Why I don’t miss London

“What is it you miss about London?” asked a cab driver.

“Well… ”

At that moment we couldn’t think of a thing we missed about London. We had ‘done’ London.

But…

“When a man is tired of London”, wrote Doctor Johnson, “he is tired of life.”

We didn’t feel tired of life… or of London. We just didn’t miss it.

“Well… I guess I miss the active city life… There is so much you can do in London. Baltimore is just a small city in comparison.”

Every word of it was true. But it wasn’t really what we were thinking. What we were really thinking is that Baltimore is a better place to live! Less traffic. More manageable. More livable.

We caught ourselves. We stopped. We drew breath. What were we saying? We couldn’t mean it. How could Baltimore be a better place to live than London? Ten years ago we never imagined such an idea.

But cities are like women. You look for different things at different stages of your life. If you’re lucky, you find them in the same woman. More about that in a minute. In the meantime, the Washington Post gives us a map to show us “the best place to be born.”

Too late for us! We were born a long time ago. But it’s mostly nonsense anyway. Because the best place to be born is where your parents are. And they are not in “Germany” or “the US”. They’re in a specific place with specific friends, ideas, relatives, jobs, and wealth.

A person born into the right family in Mexico or Lebanon is far ahead of the person born into the wrong family in the US. In fact, in America you can find some of the most miserable low-lifes on the planet. Just look at them on television.

These studies try to determine an “average person”. But none of us are average. We are all specific and unique. And we live in specific ways, in specific places. We don’t live in countries. We live in cities, areas and neighbourhoods.

Where is the best place to be? It depends. One of the things it depends on is your stage in life.

As we were saying, cities are like women. You need one who is well adapted to your specific needs. When you are in your 20s you want a woman who is exciting, maybe a little complicated… a real discovery! You want a London.

“That is no country for old men”, wrote the Irish poet, Yeats. He was not referring to London. But he might have been.

On one of the many couches in our hotel lobby near the Shard was a pair of lovers in each other’s arms. Actually, it was not clear what was going on. She was Chinese. Very pretty. But not very young. She might have been an analyst for a bank or a TV presenter.

He had red hair, turning white. And black stylish glasses. He might have been an art director at a magazine or maybe he was in charge of actuarial tables at an insurance company. Nerdy, he leaned toward her.

Were they settling a dispute? Were they making up? He leaned forward even more. She looked as though she couldn’t decide. Should she give in… or resist?

Suddenly, her arms flung out. She embraced him. Their heads rested on each other’s shoulder. Whatever problem they had had was resolved.

London is a great city if you are young… and you have money. It is the world’s leading financial centre, with high margins and high salaries.

You go out on the street. You raise your arm. A taxi stops. “Take me to Annabels”, you say. To Whites. The Wolesley. Or to any one of thousands of restaurants, theatres, clubs, bars and hangouts.

Then, when you tire of one crowd, you go to the street again. Raise your arm. Within minutes you are with another.

Each ride costs about £10… or $15. A few drinks might set you back $50. Then don’t forget dinner. One and fifty pounds, easy. At the end of an average evening, you might have spent $300. Not much if you are a star hedge fund manager, but a lot if you are an ageing publisher planning his financial future. It is too much.

And what will you do tomorrow? The same thing!

In your 30s, you need a different set up. You need a woman who is a worker and a helpmate, giving you advice on your career, helping with house and home. Think Chicago.

By the time you are in your 40s, a woman should be your partner. By then you have both made a big investment in children, home, business, community, friends. You count on her to do her share of the work and carry her share of the burden, to offset your weaknesses and augment your strengths. Maybe San Francisco would be a good bet.

When you reach your 50s you look for something different. Children leave the home. The day to day challenges ease off. You want more comfort, you develop new interests. You want a woman who holds up, one who develops a sense of timeless elegance. Paris would be a good choice.

And in your 60s, new responsibilities set in. There are weddings to organise, grandchildren, in-laws, retirement, estate planning. Your children need guidance. Help that you never thought you’d have to give. You need a woman with a real sense of diplomacy and a head on her shoulders. One who is wise as well as witty.

Baltimore?

Well, maybe.

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12 Responses

  1. 10/01/2013, Jacqui wrote

    Crikey, if Bill has been taking taxis everywhere, frequenting boring posh places like Whites, and spending £150 on a meal no wonder he’s tired of London.
    I’m a Londoner. I take the bus, go to interesting places, and spend £3-£50 on a variety of tasty meals. You need a local to show you around!

