Londoners by Craig Taylor
“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life” (Samuel Johnson).
The Author of “Londoners”, Craig Taylor grew up in western Canada but then moved to London on a visa. He was fascinated by what he saw there, the people, the Culture. “I regularly felt lonely, duped, underprepared, faceless, friendless, but mostly a mixture of those.” Eventually his time was up and his visa expired. He returned to Canada, but he kept asking himself how he felt about London. “I contorted with each answer. It was a mix of love, ambivalence and loathing”. He decided to write a book about “Londoners” “What is a “Londoner?” When does one become a “Londoner?” He interviewed more than 200 people all over London. The people are arranged in categories like “Earning one’s Keep” featuring a plumber and a manicurist. “Feeding the City” featuring a chef and a fellow who runs one of the biggest markets in London. He interviews artists and social workers, sheriffs and protestors. Each of these people has their own take on London.
For tourists, London is ideal (If you’ve got lots of money), but to actually live there is another story. London “of old” has been transformed or transmogrified into a world financial center. In recent years, like almost all major cities all over the world, London has been inundated with immigrants. Housing is tight, rents expensive, and there are constant clashes between the haves and the have nots.
Reading the interviews of these disparate people was fascinating. Naturally I have my favorites like “the Dominatrix”, the Protestor”, and Farzad Pashazadeh, an illegal immigrant who is mistreated.
I think this next paragraph can pretty much sum up what a lot of the people in this book felt about London. It’s a quote from one of the interviews:
“The image of London that you get around the world is far different from the reality. Like, okay you see the image of London in films and in television and you figure, it must be so beautiful and everyone is so mannerly. Right, this is the paradox of London. It’s like Japan, there’s a code of manners, etiquette and protocol, and everybody is mannered. But also everyone is violent and everybody is rude and everybody is willing to f*** kill everybody for the smallest thing. I couldn’t work out this contradiction in my head, right, for the longest time. And then I figured it out. I thought, there’s a public face and a private face, right, and the public face is always opposite, it’s the demiurge. And the reason that people are so preoccupied with manners and etiquette in London is because if you do now show the right etiquette it might—possibly– get you killed. And this works on all levels of society.
All evil originates here. Well it does, really. I mean…industrialization, capitalism, imperialism, the whole idea of enslaving people for their resources and turning everyone into zombies and robots and, you know, raping the earth and raping the world’s population and …they all start here. I got to get out of this f*** city.”
I can’t wait to go.