London

Following yesterday’s post ‘Regional Prejudices’, I thought it might be informative to write a little more about London.

(Enlarge by clicking on the map)

As you can see from the map, it is divided into many districts, and separated by the River Thames. From the northern boundary, to the southernmost point, is a distance of 25 miles. That is even larger from east to west, over 30 miles. On the map, you will see a borough immediately south of the river, marked as Southwark. That is where I was born and brought up, though back then it was even more divided, into smaller boroughs like Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, and Camberwell.

Although not as populous as many of the word’s capital cities, it has a population of 8.8 million, as of November 2018. And that population has become very ethnically diverse since my youth. This map shows the main distribution of residents with non-British heritage.

This diversity has provided my old home town with everything from popular restaurants, street entertainment and parades, to new places of worship and a better understanding of cultures from around the world. It has also changed some districts completely, especially in parts of west London, like Hounslow, which have a real Indian/South Asian feel to them now.

Right in the centre, is The City of London. This is not to be confused with other parts of London, as it is actually a self-governing district known as ‘The Square Mile’. It is home to the Financial District, and some of London’s oldest buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral. But in many respects, it has little to do with the rest of London. It has its own police force, separate from The Metropolitan Police, it also has its own crest, which can be seen on the street signs there, and even its own flag. Any tourist could be forgiven for not noticing the difference, but it is there, I assure you.

Many of the districts have a distinct identity, and feel like ‘villages’. Head west along the river, and the areas of Barnes, Chiswick, and Richmond begin to open out, with boating on The Thames, people living on small islands or in houseboats, and riverside cafes and hotels. Despite being close to the centre, they feel like a different part of England. Head east, along the traffic clogged roads that lead to Essex, and the scene is very different, with high-intensity living, street markets, and London’s clothing district. Much of that area has not changed since the streets were stalked by Jack The Ripper, though he would not recognise the office buildings and tower blocks there now.

When you live in London, you only really ever live in part of it. It is just too big to get an overview, unless you have reason to travel to the boundaries. I knew many people who had lived most of their life there, but had rarely if ever travelled north of The Thames. (Or south of it) It is also home to many British people from other parts of the UK, as well as an estimated one million people of Irish origin. ‘Original Londoners’ are hard to find there now, especially close to the centre.

We have a song too. One that always brings a lump to my throat. If I have too much to drink, you might even hear me singing it.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I love London so
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I think of her wherever I go
I get a funny feeling inside of me
Just walking up and down
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I love London town
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I love London so
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I think of her wherever I go
I get a funny feeling inside of me
Just walking up or down
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner
That I love London town

This is how you sing it.
“All together now!”

65 thoughts on “London

  1. When someone from the south goes to live up north (like me) it’s common to be called a Londoner, whether from London or not. I have lived in a Greater London Borough so I’m quite happy to go along with this … Otherwise the conversation gets confusing as I try to explain with pinpoint accuracy which part of Kent/London I lived in.
    I miss the diversity of London as it’s not the same in the north. I had friends from all around the world and nobody was an outsider. Up north, I am the outsider 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating and well said about the vastness of London and how many people even after years of living in London have never really been to other parts of it. My husband’s hairdresser is a case in point – he lives and works in north west London, has never been to other parts of the city and barely goes to central London.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My own Mum rarely ventured north, across the river. She only went there to work in The City, or to shop at Selfridges. When I moved around to different areas, she was fascinated by my ‘sense of adventure’. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am amused to say that I have lived up to the clichΓ© and I spent all but one of my twelve years living in Wandsworth (AKA Little Johannesburg). The other year was in the adjacent Merton in Wimbledon, which at the time was still full of “Saffas”. Of course they don’t let new ones in anymore and many of the old ones like me have migrated out of the city. Now I spend most of my time in the Square Mile because that is where I work. I do consider the South Bank, parts of Soho and Noho and the East End as my hoods because I have spent a lot of time there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Forgive me for not singing along πŸ™‚
    I started to think about my trips to London and I have been there more often than I had thought, but normally for a specific purpose. China Town and the West End with Gosia as a birthday present, Camden Town to buy stock from my market stall days, Earls Court for concerts and a few other locations that I cant remember due to the nature of the party. I have a fond memory of a Greek restaurant where we where actively encouraged to smash the plates, a night that ended a day later πŸ™‚ I was taken to a few exclusive clubs by the sister of a girlfriend who was seeing a bloke who was running the 0898 numbers back in the day and money was certainly no object for them, that certainly opened my eyes. I have even done the open top bus tour, which covers quite a lot of what people think of as London (I think) including many of the museums, which I think are the jewel in the crown and often overlooked.
    Still it will be a long time before I ever go back, if I ever do, and I dont believe it will be by choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand that, Eddy. Sounds like you have seen more than most non-Londoners anyway. I feel much the same about all the other cities in Britain, especially places like Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool. However, I always liked Edinburgh, Durham, Newcastle, and York, so would like to see them again one day.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kim. I certainly love what it was, and would happily have shown anyone around the places I know well. But these days, I have little enthusiasm to return there. I suppose 60 years was enough. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In the top map above, it will be at the southern tip of the borough of Camden. It is north of the river, but close to the centre. The postal district is WC1, which means west central one. I used to walk along Bloomsbury Street to work, from 2004-2012. I only lived ten minutes away, in Camden Town. Bloomsbury is a very old district, dating from the 11th century. Here’s an overview.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomsbury
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  5. Hey Pete, I enjoyed this post! πŸ™‚ You’ll be surprised to hear we stayed in Southwark on our last trip to London. I’ve only been twice and the first time we also stayed on the south side of the Thames, in the old County Building across from Westminster. I think it was too expensive the second time so we found cheaper lodging in Southwark. I remember the walks along the Thames, the Cathedral and Burroughs Market, and crossing the many bridges to the tourist sites. I also remember finding the City of London rather mysterious! I assume there’s a lot of history there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The City has some great Roman sites, as well as much of the history, up to the 1700s, when it began to seriously expand.
      It’s a shame I didn’t know you then, when I still lived there. I could have shown you some of the ‘real London’. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I very much doubt you would like to actually live in the area around Upton Park too. The only way I would ever move back to London if I could afford to live somewhere ‘exclusive’ for a few months of the year. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Politian’s have let us down since the 50’s, Brexit has nothing to do with Customs Unions, Brexit WAS a protest vote against the millions of migrant workers who’ve walked into Britain all because of that damn Burgundy passport……………… oh well I’d lol better not bore you with Brexit chat πŸ˜€

