Sunday, 12 February 2012

Labelling London

I have a confession to make. The name of this blog is probably, in reality, more than a little bit inaccurate. I don’t love to hate London at all. In fairness I love and hate London, and although its annoyances seem to become more obvious the longer I live here, it will probably always have a special place in my heart. Like I have said a million times before, its everything goes attitude is more than a little liberating after a childhood growing up in a small (minded) town, and it is an ethos that I have whole-heartedly embraced.

What is so interesting about London, though, is it is so diverse and vibrant, it and its inhabitants are almost impossible to pigeon-hole. Whereas other cities can be defined by an overwhelming majority when it comes to the ethnicity, political views or the wealth of its inhabitants (Bradford = Asian, Cambridge = well to do, Brighton = liberal), London is a mix-mash of everything and anything.

As an ex-sociology student, I find the society that we live in fascinating, all the more so because of my relatively sheltered upbringing. In a small town in the Midlands, “Equal Opportunities” was just a phrase that had little meaning to a population that was probably about 99% white. My studies at university did little to open my eyes – let’s face, most of my lecturers were white and middle-class, and, although they of course touched on “minorities”, everything that they said was from a white middle-class perspective. Even now when I pick up books about society many authors seem to forget about how people from other cultures and classes experience life here. Watching the English by Kate Fox is a good example. Yes, it is an amusing read and I recognise a lot of its observations in myself and the people around me. But, then again, I am white middle class - of course I do. Another example is The Middle Class Handbook published by Not Actual Size. A bold attempt to sub-categories those whose salary is fair to middling, I can certainly appreciate what they are trying to say. But then their examples do seem to focus on white westerners. Those who fit into a similar salary bracket whose cultural background differs from mine don’t really get a mention.

In London, calling someone English and Middle Class doesn’t really tell you anything, other than where they were born and what they earn - and even that category is wide and fuzzy around the edges. In fairness, I think it would be quite a feat to write anything that could pinpoint every Londoner into a specific sub-category, and I take my hat off to anyone who gives it a go.

Thank you London for continuing to challenging my understanding of you and your inhabitants, nearly eleven years on. I guess that’s why I still love you, and probably always will.


  1. Hello Shelly :)
    So, I found your blog a few minutes ago and I must say that I love it!
    I am new in London and I like to write too :)
    Do you have some advices to me about writing?

    You can send me email to
    Thank you X

  2. Hi!
    Good luck with the writing - and your life in London!
    The only advice I can give is to write about what you know, listen to criticism only when it is constructive and keep at it - practice makes perfect!
    The Mary Ward Centre and City Lit do good courses in creative writing too, and Julia Cameron has written some good books on getting into writing so definitely worth a look.
    Go for it!