{14/06/2012}   South London v North London

                What is it with rivers and their divisive forces?  I am very much a South London lover.  To me, crossing the Thames marks the transition from home to work in the mornings and work to home in the evenings.  But north of the river is one thing, North London, however, is a whole other concept!

                It would appear that south of the river is South London.  North of the river there is Central London, East London, West London and North London; all places with separate identities.  But it’s the concept of North v South that seems to be the most common discussion.  I think it’s largely fair to say that those living in North London turn their noses up and those in South London and vice versa.  But the bizarre thing is that there really are differences and maybe it is a reflection of you where you either would or do choose to live, ie south of the river or north.

I have spent a little time trying to work out capital letters for “south” and “north”.  As may have been noticed, I have referred to North and South London with capitals as I feel they kind of are place names!

But what on earth are the differences?  I have often thought about this as I pass through either South or North.  I am pretty sure that if I was deposited, having been blindfolded, in a residential street or a high street and asked whether I were north or south, I would know.  Indeed, I think most people would be able to say the same.  I think the confusion North Londoners would have is that anywhere pretty, quirky or interesting couldn’t possibly be South; my general feeling has been that North Londoners who have never lived in South London and have rarely braved the river crossing, or at least hugged the south bank of the Thames, comfortable in the knowledge that North can be seen across the water, are often surprised that there are lovely parts of South London.  Somewhere along the lines, South London got bad press and not much seems to have been done to rectify that.

I couldn’t tell you what I thought the differences were but residential streets look different.  Likewise shopping streets.  But I still couldn’t tell you how or why.  I think it has something to do with road width and style of building.  Very weak observation, isn’t it?  Can anyone help, without resorting to comments like, “You know it’s North London because there’s no Trotters’ three-wheelers with Del Boy at the wheel”.  Yes, I have had something similar said to me.  Maybe it’s Only Fools and Horses to blame for the South London image of it being “a bit rough”?

As for me, I have often ventured into North London, but usually to meet friends (ones who won’t come South!!).  A year or so ago, six of us met up in Camden for a pub crawl.  There was nothing special about any of the places we went into and it was all distressing full of trendies and Camden-market-lovers.  We had thought Camden would be a good place to pub crawl, indeed there are a lot of pubs.  Then, talking about our reservations over the pubs we’d been in, it was established that all of us lived in South London.  We then got enthusiastic about where we should have gone pub crawling in South London, all listing a few favourite pubs and areas.  Maybe again a marketing failure on the part of the South, a marketing success for the North.

I suspect I am a staunch South London lover because I grew up in Kent and we used to drive into London, very often parking (free of charge!) around the Guy’s Hospital area of London Bridge station.  Maybe it is familiarity, closeness to places I have known for as long as I can remember, albeit much changed.  Likewise, being south makes it easier to go to places I like and, again, am familiar with, the Kent and Sussex coast for example.  But what I do believe is that the South has a lot of areas that North London lovers just don’t know about.  We just like to keep them to ourselves!  Whatever the case, it always shocks me that people can get so animated discussing whether North or South is the place to be.  Someone the other day suggested that the best thing about South London was the trains, lacking the tube, that head north.  I quietly and confidently disagree for I’m not going to share all the amazing things about South London, it’s enough that I know South London is a great place to live.


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