Ysenda Maxtone Graham discusses the age old debate which divides the nation in two.
The nation divides into two camps: people who say ‘Aren’t we lucky to live in London’ and those who say ‘Aren’t we lucky not to live in London’.
I think both have a sneaking suspicion and a nagging anxiety that the others might be right. To comfort ourselves about where we’ve chosen to live our lives, we’ve become very defensive and thin-skinned when it comes to any criticism.
‘We worry that the grass might be just as green, if not greener, on the other side of the fence’
I’m guilty of it. I’m still reeling from all the small digs during the late summer holidays about how awful it must be to live in London. I’ve had ‘It’s been very hot here, but, of course, you must be used to the heat in London’.
I’ve had ‘I’m afraid your bedroom’s a bit noisy as it’s on the main road, but, of course, you must be used to the noise of traffic’. And ‘Gosh! You own a car. Is it even worth keeping a car in London?’.
Country people imagine, do they, that we Londoners live in sweltering conditions on main roads in constant gridlock?
However patiently I explain that we live in a cul-de-sac with a cool, Aga-free kitchen, that we never even go to Oxford Street and that we zoom to Richmond Park to walk our dog in its safari-like open spaces before nipping up to the National Gallery, I can see they don’t believe it. They need to reinforce their theory that living in London must be hellish and getting worse by the year.
I probably do the same, but in reverse. There are probably people in their lovely country houses across Wiltshire and Somerset smarting from my comments such as ‘Where’s your nearest Waitrose?’, ‘Gosh, these country lanes must be quite dangerous to cycle on’ and ‘So sorry I’m late – it took me four hours to get here’.
We’re an anxious lot, humans, and we worry that the grass might be just as green, if not greener, on the other side of the fence. In order to make life liveable, we need to reassure ourselves that our way is best.
What of those people who have houses in both places?
As a way of smothering my envy, I lie awake at night counting the ways in which their lives must be difficult. Running two houses – so expensive! Driving up and down the motorway in the Friday and Sunday rush hours, clothes always in the wrong house, never able to come to supper because they’re always in the other place.
Deep down, I know it’s not like that. They develop canny strategies for having the best of both worlds. However, nothing will stop me from saying, for the umpteenth time, as I drive home from Wigmore Hall and sit down to a glass of wine and scrambled eggs on toast 20 minutes after a concert: ‘Aren’t we lucky to live in London!’
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