London is perhaps the ultimate Marmite city. One second you're head over heels in love with it; the next you're searching 'Manchester' on Rightmove. But what are the most Marmite things IN London? These six things, we reckon.
You won't hear anyone bitch about London's 'fussy' Victorian architecture, but you'll sure as hell run into someone who's prepared a short dissertation on why the Barbican needs to be blown up in the next 10 minutes. Indeed, brutalism is the Marmite Dynamite Chilli of the architectural world, and like Marmite it's spread thinly across the surface of London, from Brunel University to the Balfron Tower. Apparently even Londonist is conflicted about Brutalism, once publishing a piece on how it monstrously scarred London. (Tbf that's counteracted by 3,000 articles on why brutalism is the best.) An honourable mention, too, to the non-brutalist, but ineffably controversial Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, which nurtured decades of debate. Now there's nothing left to love or hate about it.
2. The cable car
For a mode of transport that often struggles to entice 20,000 passengers a week, we've got an awful ruddy lot of opinions on the Emirates Air Line, haven't we. Anyone with a head for heights can hardly fault its majestic views across the Docklands, and the price of a 'flight' isn't too spenny either. What makes the dangleway — as non-fans like to call it — contentious is its 'interesting' location (a decade after opening it still feels a bit out of the way), and also perhaps, its affinity with Boris Johnson, for who the Emirates Air Line was arguably just another in a litany of vanity projects. This particular vanity project underscores Johnson's own love/hate affair; he happily snaffled EU cash to make the cable car a reality, before doing that whole Brexit thing. (Free ingenious marketing suggestion for TfL; after Emirates relinquishes its cable car sponsorship, how about a cheeky bit of corporate branding from Marmite?)
3. The Royal Family
The British monarchy is one bottomless vat of Marmite; Joe Public enjoys nothing more than to debate whether the Queen and Co should be endlessly worshipped on gaudy souvenirs, or otherwise immediately and irrevocably toppled. Queen Elizabeth II's popularity was going through something of a purple patch — a paradigm of leadership during tumultuous times (someone had to), but since allegedly bailing out one of her troubled sons to the tune of many millions, there's currently a bitter taste in the mouth. Like a jar of Marmite that's way beyond its best before.
We recently asked our readers to help us map London's parakeets. We got so many responses, our cartographer almost had a breakdown. It also proved that the little green birds are more Marmite than a jar full of yeasty black goo, with a yellow lid and a label that says 'Marmite' on it. "I love seeing and hearing them all around London" said one of you. "They need to be culled, they are bullying out all the native birds out of nesting in trees!" said someone else. "They are the most beautiful birds in drab, grey London and brighten my day immensely" chipped in another. "The bastard things can't sing!!" came the impassioned reply. To cuddle or cull — that's the debate getting every single Londoner in a flap.
5. Winter Wonderland
It's the moooost wonderful/cynical time of the yeeeaaarrrr... You can rely on Winter Wonderland — Hyde Park's yearly Christmasgasm — to divide opinion as much as any John Lewis ad about mince pie-eating aliens. If you're a wide-eyed child with no concept of capitalism, how could you fail to fall in love with the largest outdoor ice rink in the country and sticks of fried dough smothered in Nutella. If you're a parent of said child, you might have slightly differing opinions, which'll take a few five-quid mulled wines to shift. We did a video on our own love/hate musings on Winter Wonderland in 2019:
6. Other Londoners
Other Londoners are amazing. They speak multiple languages. They have inspiring stories. They help other Londoners out. Other Londoners are also awful. They insist on taking the same train as you. They walk weird. They bang on about how they hate London.