Driver: "So where are you going?"
Me. "I live there."
Driver: "Uggh. Why?"
Me. "Um. It's nice?"
Driver: "It's a shithole."
Me: "Oh. Wow. Ok. The WHOLE of London is a shithole?"
Driver: Yes. They need to brick over the whole place and fill it with water."
Me, blinking: "You want to turn our capital city into… a massive pond?"
Driver: "It's a shithole. Why would you live there?"
Me: "The culture? The people? All the, um, STUFF?"
Me: "To get away from people like you?"
Me: "I don't think you've been to the right bits, mate."
Driver: "The whole place is a shithole."
Me, in a tiny voice: "You do know that the Queen lives there, right?"
Driver, tapping meter which reads £3.20: "In London, THAT would say twenty quid."
Me: "True. But I wouldn't be in a cab in London. I'd be on a night bus, chatting to a nice wino."
The exchange continued in this fashion until we reached the station, at which point Mr Awful Taxi Driver did not receive a tip.
But even for the sake of giving Mr Awful Taxi Driver the benefit of the doubt, it's pretty hard to pretend that the town has ever equalled London in terms of culture, interesting people, or nice things to do, eat, see, smell, wear, watch and be (it has better fish and chips, I'll give it that). In fact I've always privately thought that an Essex-style spin on my hometown would have to be called Worthing Is One Of Many Ways - Consider All Options First. It's a great place to grown up, because it inspires you to get out and go somewhere better. My friend the Awful Taxi Driver, it seems would disagree.
"So, you think Worthing isn't a shithole?" I innocently asked him. "It wasn't, but now there's too many of your London types here too," he snarled. "Really?" I said, looking around hopefully for someone with a Whole Foods bag and a Blackberry that I could run towards with my arms open, shrieking "Embrace me, kindred spirit!! Let's compare Oyster cards!". Alas, none to be found.
My theory on the reason suburban people think they hate London, aside from the obvious excessive Mail/Express reading and general belief that every stranger's just a mugger you haven't met, is that they're thinking of the bits they go to as a tourist. King's Cross. Leicester Square. Oxford Street. Places that ooze with a sort of pungent pedestrian soup. But here's the secret that my angry friend might want to know - nobody LIVES in those places. And when we venture into them, Londoners hate them more than you do. It's the equivalent of someone coming to Worthing, spending an hour at Teville Gate, then going back and telling all their friends it's a shithole.
And you wouldn't like that, now would you?