I have to correct you on this, it was a very violent time as well depending on where you visit. Do you forget the race riots in Brixton, the Notting Hill riots, the Miners strikes and riots
And as a native of London large parts of the city has been gentrified, the whole of the Thames Area.
And we still have the same spirit as yester year.
Most street crime now days is youngsters on youngsters.
By the what where were you a student, I had just left the Regular Army then, and was attending London University QMW
I was there from February to June of 1990. I remember a prison riot, and then I had friends who got accidentally caught up in the Poll Tax riots in Piccadilly (May '90?). When did the miners strikes, race riots and Notting Hill riots take place?
You're very correct, no time is ever perfect, and I admit even then, there were some rough patches. Our dorms were right in Bloomsbury, on Gower Street, and even in such a ritzy neighborhood, there were some nasty elements. The IRA was very active at that time--so we were always on the lookout for suspicious packages in pubs, on the tube, etc. In fact, a year later, my friend was just a street over when a bomb took out a couple of store fronts. When I call it a golden age, I admit that a lot of my perception of London is colored with that rosey glow of youth.
Although, being a kid raised in a scruffy little Florida beach town, I was struck at how incredibly polite people were in the UK. I'd spent considerable time before going to London in NYC and Philly, so when I came to the UK--I was flabbergasted at how formal (which I liked) and polite so many Britons were, from bricklayers to Barristers. Now, it may have been because, at the time (sigh...) I was a cute twenty-something coed, but I always found complete strangers to be helpful and friendly.
And going out into the country, to the small towns, was such an incredible treat. I can't remember what town we'd gone to--but I spent several hours talking about Tobey jugs (yeah, I know they're goofy...) with a pub owner. I found England to be incredibly welcoming.
From the mid-90s onward, I noticed the little niceties had started eroding. I used to get a giggle out of hearing people say, "Sorry..." when they'd invade your personal space on the Tube (again, I was used to much more brusque behavior). But, as the decade progressed, I'd encounter ruder and ruder behavior on my trips to the city. And, yes, while we have them in the states, the white kids pretending to be hard core 'gangsta rap' criminals with their gold chains and track suits just depressed me when I encountered them in the UK.
Although, I was really impressed with how they'd fixed up the areas south of the Thames (like around the museum of Science and Industry, the now-closed MOMI, etc.) and up around Islington.
I hope I am wrong, and that London still has that 'spark'. It holds such a special place in my heart. Now... if you tell me where I can find a decent pint of Websters Bitters, I'll be forever greatful.