Friday, 7 February 2014

Another country

The Daily Mash may have made a joke of it, but the view is often heard that London is becoming increasingly detached in economic and social terms from the rest of the UK. Its economy seems to be more a part of an international world of finance than the realities of workaday provincial life, it experiences a house price boom while the rest of the country is stagnant, and its sheer size and density make its transport problems and solutions unique in Britain. Also, unlike pretty much any other major city apart perhaps from Edinburgh, it has a large population of prosperous middle-class people living in inner-urban areas which gives them a distinctly different feel. A significant issue resulting from this is that, since so many politicians and journalists are based in London, it is all too easy to form the opinion that the capital is typical of the rest of the country and what works there is likely to work anywhere else.

It’s also home to the social phenomenon of the hipster which only appears to have spread outwards in a rather half-hearted fashion. This seems to be bound up with the direction that the London beer scene has taken. I get the impression that craft keg ales and lagers have become much more widely available there than anywhere else. The craft beer bar, or the minimalist makeover of an old pub, has become an essential centrepiece for the up-and-coming trendy neighbourhood. Many of the London microbreweries seem to intent on developing a cutting-edge image rather than brewing a a range of conventional, accessible beers. This has given rise to the phenomenon of “London murky” which really is very specific to the capital. And the sky-high property prices make it attractive to convert even thriving pubs for residential use, which is something you just don’t see here. All the pubs local to me that have been turned into something else have either been obviously struggling or already closed.

It’s sometimes said that, where London leads, the rest of the country eventually follows but, in wider terms spreading well beyond the world of beer, I get the feeling that the two are increasingly heading in different directions.

8 comments:

Grandpa Simpson said...

"Get off my lawn"

Cooking Lager said...

You can get a flight to most European cities & cheaper hotels, than travelling from the north to London. London is less relevant to the average Brit than Milan, Munich, Paris, wherever. So they have daft hats and murkey beer? it's a dump. Save a bob & go somewhere nicer.

Bill said...

Cookie, for once you are spot on. Can I recommend Valencia? Lovely city and Easyjet fly there. They have good lout there too.

Paul Bailey said...

Best ask Tandleman's opinion on this one. I believe he has a flat there, and certainly seems to visit London a lot more often than I do, even though it's only a 35 minute train ride from where I live.

I know much gentrification has, and still is taking place, but there are still quite a few gritty, down-at-heel parts of the capital. There are also areas I'd avoid like the plague, so I wouldn't say everything is booming in London, and the streets certainly aren't paved with gold!

Anonymous said...

London IS NOT England,it is little more than festering sore on the dying Realm.
A swirling cesspool of international leeches,
of well spoken spivs,of universal parasites,of suited gangsters and
noisy degenerates. It gushes laws and restrictions giving no heed to consequence for others out in the forgotten regional wilderness.
Scotland might be well rid of the seething sewer of London,may be England too. One fine day.

Martin, Cambridge said...

Ive been to some great towns and cities watching Manchester City and drinking in superb pubs (Newcastle, Leicester, Cardiff) and some absolute dumps (Tottenham, West Ham, Crystal Palace to come). London has wonderful little villages that obscure the drabness of the whole.

Tandleman said...

You are right in many ways Mudgie. I love London but it is changing into a different place to the rest of the UK at a phenomenal pace.

You can't put aside the sheer wealth of the place, as it is that which drives everything and beer and pubs are no exception.

I have been working on a blog post about beer which touches on the wealth aspect, but whatever its faults, London remains a fascinating place. As an aside and maybe a side swipe about hipsters and murky beer, there is a divide in beer within London too.

In beer as in many other things, hipsters have a herd instinct. In beer most would not know yeast bite from a dog bite. It accounts in part for the murky beer thing.

Still love it somehow.

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, my point is not that London is bad, but that it is different and increasingly so, as you confirm.

I am not a fan of Peter Hitchens, but he makes the same point in this recent column:

"In fact, London is now so different from the surrounding country that it has become a separate nation, at least as different from England as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

I would also guess that there may be quite a difference between the pub and beer scene in the outer boroughs and that in Inner London.