A.A. Gill’s magnificent defense of London

A few months ago I wrote a post called “Finally, propaganda I can believe in” about a charming series of videos on the cosmopolitan identity of London.  Now, the British wit A.A. Gill has a piece in the New York Times called “My London, and Welcome to It” that serves as a guide to those coming for the Olympics this summer and offers as succinct a description of this anti-nativist London as can be imagined:

I always feel bad about the queues at Heathrow [airport] as I walk to the coming home rather than the going abroad line. And as you stand there, for hours, looking at the two groups — the indigenous and the visitors — you’ll notice something. It’s a good thing. A heartwarming, little consolation thing. They look exactly the same. There is no difference between you and us, not in color, ethnicity, dress or demeanor. Those who live in London and those who visit are exactly the same.

In half my lifetime this city has become a homogenous, integrated, international place of choice rather than birth. Not without grit and friction, but amazingly polyglot and variegated. I travel a lot, and this must be the most successful mongrel casserole anywhere.

As a New Yorker, I will contest that last claim and I assume that the use of the word ‘homogenous’ there is an editing error as it was presumably meant to be ‘heterogeneous’ — and would, anyway, be more commonly spelled ‘homogeneous’ with an additional ‘e.’  But never mind that: I admire the sentiment.

Here’s a last choice morsel from Gill:

We have, collectively, osmotically, decided that we hate the Olympics. It’s costing too much, it’s causing an enormous amount of trouble and inconvenience, it’s bound to put up prices, make it impossible to find a taxi, but most of all, one thing this city doesn’t need is more gawping, milling, incontinently happy tourists.

On the bus recently a middle-aged, middle-class, middleweight woman peered out of the window at the stalled traffic and furiously bellowed; “Oh my God, is there no end to these improvements?” It was the authentic voice of London, and I thought it could be the city’s motto, uttered at any point in its history, embroidered in gold braid on the uniforms of every petty official.

You can read the whole thing here.


Click here to watch the videos about cosmopolitan London.  Or here to read my remembrance of another fine British wit, Christopher Hitchens.  Or here, for those who believe London is going to hell.


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