I’ve now had three full days in London, which is enough time to form some impressions.
First, it’s a much cleaner city than I remember from 30 years ago. The cars burn their fuel more cleanly, the tube trains and buses are new and shiny, the underground is cleaner and better organized now that everything is automated, there are dozens of modernistic high-rises where there were once vacant lots or ugly 60s style buildings, and the City generally presents a more polished facade than I remember.
Second, it’s a very international city. I don’t know if it is more international than it was 30 years ago or not. Already then I preferred Yorkshire, where I lived, to London, which I visited. The former was “English,” the latter was not. By that I meant that, while the structures and sites were quintessentially English, even then the population was a mad mix of people.
The mix has changed, though. Back in the very earliest 1980s, I remember lots of Italians and Swedes, as well as French and American people. Now, the non-English are Eastern European, African, Indian, Pakistani and Saudi. There are definitely more women in hijabs and burqas than I remember from so many years ago, many of whom seem to while away their time shopping. And shopping. And shopping.
In the tourist areas I’ve been visiting, all the employees seem to be foreign. I wonder where the English are working!
I suspect that I’d see bigger changes if I were to leave London. In those days, Yorkshire was ENGLISH. I understand that today, though, some of those old northern mill towns, such as Bradford, are majority Muslim. That would feel different indeed.
What I haven’t seen is the Arabization of London. Reading such writers as Melanie Phillips or Mark Steyn, one knows that this is taking place demographically, but it’s not at all obvious.
If sharia is boiling away in England, it’s doing so under the service, with most Londoners easily able to ignore it. So what if more and more women wear hijabs? It’s their right to do so after all.
It won’t be until England and London reach demographic tipping points — assuming they do — that people will be roused to care. Until then, they’ll continue to live as they have always lived, going to work, eating, shopping, and generally enjoying one of the world’s great cities.
And great it is. I’d forgotten how much art, architecture and culture are packed into this one city. Standing in one place, behind St. Paul’s, one can spin around 180 degrees and see medieval architecture, Georgian architecture, Victorian architecture, and a fare additions from the 1980s and 21st century too. Look down, and one sees the outline of a vast Roman amphitheater that once occupied that same ground. It’s quite amazing for a student of history.
More sightseeing tomorrow, of course. I don’t know yet what we’ll do, but I know it will be interesting (at least to Mom and Dad).