Love Letters to London

The London Society has a free to enter writing competition called ‘Love Letters to London‘. Write up to 500 words (or a poem) about the city on the theme of ‘recovery and resilience’ and you could win up to £900.

There are full details here, and I’ve had a bash below (as I’m the Director of the Society I can’t enter the competition proper).

If you’re on social media, look for the hashtag #LoveLettersToLondon

If you think you can do better – and I’m sure you can – you’ve got until 30 November to get your entry in. So get writing!


A Love Letter to Home

When, nearly 40 years ago, I pitched up in London with the promise of a sofa to sleep on and the phone number in my pocket of someone who might have a job for me, the capital was a very different city to now. The 1970s had not been good to London; nearly a million people had left the place, the buildings were black with pollution, the streets were unswept, crime was rising. It was noisy, it was dirty – and it was absolutely wonderful.

Compared to where I’d been brought up, it was thrillingly different. I’d lived 21 years in one small town, but the big city immediately felt like ‘home’. It was a place I felt I belonged in a way that my birthplace never did. I didn’t know how to get from Tooting to South Ken, but I would already have called myself a Londoner.

In London the possibility of reinvention is always there. Outsiders often think London and Londoners are uncaring, but that’s only true in the sense that they aren’t concerned with who you are or what you do. You can try to be whoever you wish, and do whatever you want – London does not judge.

As I lived here longer connections were made. I got to know how to travel around, became familiar with different districts, found favourite pubs, bars, shops, parks, journeys. Friends were made, flats were bought (it was the 80s), ‘I’ became ‘we’ and then a family.

In the subsequent decades London came roaring back, the decayed imperial capital morphing into a great world city. Walk down the streets or take a bus and you can hear a dozen different conversations in a dozen different languages. The city has become cleaner, safer, more structured, but it can still generate in me that excitement I felt in the early 1980s.

40 years on, I’m obviously much older, but London isn’t. It has always been a young city, in both demography and in its character; like a twenty-something it’s always interested in the new and the shiny, the next big thing, having the very best time and hang the consequences. 

You’re a Londoner if you call London ‘home’ – whether you’ve lived here all your life or whether you’ve just stepped off the train – and if you’re a Londoner, you love London with a passion. We can moan about it, criticise it, be infuriated by it – but we’d never live anywhere else.

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