My friend Pete, a transplanted New Yorker now in London (by way of Moscow and East Africa), recently launched into a 20-minute why-London-is-the-ascendant-capital-of-the-world speech with me recently. The upshot is this: NY's hey-day is over; London, meanwhile, has been investing heavily in transport infrastructure; the city has successfully implemented a roadway congestion charge; the economy and housing market are humming; it won the 2012 Summer Olympics bid, which could goose the economy further, and the Victorian era pub closing times have been repealed (yet I still see scant evidence one can have a leisurely pint after 11 p.m.)
As the owner of a London flat, Pete is hardly credible. Plus, he's a nut. And a Yankees fan to boot. His argument is shot to pieces when you bring up two words: London Underground. The London subway system is extortionately pricey, vital links are nearly always shut on weekends for engineering works and try getting from Notting Hill at midnight to anywhere in North London on the damn thing. It just doesn't happen. That's Exhibit A. Exhibit B is this: a heavy snowfall today has grounded the city, and much of the country, to a dead stop. How much snow?, you no doubt are wondering. 4 inches! Yep, we're talking ankle high. In addition to the road and rail chaos this winter "blast" caused, several Underground lines are shut, which prompts the old joke: "Just how much snow falls under ground, anyhow?"
Pete, I wasn't buying your argument then. Not buying it now, I say after we just emerged here in Rome from a 2-day strike by gas station attendees. No petrol for anybody, which of course, has meant a complete suspension of mail service. I wonder where that puts Rome on the global ranking?