t's been a crazy week - Yorkshire, Northumberland, London, Extremadura, in Spain, back to London, and now New York. Three countries and at least five different kinds of weather, from gales, snow and hail in northern England, to clear blue skies and warm sunshine in the countryside north of Seville. I've fed a flock of wild geese as they nosily pecked at my trousers and scarf, and I've inspected the bits of medieval Bamburgh Castle that paying visitors never get to see. I've walked across the sandy causeway to lonely Holy Island - the magical location for Roman Polanski's cult film Cul de Sac - and back at home I passed a film crew on the street near my house in Clerkenwell just down the road from St Paul's Cathedral, making yet another documentary about "swinging London".
Sometimes living in central London really does feel as if you're camping out on the back lot of an epic movie being shot about the 21st century, featuring a cast of thousands speaking at least 200 languages, communicating in a kind of motley street speak, pidgin English for hipsters. I've always been London's number one fan - any prolonged absence from the place makes me weepy and nostalgic. It's painfully obvious why London is simply the best city in the world - it's brilliant at reinventing itself, and expert at assimilating cultures and tribes from everywhere else and making them part of the local scene.
Peter Ackroyd was one of the first people to spot this, and has made a huge career out of chronicling all that is weird and wonderful about the city in his magnificent books. Now New York magazine, the bible for Manhattanites (who have always been embarrassingly proud of their city in a demonstrative way that we Londoners just can't manage), has finally mustered up the courage to state the blindingly obvious: London is the capital of the world. It beats New York hands down!
Forget Tony Blair's love affair with "Cool Britannia" almost a decade ago; this time around London beats New York hands down on every front. As New York admits, the City is thriving, giving Wall Street a run for its money. There's a huge amount of new business, from China to Russia, flowing through London. New billionaires - who could afford to live anywhere in the world - arrive weekly, and where have they decided to have fun, bring up the kids, buy property? London, not New York. Rich Russians like Roman Abramovich might get divorced back in Moscow, but they live in London.
The days when you could pop over to New York for a weekend of partying and shopping have long gone. Since 9/11 the Americans have hit their tourist industry hard by making the country as unwelcoming as possible. You are inspected, probed, X-rayed and fingerprinted every inch of the way. You queue for hours to enter a city where what once seemed like stylish confidence now seems like closed-mind xenophobia.
Walk the streets of London and you hardly hear a British accent. Eastern Europeans, Africans, Aussies and Thais all mingle together. Our toilets are fixed by Poles, our houses cleaned by Spanish girls finishing master's degrees in graphics. I'm served coffee by a New Zealander, and a chap from Nairobi is busy writing out parking tickets.
Films like Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things showed us the harsh underbelly of London, the grim reality for a lot of immigrants scratching a living at the very fringes of society. But it's the huge contrasts between rich and poor that make London such a dynamic city.
Go by underground train. It's better than any fashion show you'll ever see. In New York, you see stick-thin women walking up Park Avenue wearing their hair in an Alice band, enveloped in a shapeless mink coat, with their feet stuffed into horrible trainers. We've got Amy Winehouse tottering along in high heels, tattooed to within an inch of her life, hair like the eighth wonder of the Western world.
New York might have an army of tasteful designers, from Ralph Lauren to Donna Karan, producing wearable garms. But London is home to evil genius Alexander McQueen designs being teamed with retro Stella McCartney and worn with Topshop clothes. No one in London ever wears a complete look by one designer, unlike New York. We are the home of jumble-sale dressing, the nadir of mix 'n' mismatch.
Look at the cityscape - New York has been painfully slow to reinvent itself since the bombing of the Twin Towers. London is a demolition site constantly being remodelled. They've got a dreary grid system of streets and pompous skyscrapers. We've got medieval chaos and a funny "gherkin". We've got Banksy, noodle restaurants with no booking policy, chefs that only serve food sourced from within the M25, places where you can eat in the dark or get a great curry for a couple of quid.
London beats prissy New York hands down, for sheer range of cuisines and lack of stuffiness. Our theatres are packed, and we're exporting all our best shows to Broadway. London is a city for the 21st century, and, sadly, the only reason to visit New York is to take advantage of the weak dollar to stock up on cheap undies and make-up. And that's not really a good enough reason, is it? Perhaps we could offer them Heather Mills McCartney and Jade Goody, both seem surplus to requirements this side of the Atlantic.
Cleaning lady: Trust Naomi to sweep off in a Rolls-Royce
You can hand a girl a mop and brush and order her to clean toilets, but you can't stop a supermodel from performing for the cameras. Naomi Campbell's exit from a week of community service in a full-length Dolce & Gabbana dress and silver metal belt was nothing less than triumphant. She drew applause from local residents as she left the New York Department of Sanitation and swept off in a Rolls-Royce after completing her community service for assaulting a maid with a mobile phone. Naomi was expected to attend Elton John's 60th birthday party in the city, which kicked off last night with a dinner for 600 at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine in Harlem, and continues tonight with a concert at Madison Square Gardens, raising money for Aids, another cause Naomi has long supported. So let's give her a cheer, and who knows what she'll turn up wearing for her anger management course, the other part of her sentence.
Web of sorrow: The internet is never going to be a friend
Kevin Whitrick hanged himself live on the internet last week, goaded on by a gang of people he had met via the Pal Talk website. They don't sound like the sort of friends you or I would want, do they? It is a sad reflection on our society that the only place we can talk about our problems is cyberspace. Research has shown we have far fewer friends than our parents' generation, and a depressingly high percentage of people claim they have no one they can call a best friend. Whitrick, 42, an electrician from Telford, lived alone and was depressed by the breakdown of his marriage and the death of his father. But why didn't any of his work mates, or even the people who sold him groceries and cans of beer each night, try to talk to him? He might have threatened to commit suicide, but that is often just a cry for help. He's left twin girls without a dad, and that is the cruellest and most selfish act of all. The internet is no substitute for face-to-face encounters, no matter how painful they might be.Reuse content