London: Was I right to boycott it for 10 years?

At least, I think it’s been 10 years since I was last in London for any sort of trip that involved more than just passing through on the way to somewhere else or on flying visits for job interviews or weddings.

Boycott is probably too strong a word. But the only thing that ever brought me to London in my 20s was to visit close friends. And they all moved out a long time ago. When the last of them packed up and vacated the Smoke, I lost any incentive I might have had to visit.

Indeed, during the trips I did make, I was never very fond of the place – too big, too busy and too much like hard work. Of course, I had friends who swore it was the centre of the universe (most of them lasted five years then moved out), while it has alway been a Mecca for British journalism.

But I can safely say it was never for me. I turned down two major jobs in London – one at LWT in my early 20s and another at the Sunday Mirror in my early 30s. And I can confidently say I’ve never regretted either decision.

Today I blistered my feet tramping round the city with my better half. She DID come and work in London in the late 80s, so we took a major trip down memory lane as she showed me round her favourite haunts and fondly remembered places. Most of which is for another post.

In a five hour whistlestop tour we took in Marleybone Road, Baker Street, Hyde Park, the Serpentine, Harrods, Oxford Street, the Cenotaph, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben as well as a long, long walk along Embankment. We also looked in on the new £800m St Pancras train station, the subject of an earlier post you can find here.

And I enjoyed it. For the first time I probably felt the underlying buzz, the thrum of excitment that lures so many to London. I also found the city cleaner and somehow less threatening than I remember it during any previous visits. So there you go, I’m softening on the place.

But you can keep the interminable tube journeys, the cramped trains, the crowded pavements, the shops that are jsut too busy to contemplate browsing in – and the horrible black crud that collects in your nostrils. Though I might come back for another visit.


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