Wednesday, 10 August 2011
"London's burning", as the old Clash song went. It might have taken 34 years for that statement to come true, but it certainly has.
So there goes that stereotype of the "reserved", law-abiding Brits and the "rebellious" law-deriding, Irish then. If there is anywhere in Europe that people should be out in the streets, chucking Molotovs around and making the coppers work for their overtime, it's here in Ireland, rather than across the water.
But dropping the facetiousness for a moment, it really is alarming. The first riots followed several hours after a peaceful protest in Tottenham which centred on an armed suspect being shot dead by police in the area, but after that it just seemed to take on the qualities of a craze - with a bit of looting thrown in, of course.
The strange thing, looking from here in Ireland, is that some relatively affluent areas have been affected - Ealing for example. Then there's Wood Green - a place I have fond memories of, as I passed my driving test there.
But what about Peckham? That place was scary 25 years ago when I went to do a 9-year stint in London as an economic migrant. Mind you, I was in a squat for several weeks with these middle-class types from lovely comfortable homes in Dublin who were slumming it for a bit - I'm sure they had their poor mums and dads climbing the walls.
For my part, I'd had enough of living in bad housing all my life as a kid (violin music here please) so I was only too keen to get out and get some decent surroundings for myself. An incident whereby we were chased from a squat when its rightful owners came to move in - it had been allotted, unbeknownst to us - probably hastened that decision.
Eventually I got a flat in Streatham before deciding that South London was not for me. So north of the Thames it was for a one-and-a-half year stint in Finsbury Park, before spending the best part of seven years in Stratford, East London, in the Borough of Newham - one of London's poorest. That's where they are holding the Olympics next year, so that is nice to see - assuming the whole lot doesn't go up in smoke first.
London was good. People were not as parochial there as in Ireland and they were friendly enough, considering the size of the city. I worked with local yokels and most of them were sound as pounds. I even had a season in the Sunday League as a crap central defender in a crap team that got beaten 7-0 every week. So watching all that is going on over there carries an extra resonance.
Let's hope they can get a lid on it soon. Ordinary Londoners - native and otherwise - should not have to suffer their city being destroyed around them.
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Posted by The Gombeen Man at Wednesday, August 10, 2011