The New York Times on Tuesday gave a treat to longtime readers: Sarah Lyall's long report from London on how the ancient city will survive England's decision to exit the European Union.
When Lyall was the Times' London correspondent, I delighted in her dispatches on English life and customs, the kind of textured reporting the newspaper rarely gives now (of course the newspaper won its obligatory three Pulitzer Prizes Monday, one for international reporting on Russia's meddling in international elections, including our presidential election).
Lyall left the London beat and returned to the United States four years ago, and she has not played such a prominent role in the Times' editorial mix, outside of the occasional well-turned feature or book review.
As Lyall pointed out, the British metropolis of 8.7 million voted against Brexit, conflicting with voters in more traditional British areas. London was the prime beneficiary of the UK joining the European Union, turning into a global banking center.
Lyall points out that London's rise as a banking center was helped by Margaret Thatcher's deregulation of the financial industry. The conservative Thatcher, known for her anti-European sentiments, thus aided London's strengthening ties to Europe.
Under Tony Blair, London moved away from its English roots, becoming a city of foreigners including Russian oligarchs, French and German business people and waves of Muslim immigrants. Lyall's story, accompanied by striking photos by Sergey Ponomarev, is the start of a series examining London's future after Brexit.
Many fear the city's international banks will now move to another European city, such as Frankfurt or Dublin, although London has the geographical advantage of being in the right time zone for international deals. Also, London, as Lyall points out, has become a more and more sophisticated center of art, food and entertainment, which will be difficult to transplant elsewhere.
I'm a sucker for stories on London and its future, I also read Iain Sinclair's "The Last London" in the March 20 London Review of Books, an impressionistic piece that didn't come together as well as Lyall's.
Sinclair has a different take, that the rampant building of office buildings and luxury apartments by those Russian oligarchs, also cited by Lyall, has ruined the essential English character of London.
That hardly exists anymore in London, both pieces agree. London is now an international city of a kaleidoscope of nationalities. Central London is too expensive for the English, who have moved to the suburbs or the country, where they voted for Brexit. England is now two countries, the urban, multicultural London and the more traditional English areas outside of it.