One of the many reasons I moved to London was to be closer to my nearest and dearest, and indeed, I’m lucky in that I either live with them, or they live within a 10 minute radius of my house. Which is super. I’ve met a few new people since I’ve been down here, and I’m working on meeting more too. Excellent. But this weekend I was introduced to a concept that has left me pondering the nature of friendships: convenience. And it’s not what you think.
On Saturday night we had a housewarming party. It was brilliant. The house was suitably trashed and everyone had a really good time. Someone even graffitied ‘Rach is so hot’ onto the wall in the downstairs toilet (yeah, thanks for that). I was particularly pleased because I got to see a lot of the friends I’d left behind in Bristol, because they all bothered their arses to trek across the country to see me. I even had folk from Bournemouth, Essex and Oxford make an appearance. It was great to catch up, and I was really flattered that they’d made such an effort to come. One of them even wore a kilt. I don’t know why. It was cool, though.
Now, contrast this with some of the people my housemates invited. People who live in London – a couple of them only a few Tube stops away – who were no-shows. This, according to housemate L, is a common capital trend, also known as ‘London Flakiness’, where on the face of it, it would seem that convenience is somehow inversely proportional to likelihood of attendance.
But why? From the horse’s mouth (so to speak), housemate L, who has been living in London for a few years now, says:
“I think this flakiness thing stems from people being deluged with choices every single day. Constantly having everything on your doorstep or within an easy Tube ride makes it easy to think you have so many options to choose from, so you don’t have to make any effort.”
And I’m inclined to agree. I suppose if you feel like the world’s your oyster then you can afford to take a more blasé attitude towards exploring it. But what about your relationships with others? One of my friends, N, moved to London last summer, much to the delight of his mate S, who also lives in the city. Plans were made and much hypothesising about potential adventures took place. But how often have they seen each other? Maybe two, three times. In fact, since N moved, they’ve probably seen each other more in their hometown of Manchester than they have in London. And they’re within easy Tube distance of one another. Ditto my housemates and some of their city-based friends.
Would this be the case if we were talking about a different city? Somewhere a bit smaller and less sprawling? Or is it just the ‘London way’ of thinking? I wonder, if any of my friends moved further away how often would I see them? Or would I become the London flake, thinking ‘Ah, it’s fine. We live in the same city. Maybe next week’, and then turn my attention to the zillions of other things (‘options’, as L says) I could do instead?
I hope not.