To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, I left London once — it was the worst afternoon of my entire life.
That's obviously a joke. That afternoon, I went to Knockholt, which is within smelling distance of the Greater London border. It was officially part of London from 1965-9 too, so the panic attack was only a mild one. Plus, the train station takes Oyster.
Yes, London really is very great, hence this article about why I'm not leaving it. I'm not leaving London because when The Apprentice comes on with its sweeping panoramas of the City, you can elbow your friend from Birmingham in the ribs, and say "I live there", even though the specific Dollis Hill squat you live in is just out of shot. (Lord Sugar, by the way, pretends to live in Canary Wharf, when in fact it's another BBC payroll-ee who resides up there, namely Jools Holland.)
I'm not leaving London because I haven't been to Kensington Palace yet.
I'm not leaving London because I want to see The Mousetrap come to the end of its run.
I'm not leaving London because just once I want to get in front of that guy who always pushes in, on the bus at Vauxhall.
I'm not leaving London because I can't afford the train fare to Leeds.
"Which brings me to my next point — London's expensive," I've just totally made up you saying to me.
Is it really though? The average price of a pint of beer in London is around £6. Pricey? Certainly. Yet in Burnley, the average house price is a stonking £70,311 — that's a staggering £70,305 more. Sometimes the newspapers only give you half the story.
Plus, in London, you don't need to buy cigarettes, because the toxins in the air give your lungs more of a work-out than a packet of Marlboro Reds ever could. You don't need to buy food because you can just eat the free samples they hand out every morning at Shoreditch High Street station. You don't need to go out, because you can just stay in and watch The Apprentice.
"But London's not as good as it used to be," you continue, seemingly unaware that your argument is now falling to pieces like a particularly tender cut of brisket.
Admittedly, it's a well documented fact that the Victorians relished being riddled with cholera and syphilis, and that the Stuarts got off on the whole Great Fire thing. But isn't one of the reasons that London is so great is that it's never as good as when you remember it. You know, like 30 years ago, or 10 years ago, or three days ago. The fact you can be bothered to get worked up that a chicken shop has been reopened as a slightly posher chicken shop is telling. (And let's be honest, the chicken in the new place is much better.)
"But London's not peaceful and green though, is it?" (When are you going to stop asking these questions?)
Have you ever been to Charlton Athletic on a match day? Peaceful as you like. As for greenery, well, how about Turnham Green or Slade Green or Golders Green or Greenwich. There's also a place in Hackney where you can carve your own spoon, which is presumably what you do in Wales or Devon or whatever it is you said you live.
"But... but... but...," you splutter — by this point, realising that you're absolutely wasting your breath — "there's a whole world outside of London."
Yeah? My Snowdonia is Telegraph Hill. My Machu Picchu is Lesnes Abbey. My Arndale Centre is Westfield Stratford/Westfield White City. My Lourdes is my Shepherd's Bush, I shall not want. And in a way, all of the London versions are better, because they're in London. Exactly the reason why Knockholt will never be as good as Malden Rushett.
And that's why I'm not leaving London. Categorically. Obviously until I can't afford to live here anymore, or I fancy living in a two bedroom terrace by the sea. At which point I'll write a really poignant article about why I've moved to Hastings.