Raised in war-damaged south London, I used to be blissfully unaware of a metropolis that was “seething, worldwide, vibrant” as Ursula von der Leyen put it in Janan Ganesh’s column “Why it’s best to wager on London” (Life & Arts, FT Weekend, April 10).
Doris Lessing nailed it in her 1962 novel The Golden Notebook. “The weight of ugliness that’s London in its faceless, peripheral wastes,” she wrote.
Oxford Street was nonetheless cheesy in 1960 in contrast with the Champs-Élysées, and Soho seedy, whereas Montmartre was vibrant (and with a greater view).
Everything modified when bands reminiscent of The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks took maintain of the themes and edginess of American standard music and set it in a context which made London cool, and rather more accessible than New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco for younger Europeans who wanted to study English.
The attraction of a publish Brexit, publish pandemic London in a computerised world is much less sure.