Growing up far from the capital in every sense, my earliest imagined London was largely formed from images of the Blitz: a postage stamp showing St Paul’s during the Battle of Britain; tales of cockney defiance amid the ruins. In 1941, Noel Coward wrote a song called London Pride, inspired by the way Londoners continued to go about their daily business despite the damage done by the Luftwaffe’s bombs. This seems a good day to give it a listen.
During a conversation I was part of last week, someone shrewdly remarked that the clearest definitions of London’s rather disparate identity have emerged in periods of adversity. London Pride was mentioned. So were observations by American commentators on Londoners’ responses to the 7/7 terrorist bombings and other, more recent, terror attacks. They remarked that the Blitz spirit has endured, a quality associated with quintessential British. And yet, of course, more than one third of contemporary Londoners were born in other countries. A small point to ponder in these times of national unease and on this day of national reflection.