I love you but you’re bringing me down. Six long years together have shown me your cracks and your flaws, and you’re going back on your vows. Your rents have made you richer and me poorer, you’ve been there in sickness and in health but now you’re worse and I want to be better.
When we were first together, your sodium-lit, open-24-hours, we-never-close, more-better, walk-faster-don’t-slow-down electricity of the city swept through my veins and I loved you. From the gunshots and police tape of Hackney to the to the refined corners of Highgate, via the warehouse communities of Manor House and the pulsing street beat of Brixton, I’ve lived in nearly every corner of you. Working in Soho, walking down Charlotte Street at lunchtimes, wandering around the bookish corners of Bloomsbury, I know your streets better than you know yourself.
We shared lazy summer Sundays, drinking ourselves into a stupor on cider in London Fields, eating picnics and people-watching, rounding the evening off sprawling over tables in Pub on the Park as the sun set, ignoring the Monday looming over our shoulders, falling into bed with too much sunshine on our faces and too much laughter in our hearts. We walked up Parliament Hill in the brisk autumn wind and looked over your cityscape from the top, we spent afternoons cosy in the warm glow of your best pubs while the rain glazed the window-pane and we lost raucous Saturday nights staggering around your Hackney streets. London, you used to be a city of infinite possibility, where anything could, and did, happen and I used to walk your streets, ride your tube trains, electric with excitement, pinching myself with the realisation that I actually lived here! In London! I lived here and I could do anything I wanted!
But London, you’ve changed. I feel like I don’t even know you any more. My darling Camden, once home of new bands and raw, exciting music, where I once went to a party with Carl Barat because someone called down from a balcony and invited us up, where you could arrive at the Hawley Arms alone and leave with your new best friends, is full of overpriced restaurants and ‘new building developments’. You didn’t even rebuild the market when it burned down, just left it to rot away – a sign of what’s to come. Even the punks don’t go there any more. Dirty Dalston, where we used to dance all night in the Alibi, is full of ‘affordable housing’ starting at £1 million, and in Clapton, I sighted a pair of red trousers. We all know what that means.
You’ve taken away the Astoria and the Mean Fiddler to put in Crossrail, and then you let Network Rail take Cable and The Intrepid Fox. No more drag cabaret nights at Madame JoJo’s and the Black Cap, no more character or music or weird nights out or endless possibility – just Wetherspoons and a wine bar, blankly churning out Rihanna videos to an audience of braindead morons.
London, I feel like you’ve been spending too much time with that soulless temptress, Dubai, and it shows in your gleaming, billion pound glass high-rises, your unaffordable house prices and your empty property, owned by Russian millionaires and lived in twice a year. Don’t let her tempt you away from your roots – you’re supposed to be scruffier and funnier and sharper and better than that.
Anyway, London, I have a confession to make. All those weekends I spent with Brighton have turned into something more. Brighton seems to have the character and the wit that you once had, the people walk more slowly and everyone smiles more. I can go out on a Tuesday night and see a band and not pay £5 for a pint. I can talk to a stranger in the street without one of us thinking the other is an escaped lunatic. Brighton and I have decided to make it serious – we’re moving in together.
I gave you a chance to change, but you just okayed a second Crossrail development, escalated the property prices and kicked out all the market traders so you left me with no choice.
I’m leaving you. London, I’m sorry, it’s not me, it’s you.