“The Capital is become an overgrown monster; which like a dropsical head, will in time leave the body and extremities without nourishment and support.”
-Tobias Smollett ‘The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.”
Yesterday at work, a colleague burst into the break room with a furious face on, declaring that they’d had enough of this city. She’d tried to get some lunch at the supermarket but the chiller cabinets were all broken and there was no food there (this happens quite a lot), then she’d tried to get a hot sandwich from the coffee shop but the grill didn’t work there (also a regular occurrence), then a rude person had pushed her out the way (every day).
I can see it. My folks recently moved out of London to a small Midlands Town and they were pretty keen to get going. I stayed at their house for a fortnight and on two separate occasions had to duck police tape from fights outside to get to the front door. Then there was the time a man shouted at my uncle for killing Michael Jackson, the car that mounted the pavement so some people could threaten my sister and I, then of course there was the time a man tried to spit in the street and accidentally gobbed in my Mum’s face.
In my time in London; I was mugged by some teenagers who gave me my phone back because it was too old, lived three months in a flat thinking that my flatmate was the landlord and had the shock of my life when the real landlady turned up and thought I hadn’t paid any rent. There was also the time a builder had got drunk, fallen off scaffolding and died in the house behind mine and when the police came through my house to investigate stopped to share weed with my housemates. That’s not forgetting the day I moved in to my current place, a man thought he found an unexploded bomb in the house next door. Oh, and I once say a man walking a dog and the dog had to stop so the man could pee in the street.
London living is not for everyone, I don’t think Matthew Bramble, the crowd-hating character from ‘Humphry Clinker’ would like it much. Earlier in the quoted passage, he makes the claim that one day, London will grow so large that the whole of Middlesex will be a sea of brick houses. He’s not wrong. If London is a dropsical head, Middlesex as a county is something of an appendix.
Yet, dropsical head or not, I spent last weekend in a very interesting bookshop, saw an exhibition on the psychology of magic at the Wellcome Centre and even picked up some slightly hard to find refills for my lucky pen. Every morning on the way to work I walk through a park and watch the green parakeets, I even saw what I think might be turtledoves the other day (though they have been collared doves). Now spring is here, I wake up every morning to birdsong and I fall asleep of a night to the quiet rush of traffic and the rhythmic whine of tube-trains going into and out of the station.
I pay much, live cramped and negotiate my way through all sorts of peculiar people and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. Though I might change my mind if I get gobbed in the face.