"A mess, both magnificent and malign"
Dear Provincial Cities and Towns and Fields and Villages
What I want to say, is…well… I love you. I don’t know you, most of you, but I love you all the same. I love you for your sense of humour, your strong sense of place, your beauty, your pride, the fact that you aren’t London. You are, at least identifiable, quantifiable, grasp-able. London is a thousand places, with scores of blurred, overlapping identities. The native London cockney has migrated to Kent and Essex and reality TV. We are left with only a melange, a mess, both magnificent and malign.
Since I have declared my love, I must also be honest. As is the way with lovers, dislike shadows my love. I dislike the chip you carry so proudly on your distant shoulder, the resentment you have towards my great city, the ease with which you utter the words ‘I could never bring my children up there’ without thinking how you would feel if I said the same thing about you.
I dislike your lack of scale, the modesty of your ambition and the lack of choice that implies. I dislike the fact that you prefer beer to food, and bad food to good, and that you believe too much of what you read in tabloid newspapers. I dislike your bland architecture, your casual racism, and your not in my back yard insularity.
But whatever I think of you, I cannot deny that you, not me, are Britain. I am only London. I am the future, but you are still the past - our heritage, our regional accents, our countryside, our mountains and valleys, our soul. I don’t want to be you, but you water me, and nourish me, like the Thames itself. I hope I offer riches in return – not riches of money but riches of art, of thought, of innovation and energy, the whole poetry of metropolitan life. We will never be fully estranged you and I, but we will always be different. Yet I love you, Britain. If only I could believe that you loved me too.