Like most people, I only watched one programme on the tv last night. The long running horror story that played put before our eyes on Sky News, as a mundane Monday night turned into some sort of Armageddon. I watched with horror as mindless, violent yobs tore through city centres with violence, destruction and theft on their minds. And I felt sick as I saw some places that were very special to me, that held some fond memories, have their hearts torn out.
Ealing Broadway, Clapham Common, Camden, Hackney, and, above all, Birmingham are places where I have spent some happy times. Ealing Broadway saw one of my happiest shopping trips, when as a barely out of teens shopper, I made the trip with my best friend Dawn to visit her future sister in law, who worked as a nanny in Ealing Broadway. We took a trip to the town, and discovered a shop that sold knock-off Warehouse clothes for much cheapness, and promptly bought a bag full of stuff. Being sophisticated just 20somethings, the only place to possibly eat was the KFC on Ealing High Street.
similarly, I’ve enjoyed lots of fab times in Camden. Buying leather skirts from the market on the Lock, and immediately putting them on and heading for the Hawley Arms, long before the days of La Winehouse. Watching a good friend fall over and take a poor sandwich board man with him as he almost rugby tackled him to the ground. Shopping in Rokit for vintage bargains, Thai food from the market. Camden has always been a cool melting pot, and I just love it!
Memories of Clapham are more recent. When Dawn moved to London, Clapham was her second location. We all fell in love with the Junction. My favourite memory is when Dawn decided to do all her shopping in one trip, despite the fact that we had travelled on public transport. She filled trollies in the Debenhams that was so badly looted on Monday night, and then another in TK Maxx, and we then struggled to get it all back, once it was out od the trolley. I have never laughed so much as when Dawn shouted to me about the array of ‘focking stillers’ that were available in Debenhams – a spoonerism to treasure forever.
These are fond memories of fabulous places, so to see what has happened to them in the last few days is just heartbreaking. The fact that the acts have been perpetrated by people against their own communities makes it even worse. The mayhem and chaos in Birmingham has instilled a real fear into the city that is hard to escape from at the moment., whilst the whole of London seems to be on High alert. We are at the height of Summer, and yet there are talks of curfews, town centres are being closed down earlier, shutters pulled down, and people getting home as fast as they can. There are worries about travelling on public transport – is it going to run, what about if buses are targeted? This is the Ghost Town The Specials talked about in 1981, only worse, as it is ruthlessly controlled by the social networking that is so important in the 21st century.
Birmingham is my city, and I feel so angry that mindless hooligans are doing their best to destroy it. Many excuses will be put forward for what is happening, but, make no mistake – THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THIS. It does not target the politicians, but the people. In particular it frightens vulnerable shop staff, who are being caught in the middle of all this purely because they happen to have a job. The people involved in this need to be bought to justice swiftly in order to restore the public’s faith in law and order, which is being tested to the extreme by the low number of arrests, and the seemingly powerless stance by the overstretched police.
I am travelling into the 2nd city on Thursday, and am scared about what I might see. But life does go on. The social network which may have helped co-ordinate the riots are also the tool by which people are fighting them – sharing information with police, organising mass clear-ups, sending messages of support and helping those in need with appeals for things that have been damaged in the last few days. This is truly the Dunkirk spirit in the 21st century. Lets hope it prevails sooner rather than later, before other lives are ruined in the quest for looted phones and ipods.
- London’s shops close early amid riot fears (independent.co.uk)
- Arrests as riots and arson spread (independent.co.uk)
- Third night of rioting in London (bbc.co.uk)
- Jamie Oliver slams rioters as his Birmingham restuarant is vandalised (mirror.co.uk)
- Unrest In The UK: Where The Rioters Attacked (news.sky.com)