North/South divide? In Cambridge, Londoners are the really privileged ones
So what tube line do you live on?
Until the age of 11, I lived in West Harrow. That’s on the Metropolitan line, and very much ‘south of Watford’, thank you very much.
I lived next to a park. Not just any park. A London park, which is half thoroughfare for commuters, half actual park, as us Londoners know. I could get to the British Museum in half an hour if I really wanted to. Heck, I was in spitting distance of just about everything great this country has to offer. The London Eye was just a really big playground ride to me. I was living the dream.
But then I moved out of London, and everything got shit. My days suddenly revolved around mining and playing in brass bands. Everyone I know is a farmer. We all speak in incomprehensible English with clipped ‘A’s and we all went to school with Alan Bennett or one of the members of One Direction. I once saw Liam Payne on a bus and that was the cultural highlight of my year.
Luckily, in Cambridge, the blessed city of London has never felt closer – and it is, literally, quite close. I can’t count the number of times friends have announced, on a whim, that they are ‘heading home for the weekend’. And when they say a weekend, they mean a proper weekend – not ten hours travelling and a quick hello to the fam in between. It won’t take them more than an hour to be snuggled up in bed, and they are bound to pass a couple of landmarks on the way. Plus a flip-tonne of Wasabis, which haven’t colonised most other cities as they have our capital.
Aside from the obvious comfort of having your home so close by, Londoners also benefit from easy access to the internships and summer jobs that we’re all supposed to be aiming for. They gloat about their August spent at IBM, while I’m supposed to be grateful that I got some tutoring work. Even if I snuck my way into employment in the Big Smoke, I’d be paying more than I was earning, simply for the pleasure of staying there for a month or two. And it would be a pleasure. An expensive pleasure. Like a visit to a cat café. Which they only have in London, by the way.
It wouldn’t hurt so much if every second person I met at Cambridge wasn’t from London. Really. It has to be at least half. My default answer to ‘Where are you from’ is to sheepishly give the name of my Midlands town, then add ‘BUT I WAS BORN IN LONDON’, knowing that will be more appealing. It automatically reassures my conversation partner that I am not a luddite or a farmer, which is what anyone from outside of the M25 quite clearly is. Before I ventured north, I also did not understand that Birmingham and Manchester were not the same city. Don’t pretend otherwise, you privileged twits. And no, summering in Edinburgh doesn’t count.
Well, I’m not actually saying everyone in London is loaded and living the Made in Chelsea lifestyle, but when it comes to sheer opportunities, you really do have it all. Galleries, cinemas, clubs, restaurants, theatres, libraries. There’s a reason everyone wants to live where you do. There’s a reason I tried desperately to get myself a London boyfriend in my first year, and it wasn’t because you’re a nice guy, Steve. Don’t whine to me about Tube fares when I have to pay £3.50 to get a bus from my house to town. My town is not worth £3.50.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so tantalised if I hadn’t once known what it was like. The buzz of the city. The feeling that you’re at the centre of everything. Those who don’t know their Hackney from their Hampstead do not long so much for the day when they will make the natural transition from Cambridge grad to City banker. I, however, do. And I’m freaking BUZZING.
In a roundabout way, I’m asking if I can stay at one of your many London houses after I graduate. Please? I’ll bring you some scones. I mean, sc-owns.