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Your shout: Sophie Wilkinson - 'Let's enjoy London for its boneheaded obviousness'

By Time Out London contributor
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Instead of larking about pretending we're in 'Eyes Wide Shut', why don't we celebrate what's right in front of us?

Can I tell you a secret? I shouldn't be writing this column right now. I should be on battery-and soul-draining WhatsApp groups, attempting to convince friends - any friends - to sign up to a time-specific slot on some minimally designed website I found through a mailing list I'm pretty sure I never subscribed to. You see, if we all register, provide a £23 deposit and navigate our way to a chasm beneath a dripping railway arch in Mitcham at 5.45pm on a rainy Tuesday six weeks away, we can enjoy a secret supper of bespoke jellies depicting Picasso's 'Guernica'. And even if we leave with empty wallets compounded by echoey stomachs, we can feel a sense of achievement. Why? Because we're now in on a 'secret'.

Secrets benefit all Londoners. For long-time residents it's about knowing to get a key cut at a particular place because the cobbler there is really fit. Or that Japanese restaurant with no toilets but a £10 miso cod. Sometimes it's just a nice little pub that's not yet been done up to be done down.

To newer Londoners, though - who might come from places where you can't throw up at a house party without the entire village knowing about its carrot-to-WKD ratio by Monday - secrets are a shortcut to unaccountability. London is big enough to let you slip by anonymously, but busy enough to keep you from total isolation in your pursuit of the niche. Plus, there's kudos in secrets. Knowing the fish and chip shop that sells weed under the counter or the charity shop where Suzy Menkes donates last season's clothes can help you feel like you've gone up a level in London's unspoken hierarchy of belonging.

But now that Secret London's Facebook page has 270,000 members and Secret Cinema is boasting that, this summer, 100,000 people attended their screenings of that little-known intergalactic fantasy film 'The Empire Strikes Back', secrets don't make much sense. If everyone knows about the damned things, why are they still always in places that don't show up on Google Maps and have no working cash machines?

Instead, I propose that we enjoy London for its boneheaded obviousness. Maybe instead of trekking to a pop-up tapas bar five zones away because you read about it in that magazine that 500,000 people also read, it's worth making your local your local. As we work longer hours than ever, our free time is meant to be relaxing. And if you really like the sort of arthouse cinema that somehow gets enough hype (or shows enough of Michael Fassbender's cock) to be shown at a multiplex, then go there to watch it. In a world of Netflix subscriptions and illegal streaming, you'd be supporting an underdog, and in a screening bereft of chin-stroking film aficionados, you won't have to listen to them slurp beers and mansplain the plot.

The worst thing about secrets is that no one can ever know how good you are at keeping them. The best thing is that there are still so many to be discovered.

Want more ranting and raving? Read Alice White's column on the benefits of spending all your money on cocktails.

Illustration: Nate Kitch.

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