Holding On: London

The final eulogy from the BBC’s ‘Holding On’ aired in September 1997. Written by Tony Marchant, is one of the best British drama series ever produced.

“Leave town and after a bit you just can’t wait to get back again – in the thick of it. London casts that sort of spell.There’s nowhere like it for meeting old friends and making new ones. The possibilities just multiply every time you walk down the street. If you let it, London will open up for you like an oyster, throw your head back and swallow it all down. Sometimes not everything you experience here will agree with you but you can object. Speakers Corner ain’t just in Hyde Park, you know, It’s everywhere.

There’s still that frightening division between the haves and the have not’s, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of waving my Gold Card at people who live in Newham – well not anymore. Anyway, in the world of work, job insecurities have become a way of life and you can throw your year planner away because you may not be needing it. What’s ’round the corner these days is usually a nasty shock. After the brash and confident ’80s, the ’90s have been a time of insecurity and uncertainty. After the ball is over – you know what I mean? Negative equity, downsizing, credit debt, black Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. There’s no shortage of ways to come a cropper. But while some people are scratched from the urban rat race, some pull up lame or just drop out quietly, voluntarily. No one minds. Cities are too busy to be judgmental – just do your own thing

In our crime-infested, decaying and paranoid capital, it’ll come as no surprise to know that most of us are Mr and Mrs Average trying to keep ourselves to ourselves, trying to get by doing nothing more reprehensible than moaning about our car insurance. We lead pretty simple lives really, even me, in a complicated city. You have to. Boil things down to their essentials – love and the mortgage – otherwise it all just gets too much. Sometimes it’s all too much and you need a helping hand. In a city like ours, there’s plenty of helping hands. We’ve got the best emergency services in the world.

There’s a few ways London can make you breathless. One is the sheer size of the place. Another is just environmental. Be careful where you breath. Asthma, pollution, lead poisoning, traffic fumes – I’m afraid so. But outdoors isn’t all bad. Healthy pursuits abound and I’m no stranger to a pair of trainers myself. Forget the great English countryside for a bit of recreation – it’s all carved up by the National Trust and the farmers anyway. In the London parks they let anyone in, which is probably just as well. This city is very democratic here and there.

Look, I know there’s nothing more boring than one of those urban eulogists who start droning on about how you can get anything from a bagel in Brick Lane to a bruchetta in Balham; how on the way to the Purcell Rooms you can hear ragga tunes coming out of a Y-reg BMW. But you have to admit, it’s a pretty rich canvas; and unlike the shires and the green belt you don’t see ‘No Trespassing’ signs anywhere – not in black and white anyway. You want nature? Look outside your window, there’s probably a tree in your street. Anyway, I ended up in the country once. Couldn’t get a cab anywhere.”

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