The last few days

I was away in Liverpool when the trouble in London began.

My friends and I were out eating tapas and drinking sangria on Saturday when the protests began. We were back in our rented apartment eating cheese and biscuits and laughing together when the looting started and when we switched on the TV, the rolling news coverage from Hackney was shocking, but as it blared it was in the background to our evening, we didn’t watch it closely.

The next day was taken up entirely with attending a christening and being drunken fools.

We had no idea that London was becoming a frightening, burning place where people took what they wanted and petrol bombed shops and homes while throwing missiles at the police.

As we travelled home on Monday, we chatted and laughed on the train and nursed our poor aching heads.

It was only when I got home and flicked on BBC News 24 that the full magnitude of what was happening finally started to sink in. It was Monday the 9th August and Hackney, Lewisham, Croydon, Woolwich and Ealing were literally on fire.

I watched the rolling news coverage for hours.

I checked my facebook and found that one of my best friends (who had been in Liverpool with us) was very frightened as a mob screamed and smashed their way down the street in which she lives.

I watched on twitter as the hashtag #LondonRiots spawned more and more scared and desperate tweets.

I waited for the town I live in to become overrun and ached at the pictures of children looting without shame or fear, many of whom looked to be the same age as my own.

I went to sleep with the news still broadcasting stories of people losing their homes and businesses and hope.

I spent yesterday, at work, listening for police sirens and helicopters. I obsessively trawled twitter for my town. I was scared to go out for food at lunchtime, and when I received a call from Tom at 3pm saying that all the shops were being shuttered or boarded up, I almost cried in fear. Panic was setting in, rumours flew across the internet,then by text and we were scattered. Tom at home, me at work and Ollie at a local holiday playscheme.

As I drove home, the streets were eerily quiet. Police roamed empty streets and the pubs, restaurants and shops all looked blandly, blindly back at me through hastily erected boards of wood.

Another night of watching the constant new coverage, this time as Manchester and Birmingham erupted in violence, and I worried for my friends who live there, and felt fury that this was happening (Manchester is one of my favourite cities to visit and to see the streets where I have had such fun, and been so welcomed by locals, trashed was just…inexplicable)

Another night of twitter watching, this time with the added fun element of checking a neighbouring town which had a large vigilante group gathered.

Our town remained calm and quiet, although strangely so…the buses which passed by, usually full, were all empty.

Today, I arrived at work to discover that our offices had been broken into overnight. Not by rioters, but by a couple of (judging by the CCTV) young lads. They cut the phone lines before they smashed their way in and rummaged through our desks. They stole a locked petty cash box, which contained the grand sum of 4 pence (1 x 2p and 2 x 1p) and a knackered blackberry. This is the third robbery in our small business estate in as many months and is only notable by the very small amount of “swag” that they manage to take.

And so, I wonder…what is leading these children – because the media never call them that, they are always “youths” or “feral youths” or “scum” – to this? Where did it go so wrong?

And I think about the next party – the one I’m throwing in two days to celebrate my son’s eleventh birthday, the one I have been gabbing on about on my blog for weeks, and I will look at my son’s friends who come to dance and eat and play, and I will look at Tom’s friends who will come and grunt and eat and laugh and I wonder…What makes my children different to those who have been rioting and stealing trainers and talking about “bare feds” and the “po-po” and the “going hard”…

I am single mother. I work full time. Right now I can get childcare for my youngest, but that ends this year, my eldest child at fourteen, has been pretty much left to his own devices during school holidays since he was 12. Of course, I call him and check on him, of course he has a curfew, of course he is fully aware that should he be involved in something which brought the police to my door he would be better off in a youth offenders institute than living with me…but still. I have to work or we will be in poverty, I have to work or I will be denigrated as a “benefit scrounger” and my children would be written off before their lives had begun.

I’m lucky because I can earn a just about living wage by doing a Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 job. I am supremely lucky that my mum is an actual superstar angel and looks after the boys two days a week and after school, but what if I couldn’t earn a decent wage in 40 hours per week? What if I were utterly alone and having to supplement my income by doing two jobs? One of which was at night? What about if I were having to hold down three jobs, just to get enough food on the table?

I shouted and screamed at the coverage, I shouted and screamed at the boys who caused me such MORE work today..and landed more bills on the small business that I work for (which is struggling as it is) for the grand total of sweet FA…

These groups have destroyed their own communities. They have left people homeless, in my experience people who live above shops are not rich. Why have they looted poundshops? They have destroyed their own. Why?

But the more I think on it, the more I try and understand why the rioters have trashed their own communities and trashed the shops that they actually shop in; the more I wonder…and listen for sirens.

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Posted on 08/10/2011, in Bad Times and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m just glad that you and your family are safe.

  2. So glad you are safe. It’s been a horrid time all over England.

  3. It is shocking and upsetting isn’t it? A worrying time for us all.
    But I still like to think that the majoroty of people are good, and most children are fine and will grow up with morals and consciences. These were a relative minority.
    Hope your DS’s party goes well.

    • the Marine Corps has a saying “it the 10% that screw it up for everyone else”. I’m a firm believer that goodness in people outweights the badness in a small few, for every news story of horrible stuff happening there are atleast 10 stories of goodness being achieved that go unreported.

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