We all understand the same thing by London. But do we?
A stuffy old school didact might tell you that London consists of the city of London together with 32 London Boroughs, 12 Inner London Boroughs, and 20 Outer London. Administratively and officially there may be nothing more to say.
However others see London as the never centre of an economic anemone, which reaches far afield, in defiance of administrative and political boundaries. Deyan Sudjic argues that London is, “an unforgiving tide of business parks and designer outlets, gated housing and logistics depots, that stretches from Bournemouth in the south coast to Ispwich on the East cost”. “There might be fields between them”, says Sudjic, “but they are linked in a single transport system and a single economy”. Sudjic hones his point further, “Those villages in Suffolk that are close enough to a railway station to deliver you to Liverpool Street in under 90 minutes are effectively as much a part of London as Croydon or Ealing” Deyan Sudjic designates the space over which the unforgiving tide has free reign as The London Metropolitan Area.
Certainly, London is said to exert a substantial effect over south-east England, “It is inextricably linked with this wider region, whether looked at in terms of patterns of employment, skills and education, housing markets, town centres and planning for retail, airport policy, patterns of commuting, responding to environmental challenges like climate change, management of resources like water and energy, Green Belt, waterways and open spaces or the handling of waste”.
When Obi Wan Catobi, a cat, found himself under the floorboards of a building site on Euston Road, in July 2014, he probably concurred with Owen Hatherley who widened the concept of London further, to the whole of Britain, “In many ways Britain is a place… reacting to the absolute centrifugal dominance of London. According to Alexandra Rucki a check of the microchip of Obi Wan Catobi revealed he had strayed all the way from Leeds. Owner Adam Williams said: “How he got himself down there I have no idea. Some people suggested a train, as the hotel was near Euston train station, but that would have meant him changing several times. The only thing we can think of is that he got into a contractor’s van which went straight there”. One way or another it seems Obi Wan Catobi was sucked into the vacuum, that all the traffic, all that energy and purpose, produces, whose considerable effects, can be felt, as far away as Leeds. The same year Sheffield train station was proudly advertising the fact that more services to London were being put on, as if being linked into London, was like being linked into life itself.
Still others extend the metaphor further, London is now a node through which international finance passes, it’s a clearing house for the finances of the world’s richest businessmen. “I’ve got clients in Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Switzerland. The City… starts off in India and goes all the way to Ireland, then up to Russia and down to Cape Town” explains one banker. The journalist to whom the banker talks to says the city of London “exists to serve ‘Amea’, a land known only to bankers: Asia, the Middle East and Africa”.