Monday, October 7, 2013

Living at the centre of the universe

I used to think London was the centre of the universe, and nothing of note happened in the rest of the country. I suspect that's one of the reasons Londoners put up with so many inconveniences - the high cost of living, the crush on West End pavements, the low level hassle involved in getting anywhere on public transport - because it does feel like the place where everything brilliant occurs. That's partly because it really is where most brilliant things in Britain do occur. But also because British media feature what appears to be a disproportionate amount of London. I notice that bias much more now I live outside of London. Magazines and newspapers, being written by a bunch of Londoners I suppose, are written as if everyone lives there. And London is a backdrop for a disproportionate number of TV dramas and films. Beefeaters, Big Ben and the classic London black cab are a visual shorthand for Britishness.

Yet the rest of the UK is nothing like London. People don't get on the Tube, or spend their Sunday afternoons in Primrose Hill, or shop in Space NK, outside of London. A little over 10% of the UK population live in London - the rest of us live in places like Saltburn, and Berkhamsted, Glasgow and Claygate. To the vast majority of Brits I think London is rather a foreign place. (In fact, I think London has more in common with other world cities than other British cities.) Still, if you live in London you have your faith in the great importance of where you live reinforced on a daily basis.
Saltburn - a little known backwater, frankly.
Los Angeles of course, has this ego problem even worse. Blame the lack of imagination of those people in the film industry, for they don't seem to be able to picture anything beyond the end of their street. So a disproportionate number of films and TV shows are set in LA. Plus thanks to all the celebs who live out there, most of the pap photos in trashy magazines have Santa Monica or Beverly Hills or boring old Brentwood as a backdrop. So despite that less than 5% of the population of the US live there one can easily get comfortable with the idea that LA is the centre of the American universe.
The centre of the universe! If you're in the movies, anyway.
I hate to admit that this is probably an underlying reason behind my preference for LA. It's not a real, worth-acting-on reason, but rather a feeling I'm a bit embarrassed to admit to. It's egotism, I suppose.

If we do end up back in LA we can reignite the illusion of living where all the cool stuff goes on. In which case frequent return trips to Yorkshire will be crucial to flag to Lady P that there's a real world out there. Of course, if we move to some beautiful but boring suburb in the Bay Area we won't need to worry about that. She'll grow up like I did, longing to move to the big smoke (that's London or LA), under the illusion that it is the centre of the universe.

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