‘Resolved at length, from Vice and LONDON far, /
To breath in distant Fields a purer Air’. Samuel Johnson, ‘LONDON: A POEM’.
“Mate, it’ll be quite sick when we finish. I think everyone will all be in like Clapham and Fulham and stuff”.
We were in the Clyde Arms. I’d just lost a game of darts to this mockney public school boy and someone had selected Come on Eileen on the jukebox for the seventh time that evening.
The next morning I lay in the bath. It must have been a Monday. The house cider had been £1.50 a pint and my brain now felt like it was trying to escape the cruel oppression of my cranium. I reflected on the conversation from the night before. It didn’t really have to be did it? We didn’t all have to migrate to the Capital a few months after leaving Bristol and pay inordinate amounts of money to live in Lilliputian houses and crowd, sardine-like, down the escalator onto the tube every morning. The more I considered it, the more I started to think that it didn’t sound very “sick” at all.
Seven months on and I was in a florist with Andrew Wilson. He was having a bouquet of white chrysanthemums and pink dahlias made up for someone while offering me a job — who says men can’t multitask.
It was tricky. Despite my bathtime sentiment, I admit that in many ways, the Capital’s supremacy is beyond doubt. After all, it accounts for around 22% of the nation’s GDP and since 2010, 79% of private sector jobs have been generated in the city. Not to mention its peerless literary heritage, from The Buddha of Suburbia to Paddington Bear — seductive if you’ve spent three years studying English literature.
I spent three days stewing over what to do, flitting confusedly between going South and taking up my place to study law or taking Andrew up on his offer.
The following Monday I said ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ because I came to the conclusion that if you exist outside London, as a company or as an individual, you’ll still inevitably go to the metropolis. Not least because it is one of the most enjoyable cities in the world, but if you situate yourself in the midst of the grind, it becomes immensely difficult to see beyond the fug of coffee-breath and car fumes.
From Edinburgh you can develop perspective. You have the opportunity to understand and experience the London bubble without being a full-time, paid-up member of it — with that club’s all too common Capital-centric myopia.
My conclusion is one that Charlotte Street Partners increasingly bears testament to. Some weeks ago, our Founding Partners were in the wilds of Jura and Chris Deerin was camped out in Soho — he won’t stay anywhere else when he’s down. Next week he’s in North Yorkshire. Meanwhile, a handful of us were in Glasgow and the rest were back in Alva Street holding the fort. This is perfectly typical of our little transnational nomadic outfit.
I’ve come to understand, that we live in an age of great rebalancing, where UK politics is starting to mean UK politics and the Midlands Engine and Northern Powerhouse are purring into action. The view of too many companies and far too many graduates that London is king and anywhere beyond it is a pale parochial hinterland is increasingly anachronistic, short-sighted and self-defeating
A friend called me last night and asked when I was moving to London. “I’m not”, I said, “but I’m down there for a few days next week”. “But you’re out in the sticks” he replied. “I’m in a flat twice the size of yours” I responded, “at half the rent, and it’s a ten minute walk to work. I won’t be moving any time soon”.
And then I put my scarf on and wandered round the corner for a £3.00 pint.