Londoners: Obsessed with Lady Di and blunted by gin


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The Independent Online

The willy-waving race between New York and London to the title of global centre of obscene wealth appears to have lead to a war of snark after both cities hit a hurdle and stacked it spectacularly. The venerable New York Times has published a special London edition of its magazine. It includes an "Explaining Londoners" Q&A. Question one: "Does everyone drink like Winston Churchill?"

If the guide can be used to construct an avatar of the modern Londoner he is... drunk. And xenophobic, and anti-fun. He's money-grabbing, stupidly apologetic, and, depending on his newspaper of choice, a Bikram-practicing, gypsy-hating, depressed, cricket-playing Lady Diana obsessive whose "constant fear of terrorist attack is blunted by gin and reality TV."

The NYT goes on to wonder why Londoners never say what they mean and disses the city's mayoral candidates (okay, fair enough). In a separate, 4,000-word article on "Apocalyptic London", the paper really goes to town with a scathing attack on the "drama queen" city that hates the Olympics and its young people and is beset by feral foxes and "bread like bleached plastic, cheese like soap".

Britain's special relationship with the US, more accurately described as a poodle complex, is at its most strained when its boldest cities start yapping at each other. They will always be fast-talking, no prisoner-taking, glossy-haired stress-heads, while Londoners are either toothless cockney sparrows or cider-swigging, dope smoking teenagers from Skins.

Whatever, we spend enough time in each other's cities so neither stereotype deserves a defence. But it's instructive to note the author of the NYT's most spiky "Apocalypse" rant. His name is China Miéville and it turns out that not even a New Yorker hates a Londoner more than a Norwich-born author of fantasy fiction and member of the Socialist Workers' Party. As you were, New York – mine's a pint of London Pride.