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Like they say: “A great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
    But I do enjoy hearing about life in the London of your youth.

    As for diversity, there is plenty of that in Las Vegas. The result is that nobody knows their neighbors. Everyone stays to themselves. But away from their homes, as strangers to each other, they are friendly and helpful. Like London, Las Vegas is a tourist town that attracts visitors from around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Our family home was in Southall when I was a child and when I left college I worked in North Kensington. As a young woman I loved the architecture, the museums and the theatres of London but as an old lady I avoid going there. It is just too crowded and everyone is in a rush. There are still beautiful parks and some good shops but not somewhere I would wish to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Julie. As a city, it is unforgiving of old age. That’s why we moved to Norfolk when I was 60. πŸ™‚
      I worked in North Kensington for just over 20 years, from Feb 1981- Nov 2001. At the ambulance station under the Westway.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I”ve seen the sights in younger days, but apart from the architecture and history I don’t like it. Last time I went there was chewing gum and spit all over the pavements and the public transport was smelly and dirty. Prices of anything were and probably still are exorbitant (rip off the tourists why dontcha). I suppose us lot up North having been forgotten by this Londoncentric govt (and most of the ones before it) don’t really have any love for it, possibly the only people who do like it are Londoners themselves, and they’re welcome to it! (Sorry Pete, I know you love your home townand I’m sure if you grew up there it’s a different thing.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can understand, completely, FR. It is no longer the London of my own youth, and even then was a dirty and tough place to live in. But if you were taken around off the beaten track, by someone like me who knows it well, you might see it has many faces, and some places to treasure.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Can very much relate to the aspect of village London. (Our ‘manor’ was the Portobello Road area). When most in London travelled around by tube or bus, it’s amazing how limited horizons could be, bounded by the regular stops to work, friends or entertainment.
    Loved to see your words of London’s anthem again, which then triggered Noel Coward’s song. Apparently coming to him while on a Paddington station platform amidst the debris of a 1941 blitz. He had observed how profusely and rapidly the resilient little flower grew among the London bomb sites:
    London Pride has been handed down to us,
    London Pride is a flower that’s free.
    London Pride means our own dear town to us,
    And our pride it forever will be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That map is only to show where the main groups of non-British people live, GP. I looked up the percentage of British Londoners for you, (from census records) and it is 45%. But not all of those are originally from London. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I visited the usual tourist spots many years ago but other than that have only made fleeting visits for a specific purpose and saw little other than my destination and wouldn’t really have known where I was. I’ll next be there for the Bloggers’ Bash. Why don’t you come, too? It’s lovely to meet bloggers – great fun. By the way, where is Teddington? I have a friend there but would have no idea how to get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Teddington is south-west, Mary, close to Kingston-upon-Thames, and Twickenham. Trains from Waterloo Station take around 30 minutes. It is a nice area, expensive to live in, close to the river, and with Bushy Park and Hampton Court nearby. It used to be in MIddlesex, but is now in the London Borough of Richmond. It is a long way from the centre of the city.
      https://www.thetrainline.com/train-times/london-waterloo-to-teddington
      If you are driving, it might be best to approach it using the M25.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s a very nice area, and considered an ‘affluent’ place to live. πŸ™‚
          Glad to hear you won’t be driving though. That journey across London is a challenging one if you are not a local.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve only spent short periods of time in London (either visiting relatives or doing a bit of a guided tour with friends from abroad), but I’ve noticed the diversity, even if I’ve moved in some areas more than others (the West End, for sure, but my relatives lived in Kilburn, traditionally a pretty Irish area, although not so much now). Now that I’m back in Barcelona and volunteering at a local radio station, I’ve become more aware of the different districts here too, and they do have pretty different histories as well (some were separate villages incorporated into the city, others were built intentionally to house workers of the big factories…). It is a fascinating topic, and of course, ever changing with the new arrivals. Thanks for this fascinating post, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Olga. I have no doubt that most cities in Europe have similar origins. At one time, Westminster was considered to be a riverside spot, outside of London. πŸ™‚ It is still growing of course, and may yet expand further into the counties that surround it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

    1. Much of the diversity in London originated with our close ties to countries that were once in the Commonwealth. More recently, east Europeans have congregated in many boroughs, allowed to live freely in London because of EU laws.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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