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London, a metropolis to live, amidst unabashed luxury and charity shops. Overcoming the stereotypes of the City

The capital of the United Kingdom has rejected the possibility of a Brexit, while the rest of England voted in favour of leaving the European Union. This is but one many features of the “diversity” experienced when walking across the different areas of London, from Westminster to Greenwich, from Enfield to the banks of the River Thames. Over 7 million inhabitants, amidst a plethora of curiosities and opportunities

“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life”: we have read it all over the place, on tourist guides, under the Wikipedia’s entry on “London”, as a publicity slogan for summer study courses. The aphorism by Samuel Johnson reflects the optimistic trait of the capital as a digest of opportunities: “for in London you can find everything life has to offer”, continues the quotation. And it’s actually true: it’s a city for everyone. It’s the ideal place for those who have money and want to show it off, for those whose approach to life is one of sharing, as well as for those who live from hand to mouth, taking whatever the city has to offer.

From the Paddington bear to the National Gallery. An example of the way in which the capital of the United Kingdom manages to adapt to the tastes of its citizens is found in the 1958 children’s book Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond. It’s the story of a baby bear that travels from Peru to London. He is forced to emigrate when his aunt Lucy goes to a retirement home, he arrives in Paddington station with a small suitcase speaking perfect English. He is taken care of by the Brown family, members of the upper class. They treat him as their own son, showing that it’s not impossible for the city to include a bear that describes himself as “clandestine.” A tradition of sharing that

Reflects the outcome of the referendum of June 23rd, when the majority of Londoners reaffirmed their intention to remain in the European Union  

without being allured by the sirens of a Brexit, that emerged successful in the rest of England. Just as London is willing to adopt a bear it is also open to the diversity of her citizens. In fact, they have the possibility to admire Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” for free or of spending 22 thousand euros to rent a helicopter directed to Paris. It goes without saying that the exceptional trait of this experience depends on the spirit of those who live it. But who are we to brand a visit to the National Gallery as less ecstatic that a helicopter flight?

Harrods, helicopters and Chagall. For almost everyone… While the wide range of attractions offered by the British capital free of cost doesn’t diminish their prestige, such as the British Museum and the Tate Modern, there remain occasions to display a certain taste, which at the least could be defined as different. Harrods department stores, for example, offer a private aviation service (http://www.harrodsaviation.com/index.html) to fulfil very different needs: picking up customers from their yacht and accompanying him to do shopping with concierge and champagne, or wrapping up a helicopter with 600 Mt of wrapping paper to be in Paris for lunch. Nobody could deny that a free visit to the shopping malls could nonetheless be exciting: on the second floor, where you can find home furnishings (http://www.halcyongallery.com/galleries/harrods), in one of the halls, passers-by can admire the works of Picasso, Warhol, Chagall and many others, obviously on sale, showcased for potential buyers, which indeed represent an easily accessible art gallery. Wealthy customers are certainly familiar with the service offered by the National Portrait Gallery –in this case at a dear price – to brides that are also beauty-lovers: renting one of the Halls for their marriage celebration (http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/business-hire/Venuehire.pdf) at a cost ranging from 9.250 to 22.000 pounds just for renting the hall.

 

Then there is solidarity. In the city there is also room for those who believe that their money could be spent for other causes: Give London (http://givelondon.org.uk/) is a charity whose slogan is to turn the city into “a better place for everyone.” It is presented as a centre for the distribution of funds for small organizations that fail to attract the support of the public at large. There are also high numbers of charity shops,

which collect offerings for research on cancer, for the blind, the poor, for people with heart disease and even for stray cats.

Most of the charity-shop workers are volunteers that wish to devote their free day to this cause. In return they can enrich their resumes with experience (held in great consideration by British employers) as salesmen, management and customer service. Finding one these jobs is extremely simple, all you need is to search online (https://www.charityjob.co.uk/) or give a closer glance at shop windows. The nationwide dissemination of charity shops – that differ according to the neighbourhoods in which they are located in terms of range, selection and cost of the items on sale – the possibility to find open positions in volunteer work and the accurate information provided to customers, are features that signal an awareness of the multifaceted social fabric characterising the city. In fact, we shouldn’t be surprised if we meet a celebrity in a charity shop in search for an exclusive dress or a different kind of experience. The peculiarity of London is that it matches all budgets and vocations.

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