he immodestly-monikered Economist Intelligence Unit are, at least, not trading as the Economist Common Sense Unit. According to this lot, Auckland is the world’s most liveable city and London doesn’t even figure for the top 10. Nothing against Auckland – although, for the record, let’s remember even New Zealand don’t think it’s their best (Wellington is the capital) – but, for Chrissake, come on.
Granted, like with everything else over the past, never-ending year, Covid has screwed things up, and Auckland get the gold star for their handling of all this diseasey business that’s blighted life. And it is true that, unless you happened to spend it in a spacious townhouse with a 90ft garden, London’s charms wore thin quickly during lockdown – living in the centre of town, both local Sainsburys, the nearby Tesco and a Co-Op across the road all decided to shut up shop within the week last March, giving me a jolly hour-long round trip to pick up supplies (read: snacks and cigarettes).
But no matter. True character shows in times of adversity and all of that, and when the pandemic really began to unpick the world’s stitching, London took a deep breath and squared its jaw. When normal service resumes, London will once again be a city of unrivalled theatre (New York’s Broadway can do one) with the world’s best restaurants (Paris, ditto), the finest bar scene on the planet (we’ve dominated the World’s 50 best list for a decade) and museums that have astonished the globe for a century straight. Even our daily transport, the red buses and black cabs, are icons. We have the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera. We have the parks and the palaces. We have the Coach & Horses. And – take this, LA – you can get between them all in a jiffy.
But it’s not just about life out of the shadows of the Coronavirus. The past fifteen months saw this city fly right. Volunteers for homeless charities rose, businesses were discovered and championed and Instagram became a flurry of hyperlocal recommendations as everyone quietly resolved not to let independents fall by the wayside. We badgered our favourite restaurants to trade, somehow – and, flourished from thin air, meal kits appeared. The theatres began to stream; our musicians too. We still had a summer full of joyfully bad behaviour.
And whether shut down or with its doors flung open, London will always have its people – and even when we’re grumpy buggers, we’re still the best at it in the world. This is where it’s happening, where the headlines are, where the fun can be found. That’s London. Auckland, my arse.