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"The masses of buildings, the wharves on both sides…the countless ships along both shores, crowding ever closer and closer together, until, at last, only a narrow passage remains in the middle of the river…."

Today as usual I go for a fifteen minute run at six in the morning. During this quarter of an hour twelve planes fly over me on the way to Heathrow. Allowing an average of 200 passengers a plane (a modest estimate for they are mostly 747s) that means when I return from my run 2,400 people have flown in to London. By the time I have had my shower: 4,800; by 7.00, when I leave for work: 9,600. And it goes on all day. Through Heathrow 54 million passengers pass a year. London itself is transit lounge of the world. Of course we need an immigration policy; but in my heart of hearts I welcome influx, legal or illegal. In Rome there is the saying that to be a Roman you have to have been one of seven generations. This to me says 'provincial'. And of course London has had its own form of parochialism; the cockney thing, 'born within the sound of Bow Bells', 'I drank wiv mad Frankie in the Blind Beggar' bla bla; but cockneys have got lost, like it or not, in a greater, Estuarine city, in a tangle of increasingly exotic demographics. So wake up, Michael Caine; stop going on about being a Cockney. No-one gives a toss any more.

Let us relinquish 'community' then; it is charming when we see it in Norman Rockwell and Sesame Street, but it must remain a middle class dream. What we are left with is a less ambitious, but actually far more complicated and noble task: to put up with each other, to rub along together; and pretty abrasive it can be too; but we do so in the interests of something higher, yes something more glamorous! For the City is….an IDEA! Not a respectable Anglo-Saxon notion at all.

   
 

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