Monday, 18 January 2010

London calling me home

"Why, sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Dr. Samuel Johnson.(Boswell's Life of Johnson)
Almost without fail when people learn I have retired they automatically assume I will now pursue some long-held ambition to travel. As though there is some sense in, at the same time as trying to calculate whether or not I'm destined to die in poverty, I should go and lavish my savings on horrendous journeys and rip-off hotels in countries where only the flies come free.
For years I thought I was the only one who didn't have a desire to leave a perfectly comfortable home in one of the world's great cities to experience the pain of deep vein thrombosis, lost luggage, heatstroke, dengue fever, and, worst of all, other tourists.
Now I realise all this time I have been saving the planet. I don't even like driving so my carbon footprint can hardly add up to five toes.
Travel doesn't broaden the mind; it confirms prejudices. But let's say there is some value in "a change of scenery"; that there really is fun that isn't negated by the trial of getting there and back; that there is some restorative power in holidays. Only then might there be some sense in adopting - for however short a time - a standard of living higher than the one you have left behind.
The idea of a long weekend let alone crossing continents to live, say, under canvas is difficult for me to comprehend.
When obliged to holiday, I'm happier staying three nights in a decent hotel in the centre of wherever and dining in good restaurants than spending a fortnight in a clapped out one-star miles from anywhere living off baguette sandwiches.
All in all I'd rather stay home. London sweats culture and history from its very pores. Look in any Tube carriage and the ethnic mix will be unparalleled. Londoners may not be downright welcoming are open minded. Even the city's young people while not all necessarily sober after 8pm and ill-educated all of the time (the fault of our piss-poor educational system) are vibrant and interesting.
So if anyone is going anywhere, you'd better come to us.

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