londoners jacketLondoners 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.


One thought on “Londoners

  1. Don’t go. Let it remain a Shangri-La of the mind as Samuel Johnson intended. It almost goes without saying that the people will be a disappointment. And I don’t just mean the bad teeth and the spots. Then there is the landscape, the architecture. Of course you know the Luftwaffe leveled it and before that the Victorians did too. The “old” buildings all have a plaque on them that says “Rebuilt in 1666,” the year of the Great Fire. Well heck, there are plenty of places on the East Coast a lot older than that. I did go to Samuel Johnson’s favorite watering hole though. I guess the plumbing hadn’t been rebuilt since 1666 either. The Health Department should have pulled its license. Naturally you will want to go on a pub crawl. All I could find was “London’s Pride” which will be fine if you regard Bud or MGD as craft beers. At the Tower of London you will want to ride the conveyor belt past the Crown Jewels. Regretably Oliver Cromwell absconded with the original set and they are now of a more recent vintage perhaps courtesy of DeBeers.

    But enough negativity already. Do your research and pinpoint the places you absolutely must seen. Then head out to Scotland, Wales, Land’s End or wherever.

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