The first time I ever visited London was in the summer of ’89, as a secondary-school student on a language study holiday; though, truth be told, I hardly went to the language school, as I much preferred chatting with my Welsh girlfriend in the morning and exploring the city with other teenage truants at night.
Five years later, I finally moved to the Big Smoke and felt as though I’d come home.
London has changed dramatically over the past two decades: culturally as well as architecturally. In the 90s, for example, there were hardly any cafés or restaurants with outdoor seating outside Soho (they’ve sprung up everywhere now) and it was almost impossible to find decent coffee in town. Today the city feels much more “European”. Kick-started by the advent of the Eurostar service in 1994, connecting London to Paris by train.
A side effect of this cultural transformation is that London has become more and more disconnected from the country in which it is situated and which it is meant to represent. Besides, the ever-expanding economic gap between the South East and the rest of the nation has created a certain degree of resentment towards the capital, especially in the deprived areas of the North. While Northerners tend to blame London for “sucking the life out of the country,”
Devolution of power would seem like the obvious solution. The Scots, with their thirst for autonomy, will probably show the way. Not just to Britain, but to the rest of Europe, too.
In the meantime, though, Londoners shouldn’t be made to feel bad about living in one of the most diverse and exciting cities on Earth. After all, we do pay a high price for the entertainment.
Nico De Napoli