I’m going to visit some people soon. A mate of mine has moved to Cumbria to study Forensic Science and another to Leeds to have a dabble with History; both pretty nice places to visit and have a saunter around whilst sloshed.
On the phone the other day to the wannabe Historian, I asked him how he was finding Leeds. “Yeah, it’s alright, settling in, miss home though.” All pretty standard fare, but something struck me: when people move out, they miss home, when people move to London they begin making it their “home.”
Now I was born in London, delivered by a nurse in good old St Helier hospital (which if the Tories have their way, won’t have a natal ward anymore) to a mother so dizzy on gas and air she was pretending to be Darth Vader. I’ve lived in SM4 since I was born, Morden (the last stop on the Northern line, not where Sauron lives) has always been my hometown. My dad is a bit of a Cockney and my mum still says “alraaaight love” when she bumps into someone from her childhood – although her voice changes dramatically when she meets somebody new. I think it’s fair to say I’m a Saaaaaf Londoner.
Now, I’m sorry to say this Fresher’s, but you aren’t Londoners. You’ve been here all of eight weeks, you’re still Cornwall natives, Oxfordians or a local of a wonderful little village in Shropshire. You may be filled with excitement at this prospect of living in London, you may love seeing the Shard from your bedroom window (if you’re a freak) and you might adore popping down to Columbia Road on a Sunday.
But seriously, you’re not a Londoner.
So on behalf of me and the other Londoner’s who attend Queen Mary: please stop claiming you are and please, for the love of God, stop telling us quaint facts about London. In my three years at QM I’ve been asked “I went to South London the other day, have you been there?” (nah, just eat dinner, sh*t and sleep there), told “East London is so much better than West London” (yeah, Canada Water’s well nice innit) and argued with that “Hyde Park and Green Park are nowhere near each other!” (5 minute walk, actually.)
This isn’t to be rude, okay maybe a little, but it’s a matter of pride. If I’d have moved up to Manchester to study English or Liverpool to read Law, I wouldn’t claim I was a Mancunian or that I was Scouse. It’s a strange phenomenon that those who move down to London for university lay claim to being Londoners so quickly, and it’s something that rots the teeth of those of us born and bred.
Once your family have been hospitalized in Kingston, you’ve had a one-night-stand in Mile End and you’ve had the dodgiest of omelettes in Kensington; once you’ve seen your brother moan about art in the Tate Modern, got a bus from Orpington to Bromley for the best of house parties and watched Wimbledon move to Milton Keynes only to be palmed off with a cheap, AFC replacement; once you’ve cut yourself on glass, seen newborn kids scream their guts out and hear old ladies who don’t know each other forge fleeting conversations on the bus: then you’re about halfway there.
Really, most people spend less than two years in total living in the place they study at. People don’t suddenly become Bristolian, a Yorkshireman or a part of the Portsmouth mandem quite so easily as they brand themselves as being from Bethnal Green or Mile End.
So, no, you’re not a Londoner: yet. You may well be, one day, but just for now, be proud of wherever you are from, because one day you might well miss it.