Maybe it's because I'm not actually a Londoner at all

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

I'm really starting to enjoy this new “Twenty Questions” site. Getting odd questions thrown at me is stretching my brain in all sorts of directions.

I just got asked whether I liked living in London, and what was good about it. I had to cut my answer as there seems to be a maximum length allowed, so I thought I'd post the whole thing here.

I have so many mixed feelings about London.

On one level I hate it. It's crowded and dirty and dangerous in an unglamorous, low key, stab-you-for-your-mobile-phone sort of a way. Its people are frequently arrogant and stupid, a combination of “we know best” and “we are the best” that refuses to accept any merit in other places or people. It goes on forever, endless miles of tower blocks and anonymous estates that swallowed up countless villages and fields, covering them with concrete and tarmac until all that's left is a tired, lost-looking church huddling under a flyover, tinted green with the lights from an all-night petrol station.

Everything bad in the world can be found in London.

And yet… and yet…

The view from Hungerford Bridge.

The Royal Albert Hall during the Proms season.

Looking up into the sunset in Trafalgar Square and seeing Nelson silhouetted against the sky high above you.

The glasshouses at Kew Gardens.

Looking down on the metallic ribbon of the Thames from the top of the London Eye or One Canada Square.

Excavating the archaeology of a Victorian terrace and finding workmen's clay pipes and half a Great Exhibition memorial plate.

Standing at the foot of the Monument, where the Great Fire started, and knowing that buried under your feet are the timbers of the Roman wharves and riverfront.

The sandy 'beach' on the Thames foreshore near Gabriel's Wharf.

Driving up the Mall at four in the morning on the way home from work and seeing Buckingham Palace lit up before you.

Watching the runners stream by in the London Marathon.

Raising your voice in protest against the war with a million others in Hyde Park.

The ancient roof of Westminster Hall, centuries of history echoing in its dark space – and yet still part of Parliament.

Sitting eating a three-egg omlette at the cafe in St Katharine's Docks, looking at the yachts and the Thames Barges.

I could go on like this for hours.

Everything good in the world can be found in London.

I love this city, just as much as I hate it.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.