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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on January 22, 2009, and categorized as Flip side.
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It’s a combination of cheerful rudeness, eternal high spirits and the tendency to casually insult everyone regardless of status or manners which has always demonstrated the London spirit to me. And, after almost 47 years here, I am slowly beginning to consider myself a Londoner.

The reason for this is that London, for outsiders, is the great sprawling conglomeration which extends to Enfield in the north, Epping Forest in the east, Heathrow in the west and Croydon in the south. Centred on the Thames and fed by human tributaries which flow from all continents, London is the great rotten metropolis of pleasure, opportunity and sin – how can it possibly be mine? I grew up on the perimeter rim, where council houses merge with the stockbroker belt, and was sufficiently inspired by a loathing of conformity, propelled by engendered ideals of social mobility and enabled by hard work and education to get out.

So I have slowly criss-crossed London on a north-south axis all my born days, where others have moved to London from all places known and some unknown, and yet they consider themselves Londoners before me. But they are not Londoners until they can shout across a busy street, like my old mucker the postman to his fond friends, “Good morning, you slags!” and know that he will be ignored unless he is loved.

I cannot love this place, I contain too much emotional ambiguity about it, about its significance, about the duplicity and suffering it presents, London’s dirt, the cruelty of tarnished colonialism, capitalism stained forever into the brass and stone of its institutions. Despite that, I am a Londoner, now, I live, breathe and speak London, and it doesn’t matter whether I like what I am or not. I am what I am, made of the place I will have spent the majority of my life. No matter where I take this clod of London clay, it will remain like dogshit, sticky, impossible to get off my boots, and distinctly brown.

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