diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 21, 2004

When I grow rich

The City of London must be the richest square mile on the planet. There's the Stock Exchange (home to thousands of sharp-suited gamblers), Lloyd's of London (home to thousands of sharp-suited gamblers), various non-high-street banks (ditto) and hordes of other esteemed financial institutions. Get the right job here and, providing you can stand the pace, you could soon be very rich indeed. Like the girl living in the room next to mine in my last year at university. She got a job in the City and, 18 months ago, received a £1.4 million payout through the courts because her company dared to insult her with a piddling £25000 bonus. Most Londoners would be thankful for a £25000 salary. There again, her male colleagues were getting bonuses of up to £650,000, so I can see her point. Different world, the City.

London may have wealth, but it's also a ridiculously expensive place to live. An average wage goes nowhere, unless you're willing to flatshare the best years of your life in a tumbledown apartment on the outskirts of some godforsaken borough. If you own property you're laughing - if you don't you're doomed. 40 years ago my parents bought a tiny terraced house in Watford (2 up, 2 down, outside toilet) for the princely sum of £3000. They've since climbed the property ladder far enough to reach a detached house in Norfolk, but that's 100 miles from town and the market in London has moved on. This month that old house in Watford is up for sale at 100 times the price my parents paid for it, and they could never afford to move back, not even to the bottom of the heap.

If the City were a nation state, it would be amongst the top 20 richest nation states in the world (just ahead of Belgium). However, London is also home to 13 of the poorest 20 local authorities in the UK. When those City workers go home at night, back to their overpriced terraced houses, an underclass of invisible workers move in from rundown council estates and clean for peanuts. Sure there's plenty of money to be made in the City but, it appears, there's not enough to share.

They say the streets of London are paved with gold. They're wrong. The streets of London are paved with cardboard boxes, inhabited by provincial dreamers lured to the capital to seek a fortune that isn't here. That's rich.

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