I am not a Londoner, just like most peope who live here. We’ve mostly come from somewhere else, and stayed on. In a city as dynamic and dominant as this, it’s not surprising. And it’s fair to say that with a surrounding area of about some 100 miles across (I am guessing), many former londoners have simply shifted out beyond the boundaries to live in what are quaintly called the Home Counties. Though it’s been a while since I saw that term used. These are the various counties which abut London, suh as Surrey or Essex, or lie at one remove such as Sussex or Berkshire. All are full of emigres from London, as well as many people whose economic lives have depended or still depend on London in some way. I imagine most major cities have such a layer around them. The true natives of such counties needless to say slighly resent the outward migration of Londoners, and indeed resent too the outward expansion of the city’s boundaries though it’s now many years since the last (1963 in fact was the last time this happened).
I digress though. My point if there is one is to say that while not born here, I have lived here all my adult life and some of my younger life too. In fact, on a quick calculation I have spent about 55 of my 65 years here in the capital which makes for a strong connection, added to which is the fact that my mother was born and bred in London, as I think were her parents, which gets us back to the 1880s or thereabouts. So when many years ago I was chatting to a former boss about our respective backgrounds – his being more thoroughbred Londonish than mine – he came up with the idea that my standing was that of an ‘honorary Londoner’, a kind of grudging recognition.
To be frank, only a born Londoner – a very rare animal these days – would even think in such terms. Most people in the UK would regard London as a necessary evil, and not a place one would imagine aspiring to be a full native of…an indigene. Even a Londoner might think twice before boasting of being a true Londoner, except to make the point that one is a member of a shrinking minority, outnumbered by ever larger numbers of incomers or various kinds. Many people in the UK are happy to claim that they have either never been to London, or went once but never again. Many who live here wish they didn’t, or are here merely to get themselves to a position where they can return home again for good, wherever ‘home’ may be. I’ve not felt for a very long time that my birthplace is home. In fact I feel distictly uncomfortable there. I cannot sing ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner‘ with full conviction; but London is my home, and I never want to live anywhere else – and I think this confirms me as a born-again Londoner.