Supporters of the South London football team like to taunt their fierce East End rivals with the admonition: “If you’re South of the Border, you’re well out of order”.
The message has menace as it spells out to Hammers fans that they should refrain from following their team across the “Border”, that is the River Thames, when playing a match against Millwall.
South London is not generally so unwelcoming of visitors, but the Thames certainly represents a clear delineation between it and those communities to the North of the water, which comprise not only North London per se but also the traditional East End, the affluent City and the charismatic West.
Because it represents one clearly definable “quarter” of our capital as opposed to the larger, more diverse conglomeration that lies to the north, many consider South London to be the poor relation. The City and its surrounds in particular boast an explosion of culture – with its nightlife, pubs, clubs and restaurants – of which those on the opposite side of the bridge can only dream. The South Bank may stand as a monument to tasteful modern (and sometimes not so modern) architecture, but the cosmopolitan glory or Soho, Piccadilly and Leicester Square is still a very cold swim away.
Perhaps because there is so much to see and do in such a small area the tube network exists overwhelmingly on the North side. As a counter, most of the capital’s overground trains and all of its tram network serve the comparatively uncongested, though still vibrant South side.
The Time Out writer Alan Rutter rather uncharitably observed: “South London is a place that is not too London – a waiting room for people who aren’t quite ready for the real thing yet! London lite, if you will”.
But when all is said and done there is only so much hustle, and so much bustle, that one can take at any given time. And when one tires of standing on a crowded tube train, strategically sandwiched between the midriff of the most obese man in Christendom and the underarm of the most conscientious objector in the land of deodorant, one can always escape across the Border for a few stops before partaking of the spacious, wide-open delights of Clapham Common, taking in some real air whilst reflecting upon how wonderful it is to be alive.
And when hunger strikes one can take a relaxed stroll along to one of the many good restaurants in Clapham, like the popular Eco Restaurant, purveyor of delicious pizzas and pastas as well as some very fine wine.