  2. 10/01/2013, Dexter Wallfish wrote

    Today we cycled country lanes the 15 mile round trip to our nearest supermarket. Dinner, cooked at home, will be poached salmon, new potatoes and steamed vegetables washed down with Australian Chardonnay. About £10 for two. Britain may be pale blue on your map but it don’t feel like that here.

  3. 10/01/2013, LERENARD wrote

    I do feel sorry for the rich…..they have so much more to lose….and nothing more to gain……except a few more noughts !
    Someone once said ‘It is better to be miserable and rich than miserable and poor!’. I am not so sure. A poor man can improve his lot, but a miserable and rich person cannot. Those that are happy and rich are wise, and know both sides of the coin.

  4. 10/01/2013, Willem de Leeuw wrote

    What if you’re not allowed to live in Baltimore because you weren’t born American and cannot get a green card or visa?

    The question is, does London miss Bill? Probably not. London’s a place most people either love or hate. I prefer Amsterdam as it’s smaller, but I know people who love London and think Amsterdam’s too boring. Each to their own.

  5. 10/01/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    #4 is right.You either love it or hate. Since it is no longer really part of the UK ,I for one despise the place.

  6. 11/01/2013, Ellen wrote

    I guess its as much about how you perceive yourself as how you perceive your preference for your surroundings and in the words of Yeats in ‘Among School Children’ – “How can we know the dancer from the dance”, – the dance, of course, being London or Baltimore.

    I thought I’d reply from a female perspective how a great man might mature – although I don’t pretend to speak for all woman.

    In your 20s – Someone who loves fun, a bit crazy, looks good, a bit of a chancer and a bit daring. Someone who appreciates and encourages you to be the individual you are, – London

    In your 30s – Someone with a plan and a vision who expects to have to work hard. But he still likes to laugh a lot – at himself, at you and at the world. A good negotiator but a team player too. – Definitely New York

  7. 11/01/2013, Ellen wrote

    In your 40s – A kind man who plays and talks. Someone who loves being with his family and a man who can manage his ego enough to be able to see how everyone else is doing.
    a Spanish city – Barcelona.

    In your 50s – Well, now its planning for when the children are gone. He’s allowed to be a bit cynical – but funny cynical! He will embrace new ideas, learn new things and try things he hasn’t done before. Break some boundaries – Berlin, it has to be.

    In your 60s – I am not sure here but will predict, with the big responsibilities behind him he is free to be fun, a bit crazy, looks good, is a little daring and still appreciates and encourages you to be the individual you are. London?

  8. 11/01/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    #6&7 Ellen. Your ageing man should be thahnkful in his 20′s there is no more conscription or mass killing on the battlefields. In his 30′s thankful that he is properly housed with work and/or sufficient benefits. In his 40′s amazed that he has outlived most folk who have ever lived. In his 50′s try as hard as possible to retire early and in his 60′s get a cardy, some slippers, an allotment and rejoice as he has 20 more years of healthy life.

  9. 11/01/2013, Ellen wrote

    @ 8 Boris. If he’s got 20 more years of healthy living ahead of him, what’s he doing with a cardy and slippers?

  10. 12/01/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    #9 Glorying in a long and happy twilight to his life. Cardies,I understand, are quite trendy again among the young folk.

  11. 13/01/2013, Steve T wrote

    I think I get what Bill is on about. As a South London lad I used to love the buzz of the place, couldn’t get enough of the city life (taking the bus and the tube – couldn’t afford taxis), revelled in the diversity the city had to offer. Then one day walking to the tube from my East London apartment I realised I had walked a mile and not heard a single English voice. My beloved city, always a controlled melting pot, had been buried under the weight of uncontrolled immigration and was no longer the English city where I had spent my first 50 years. How sad. I no longer live in London and to my surprise I don’t miss it.

    And in case anyone feels like making cardy and slippers comments, my idea of fun is climbing mountains in Africa and white water rafting in New Zealand.

  12. 13/01/2013, Boris MacDonut wrote

    #11 Steve .What an exciting old chap you must be.Late life crisis? The recent census in 2011 showed only 43% of Londoners were white British and 33% other British, the rest were foreigners ……and those were the ones who fill in the census. I reckon another 2 million there did not trouble the scorers. Of the 43% who were white British, 90% said they wanted to leave within the next two years……similar sentiments to yourself methinks. London is a World city inhabited by a cosmopolitan mix with no affinity to the rest of us. Perhaps we could sell it to the secret society who meet at Davos each year and help clear some of our debts.

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