until now. The wealth of cities, as with anywhere, is in the people who live there, and the vibrancy, the multicultural vivacity of London, is her richest asset, richer than the history or the heritage in my opinion. Londoners are as varied as the city they inhabit, the north from the south, and the east from the west. Of the areas I know, I would always have one of the warmest regards for Tower Hamlets, having worked there for a long period and through working there, getting to know my own 'little patch' of the borough intimately. It has the best and worst that London has to offer. A refreshingly vibrant outlook, juxtaposed with painful poverty and desperate need. Move West, and you have The City, the financial heart of the country, and the continent, even, and you find the contrast ever more stark. I could list each area that I have come to know and, in a way, love, but that isn't what this opinion is about, it is about the good (or not) of urban living. It is, of course, about personal preference. Some people are 'city' people, some people not. Environments offer different things for different people at different stages of their lives. I loved living in London, and working here, and am grateful that the Londoners who I worked with allowed me to share their lives, however briefly, but at a different stage in my life now, I'm leaving London in a couple of weeks, which is a bittersweet, and somewhat refreshing new stage. So I'm leaving city life soon, but that's another story, and perhaps more opinions will follow from overseas! But I'm glad I 'did' London. I think everyone should give it a try. The people aren't ogres, they are as friendly as northerners (I'm a northerner myself so I can say that with some ease!), they just might not take to you easily. Londoners don't chat on the tube or the bus, but that doesn't mean they are not friendly, there are just too many people in the city to make an effort to know all of them, it isn't coldness, it is tiredness, invariably, but when you have cracked the surface, you see that the city doesn't make people better or worse, just different. I know I'll certainly miss the buzz and the vibrancy, the colourful markets and the cosmopolitan nature of the city when I'm in my little seaside town in Italy next month.. hmm.. maybe I won't miss it too much!
I wanted to call this op 'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner…' but, to my endless dismay, I can't. Here are the villains of the piece. 1) That ridiculous McDonald's advert which promotes lamb rogan josh burgers or something equally as fetid, and with which I do not wish to be associated. 2) My parents, for spawning and raising me in the wrong part of the country. Yes, that's right, I'm not actually a Londoner. (But when I grow up, that's what I want to be). My place of birth was Hounslow in Middlesex, which is quasi-London, the margarine of London, the Diet Coke of London. Oh, you know the rest of the gags. People from Middlesex pretend that they're Londoners, and everyone knows they're not. I could have forgiven my parents that error I think, had they not then moved me to Derby at the age of two, when I had too limited a vocabulary to contest the decision. I mean no disrespect to the natives, but Derbyshire (with the possible exception of the Peak District) has all the charm of a swatted wasp. THEN (is there no end to their crimes?), when I was nine, they decided that they couldn’t cope with the urban grit of Derby (oh please), and we resettled in Spalding. Where? Yes, exactly. It is a sleepy little town in Lincolnshire, not dissimilar to Royston Vasey (League of Gentlemen), populated by farmers with ten fingers. ON EACH HAND. The 11-Plus examination is still in force; the ‘ethnic minority’ population consists of a sandwich shop owner from the neighbouring village whose great-grandfather was Italian; the biggest event of the year is the Tulip Parade, where a few badly-decorated lorries trundle through the town centre, and some scary clowns swing jauntily around asking you for money ‘for charity’. Ha! I am sure you are all intelligent people, so I will bore you no more with this. You get the picture. At least Hounslow has a tube (in fairness, that’s the main tourist attraction. Although I think there might also be a newsagent). I could’ve gone up West with my mates in my pubescent years. I would’ve known to stand on the right hand side of an escalator. I would’ve known which areas to avoid after dark. I mourn the fact that I was denied street savvy until at least voting age. But just as you begin weeping and snotting into your handkerchiefs (well maybe), there is kind of a happy end to this story. And a beginning to this op. Sorry, I’ve been ranting. Two years ago I moved back to London. I now have a lovely flat in Greenwich, which means I can’t afford to buy anything other than five tins of Alphabetti Spaghetti and a loaf of bread each week, but I’m happy. Having experienced the extremes of townie culture (Derby), rural life (Spalding) and now urban dwelling (the Big Smoke), I can honestly say that city living kicks ass. I can already hear the mud-lovers’ cries: “Pollution! Poverty! Crime!” and so on. And I’m not going to argue. London has more problems than I could list. But that’s what makes the city great. Kensington and Chelsea are very, er, nice (read: twee) but pockets of affluence and a few tree-lined avenues do not a city make. It’s a very trendy and cosmopolitan thing to say that you love your city because it is multicultural, but honestly, that is the thing that I love *second best* about London. (The best best best is yet to come). I don’t just mean that people from all over the world have settled here, although that is a fantastic thing, but that so many sub-cultures run alongside each other, more or less without incident. In a (relatively small) city of seven million people. Quite remarkable when you think about it. I would much prefer to spend a day wandering round Tower Hamlets than Notting Hill, given the choice. This is the poorest borough in the ca pital and (on some estates at least) the epitome of inner-city squalor. But it also has personality and life. The countryside does not. The countryside has beauty, but of a rather tiring and worthy nature. Come on, be honest now, how long does it take a regular person (ie. not a character from a Jane Austen novel, who never tire of the wretched places) to get bored wandering the grounds of a National Trust house? My own attention span is about twelve minutes. It’s all too green and expansive. And it doesn’t *do* anything. It changes in yearly cycles (when the leaves and frogspawn do their thang for example), but never moves on. In a city you can immerse yourself in your surroundings. At risk of sounding pretentious, the city breathes and grows and feeds your brain, and the visual shapes and sounds of the city are inspiring, to the point of leaving you breathless. Stand in a busy London market, full of rich smells and textures, or look up at a run-down tower block against a bright blue sky, and you’ll see what I mean. Now picture a country fayre on a school playing field, and let’s say no more about it. I’m not expecting to convince anyone with this spiel, because some folk are just ‘country people’ and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Which is fair enough. Sometimes on a packed commuter tube I yearn for a hilltop cottage and my own herd of mountain goats or similar, but the truth is I would find the quietude a lot more stressful (and eerie, frankly) than my present whirlwind day. I read a magazine article recently in which the author spoke about cartographers of London in medieval times. Stay with me, I appreciate that was not an enticing sentence, but I feel obliged to circulate this theory. On olde worlde maps of London there are always areas marked ‘here be dragons’ – which basically meant these were ‘unknown’ parts of London. Every Londoner has these. Mine are still numerous, but I am trying to remedy the situation – of course I know it is a completely futile exercise, because by the time you have thoroughly got to know one area, the adjacent neighbourhood will have changed beyond recognition. And you know what? That’s my absolute favourite thing about London. I wouldn’t leave London for all the fizzy cola bottles I could eat.