It is frequently remarked by northerners that Londoners are “cold”, “unfriendly” and “always in a rush. As a Liverpudlian born and bred, who has lived and worked in London since 1994 I can see both sides of the coin.
One of the grimmest portrayals of London is that of the poet, William Blake. His poem, London is unremitting in it’s critique of the poverty and exploitation which prevailed in the UK’s capital city at the time when Blake penned the poem.
“I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear
How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls
But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse”.
I have come across, admittedly in a mild form, the criminal underbelly of that great metropolis. Some 10 years ago I was walking through London’s mainline Victoria station. I am registered blind and had become lost in Victoria’s cavanous interior. A gentleman approached me and enquired whether he could be of assistance. I explained that I wanted to get to Crystal Palace to which my saviour responded that he had just returned from offering medical assistance in Bosnia, his daughter was picking him up in her car and she would be happy to offer me a lift. With a little trepidation I accepted my new found friend’s kind offer.
“I have left my luggage in the luggage lockers, can you lend me some money to retrieve it”, my saviour then said.
Dear readers I have a terrible confession to make. Despite having money in my pocket I said I had none, to which my “friend” responded that he would
“Be back in a minute”.
Readers, the moment I heard his footsteps departing, yours truly walked in the opposite direction!
The above was, almost certainly an attempt to scan me. however, not having been born yesterday I failed to fall for the seeming “kindness of strangers” trick. Such scams go on up and down the UK and in every corner of the globe. However they are more often practiced in large cities, such as London where the chances of being apprehended are remote (in a village, for example the scammer is likely to stand out like a saw thumb).
London can seem uncaring. There is a huge homeless problem in the capital. I have often walked past people sleeping in cardboard boxes on Victoria Street and in other parts of the city. On a few occasions I have given money but in most instances I have not. To the casual observer the actions of busy Londoners hurrying past rough sleepers can appear callous. However, practically speaking one can not give to every homeless person. Again giving to people begging on the street frequently (but not always) leads to one’s money going to feed a drug or alcohol habit rather than going on the purchase of food. Consequently I will readily give to registered charities such as Shelter and The Passage (the latter charity being specifically aimed at helping homeless people in and around the Victoria area). Such organisations have their accounts audited, are regulated by the Charity Commission and one can be confident one’s donation is helping those who genuinely require assistance.
I personally have experienced a good deal of kindness when traversing London. People of all nationalities have gone out of their way to assist me when lost. AgainI’ve witnessed people assisting ladys with prams to negociate the steep steps at my local station.
Londoners are, in my experience wary of falling into conversation with strangers. This perhaps flows from the number of people (real or imagined) who are out to “scam” them. On returning to Liverpool I am struck by the ready manner in which people will engage with strangers. “good morning” is, for example frequently addressed by Liverpudlians to total strangers, something which, in London rarely happens. For instance on entering the newsagents close to where my mum lives I am greeted with “hello love” despite the fact I rarely go in there due to residing in London. This puts a smile on my face and makes the day feel brighter. Doubtless some Londoners could learn from the cheery manner in which Liverpudlians greet fellow residents of that city and strangers alike.
Having been born in Liverpool the city will forever maintain a special place in my affections. However I feel at home in London. I love the vibrancy and tolerance of the city (it is a place where people of many different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds live, more or less harmoniously together). My heart is, in short split between these 2 great cities although the larger part does, I think reside in Liverpool, in the heart of Woolton Woods and Speke Hall.
An interesting look at London. I have never been and have much enjoyed this post. ❤ ❤ ❤
Glad you enjoyed the post. I take it from your comment that you have visited Liverpool but not London. Am I reading you correctly? Certainly both cities are well worth visiting.
No. I have never been to England at all, nor any of Europe.