London’s lonely are apparently on the increase, and we are also the loneliest city in the UK, with almost 30% of us claiming that we feel isolated. So says a new report commissioned by the BBC and carried out by socially scientific bods at Sheffield University. The same study group concluded that there are also greater extremes of wealth and poverty in the capital. So far so obvious: ever since Ralph McTell picked up his guitar and strummed us that song we’ve all been aware of the ones that slip through the metropolitan net. The report ascribes the trend to the high number of not-so-smug-singletons, the transient population (many immigrants), and the proportion of those living in rented property.
We say that cities were ever thus, and London is not demonstrably any worse than any other north European capital. What McTell did for London Brel did for Amsterdam, and Piaf one way or t’other for Paris. What this report should do is to act as a timely reminder to look out for one another. No-one should have to be alone, everyone has neighbours, and there is no excuse for ignoring each other. We’re not saying you should rush next door and hug, or accost perfectly happy little old ladies in the street. But you know that little bit of us, that human radar, which we switch off every time we leave our London homes? Perhaps we should keep it switched on just a little bit, albeit on standby.
And don’t forget, the incessant but cheerful chatter of Londonist is always but a click away.