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London’s throat is non-stop rammed full

2014 November 7
by Zoe Strimpel
This is the light and ceiling decoration above drinkers at the Gilbert Scott near St Pancras.

This is the light and ceiling decoration above drinkers at the Gilbert Scott near St Pancras.


London is like a throat – an elegant, devious, old throat – that’s having more and more and MORE shoved down it. London is big and old and clever, so as a throat it expands and contracts basically in accordance to demand with just a few hiccups (persons under trains, commuter rage, soaring prices, alienation of those who would like to live here but can’t afford it, the odd flash mob action). Like a throat, too (or like a vagina, at that), it pushes all sorts of things out. Coughs, undigested food, breath, life-force (NB: I am not saying vaginas expel food). What it pushes out makes more things want to rush down it because enough of it is awesome.

There is a lot of money sloshing down London’s throat, as we all know. In a world constantly throwing up the horrors that are outlined in bolded and gigantic font in the local and national papers (murder, financial ruin, international terrorism) the worlds (which is to say, the lifeworlds, the people) rushing through London’s commercial sub-gullets, its food and drink stations, its retail meccas, seem remarkably HAPPY. They’re all pairs of young women and groups of Gucci shoe-clad men (or expensively-hooded hipsters) bloody downing champagne or expensive local pale ales….they’re all ordering meat plates and tucking into hazelnut mousse and foie gras and coiffing £12 cocktails/nibbling Levantine olives while they wait for a seat in Palomar! The money is flowing into the purses of these people and these people are numerous enough to completely block up, a bit like killer constipation, hundreds of restaurants in London each night. Not all are in their 20s. Some are in their 30s and 40s and even the olds are out in numbers – my parents, by contrast, were pretty far from hitting up scenester restaurants when I was growing up.

Next to me right now are two women, about my age or younger. Maybe four years younger – 28. They aren’t models or anything but they are really pretty – insanely glowing skin and extremely restrained eyeliner bringing out their large blue-green eyes, their long and luscious locks gilding their English (sadly, retreating) jawlines. They’re young and smartly dressed. They’re also on the champagne, which is from £13 a glass here (the Gilbert Scott, with its glorious gilded frescoed ceiling). I am here because I’m in a bit of a fuck-it mood, but am on the free, jar-contained and extremely greasy popcorn and the house white at £6 a glass. It’s a lot, I know.

Ok so they’re young, they’re drinking champagne at 5pm ensuring they aren’t lawyers or bankers, and they have all the money in the world to chin-chin when they want. I can tell they are doing this as a basic nice way to pass the time. This is not a special treat.

I see students – those famed rich students, I guess, who flock to London and whose parents buy them luxury flats in Mayfair- eating sushi in the sunshine at lunch. I don’t think today’s students have heard of bringing your own crap but cheap lunch in the form of brown rice and baked beans. Even my cousin, whose degree at UCL is courtesy of a loan, is living in a flat in King’s Cross I could not afford with my boyfriend.

In front of the girls are a pair who can’t be more than 21. The guy has long greasy hair and is wearing a tie and they’re drinking cocktails (£14 a pop).

Back in Lewisham, where I live (well, Brockley), there’s less glitz, just a lot of traffic.

But house prices are still raging, and people who lived there when it was crap, many of them West Indian, are enjoying the insane prices – many, many BMWs pass our flat on Upper Brockley Road.

I don’t get how you reconcile it – the deprivation, the doomsday headlines, the casual champagne among 20 somethings all over London (just on Weds I was at Brawn with a friend who is now a publishing bigwig – she earned it by a big slog – and there were two 20-something women next to us attired as hipsters but eating and spending like aristocrats). Everyone seems in on some secret big reserve of cash. They flood, they surge, in their millions through London Tube’s turnstiles spending at least £90 a week for the privilege. Rich people have a lot of money, but so – it appears – does everyone else. They’re certainly spending, queuing up to throw their dosh down that big throat, London.

The champagne drinkers have got their bill and the discussion is ensuing about splitting. The dewiest-skinned one is insisting on taking it all. She’s sweet, but something tells me this isn’t the last champagne of the evening.

Party on, London. I feel quite without breath, caught between the avalanches of cash and the surging people everywhere, spending, spending and playing, playing on their phones.

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