23 July, 2010

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

Reader, should you ever need to provide an example of bias, prejudice or arrogance, read on.

Here’s a question for the apprentice Londoners you are soon to become: what links Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Soho, St James’ Palace, Clarence House [home of Wills, Harry and their dad], Kensington Palace [post divorce home of their late mum], Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, the four Inns of Court [Lincoln's, Gray's, Middle Temple, Inner Temple – where solicitors and barristers are trained], Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Wren churches, the Old Bailey [the Central Criminal Court], the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street [ancient home of the press], the City, 9/10's of the Underground, 11 of the 13 railway termini [including the Eurostar terminus at St Pancras], the Guildhall, Canary Wharf [new home of business], all three Olympic sites [1908, 1948 and 2012], over 150 Embassies and High Commissions, the 73 bus, the major museums [British, V&A, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Science, Natural History, London, Docklands, Soane], all 5 of London’s Premiership football teams, Lords [the home of world cricket], 4 of London’s 5 airports,…? I could go on, but will restrict myself to three more, the Ithaca College London Centre, MY HOUSE and MY CATS! [OK, I know cats own you, not the other way around.] Have you figured out the common denominator yet? Right, they are all in north London because virtually everything that is important in London is north of the river. Sorry, Claire!

Second Question: of the 15 million visitors to London this year, how many have gone south of the river? Is it 1%, 0.5%, 0.75%, or 1.25%? Note well: I am not including the 2 coach loads of Japanese tourists who took a wrong turn in Parliament Square, crossed Westminster Bridge, only to be ambushed by Lambeth authorities demanding to see passports and visas and to inspect luggage for contraband. Since they didn’t have visas, Lambeth authorities imposed a crushing £500 fine on each person and confiscated their coaches, rings, cameras and watches. OK, Ok, I exaggerate, the above is ‘fiction’ [but fiction informs prejudice], but there can be no disputing the fact that the Thames divides London unevenly. The fates have favoured the north; they showered Heavyweight North London with rich and plentiful gifts, while casting only the crumbs to the South.

Oh, my colleague, my co-blogger, she who misguidedly raised London’s North-South divide, do not betray your south London affiliations. No one will take you seriously. It is better to sleep rough north of the river than to maintain a domicile in the south. It is more fun to spend a week at the dentist having all your teeth removed than to party in south London. It is more nutritious to exist on a diet of crisp bread and prunes than to sit at a south London table. Contrasting the merits of north and south London is a bit like betting on the likely outcome of a game between the NY Yankees and the winners of the Little League World Series. Of course, the south has some bits and pieces that merit a brief and hush-hush visit, like Wimbledon [that’s why no British man has won the title in over 70 years; it cannot be that serious if it’s south of the river], Greenwich [abandoned by the royals in the 17th century], Shakespeare’s Globe [wrongly located], the National Theatre & the Old Vic, but 95% of theatre land is north of the river. If officials at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square [north London] read this blog, they might re-think the decision of the State Department to re-locate the Embassy south of the river. Finally, this blogger has to admit that there is an oasis of sanity and good taste in Colliers Wood south London.

Ah, Stoke Newington, the ‘new village in the woods’, its housing stock chiefly mid-Victorian, just off the old Roman road running from Bishopsgate in the City to Lincoln and the north, full of trendy up and coming lawyers, teachers, & other professionals, a little Istanbul given the number of Turkish eateries, clubs, flower shops & barber shops in the High and Church streets [immerse yourself by coming up and sampling some ‘Testes’, the actual name of one of or local restaurants], adjacent to Britain’s largest Hasidic community, where football allegiances are split between Tottenham [Spurs] and Arsenal [Gunners or Gooners], where foxes roam the streets and gardens at night, where the bibulous wait outside the Rochester Castle at 10am on Sunday mornings to resume their pint consumption of Saturday night, where house prices are lower because the tube doesn’t go there, where young artists, musicians and gay people live. Stoke Newington, STOKEY or just plain N16 is a microcosm of the diversity, creativity and inner city problems of this FANTASTIC WORLD CITY.
IMPORTANT NUMBERS are 149, 73, 76, 476, 243, 106, 67: no they’re not my lucky lottery numbers, they’re the buses that take you into and out of my turf, my manor. I’ve lived in ‘Stokey’ for 28 years and I’m a governor of a local primary and a local secondary school. I live in one of the five 2012 Olympic Boroughs [Newham, where the stadium is located, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich]. My borough, Hackney, has the media centre, an important location for IC students from the Park school who hopefully will be interning here in summer 2012.

Finally, where lies my football allegiance in the country that invented the game? The cats give it away: Kolo and Sami – no Spurs fan would name his cats thus. And while on the subject of football, one of my favourite things, what’s the score over here? Alas it’s 3 to the south [maybe 4 if we count our postman who helps with odd jobs] and only 2 to the north. Although we are currently a goal down, Elsie, the other northerner on staff, would agree with me that the north is where’s it’s all happening. And if I might be prejudiced, she certainly is not. Stay tuned for the voice of sanity, Elsie’s blog.
-The only Dog from north of the river (and Elsie)

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