I was going to write a good old moan. This time, my moan was about the way that Visit Britain was not promoting our countries. I was in New York for the New York Times Travel Show because it is always interesting to see how others view your countries. They see things that sometimes we overlook.
But there was only one solitary stand representing the UK and that was from Bath. Now Bath has a great deal that it can offer, more than many places but Britain has so much more. But where was Visit Britain? Where were other UK destinations? I felt a rant coming on.
And then I was handed a copy of the magazine from the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Most of it was given over entirely to London apart from the regular columnists. Even some of the letters talked of the UK, – well Downton Abbey which went down very well with TV watchers. And everybody was being given a copy of the magazine. And I checked. Every copy I picked up, wherever I was that day from Staten Island to Queens had the magazine inserted with the rest of the two-inch thick paper.
It’s quite fascinating how they portray us. Adam Davidson called his article, “Just like Wall Street…Only Richer” because as he points out, London is the biggest international financial center in the world. His map of the northern hemisphere with New York surrounded by areas he calls things like “thicket of tough rules,” “litigious hordes” and “tariff rock” contrasts with London adjacent to “Bay of Better Banking” and Sea of Simple Systems.”
It would be hard to write a story about London without mentioning the theatre. It’s at the heart of London says the piece which really just has photos of people like Judi Dench and Patrick Stewart.
But what’s missing is the queen. No story, little reference to her (but The Only Way Is Essex gets a mention) and the only royal story is whether Kate is pregnant and what the name might be- Fergie is 250:1! Perhaps the New York Times has forgotten that we have a diamond jubilee for only the second time in 1,500 years.
Craig Taylor’s calls his piece, “True Londoners Are Extinct” and his argument is that a third of London’s population has ancestry firmly rooted overseas. Whilst the images beamed from the Olympics might be of tradition and pomp, London is cosmopolitan. Wasn’t it ever thus? We’re a mongrel race of Angles, Celts, Normans, and dozens of other nationals who have settled here in the last couple of thousand years. But I did like the definition of a Londoner that he got from someone. “A real Londoner,” Taylor was told, “would never, ever eat at one of those bloody Angus bloody Steakhouses in the West End.”
But maybe the most interesting piece is a two-page spread called “Why are they always apologizing” which claims to answer questions about us. For example, it describes the London in July and August when overseas tourists descend on London as “like a cranky father compelled to host a party for his teenage daughter –awkward, uncomfortable and simmering with barely contained fury at the ghastly, noisy interlopers who insist on having a good time.” Are we like this?
Visit Britain may not like the last article by China Mieville which talks about last year’s riots, diversity and whether the legacy of the Olympics will be good for London. It is slightly despairing and reaches no conclusion but Visit Britain will be hoping no-one reads every article.
But Visit Britain is certainly getting the word about London around.