Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burning London

There were grand plans to come in here, wax lyrical about our little beach holiday, and share photos.

I will do that... but not today.

It doesn't help that I have the end-of-holidays blues. My little holiday had me walking on a high for a few days, but reading about the current London riots has sent me crashing back to earth - with a heavy thud.

Yes, I've whinged about my not-always happy time in London, but I would feel upset to read about these riots in any of the cities I've called home. Riots are riots - ridiculous.

I simply cannot comprehend the mentality behind such stupidity - why these people are incapable of thinking for themselves, and why they feel the need to destroy what's not theirs. What planet are they on?

Seeing the images, reading accounts, and hearing about it from friends, I'm grateful that we lived in - and experienced - the UK when we did. It was never a utopian experience, but a decade ago the economic and political climate was surely better than it is now.

I guess that's what happens when large groups of society would rather vote for reality elimination show contestants, than vote in a government election. Smart, huh? Much more chance of being stuck with an unpopular government. My take on it is if you didn't vote, tough shit. Suck it up and move on (just like in the US, voting is not mandatory in the UK.... I know - I was surprised, too. Australia seems to be in the minority on that one).

Don't even get me started on the looting. Such opportunistic scum - "I'm angry because someone was shot dead by the police in a different part of the city... I know, smashing windows and grabbing a plasma TV will make me feel so much better!" Is that how these people think? Or, more likely, there's an absence of thought process.


We had our share of drama and close calls with the Real IRA bombings and when we lived over that side of the pond. In July 2000, I was leaving for work one morning - only to see our street being evacuated by police. A bomb had been found on a major overland railway line, which carried all westbound overland trains out of London. This line ran along behind our row of houses and flats, and the bomb had been left under a nearby bridge - less than 400m from our backyard, I kid you not. Thankfully, the police used a controlled explosion on it, and no one was hurt. It was a worry, though.

Then in March 2001, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed when I heard what I thought was a single clap of thunder. Odd, I'd thought. It turned out to be a car bomb explosion, outside the BBC Television Centre in White City - roughly 3km from where we were living.

In August, another car bomb went off, in Ealing Broadway - only 1.5km from us. Ealing was where we went to do our groceries and most other kinds of shopping, rent videos (back in the day!) from Blockbuster, and I'd even belonged to a gym near the station. That last part is hard to believe, I know.

J and I had been married at Ealing Town Hall - that same year - so Ealing holds a lot of memories for us. It was part of our 'hood.

After those explosions, we were a little nervous, but had always been aware of bomb threats (the first thing we'd noticed when we arrived in London was the lack of rubbish bins at the tube stations). We carried on living as normal, and the men behind the bombings were eventually caught.

It's a little like moving to Los Angeles. You know there's a chance of an earthquake but you try not to dwell on it.

At the end of 2003, we returned to Australia. In July 2005, London was changed forever by a series of suicide bombings, all in one morning. I'd had various connections to two of the bomb locations - nearby work, train line changes... I didn't sleep that night until I knew all my friends were okay. I can't even begin to imagine the horror of that day.

But back to Ealing... the most recent riots took place there overnight, and it's been surreal to see images of cars alight and buildings damaged. Ealing isn't a rough area. It's quite gentrified, and if riots of such force can happen there, they can happen anywhere. The thought chills me.

Summertime in London. It's the loveliest time to be there... but also seems to be when people go bonkers...


  1. I have never been to London so I can't say the images bring back memories or sadness for a place that was once somewhere happy for me. However, I am saddened by whats happening over there. Seeing the shops and homes destroyed. Just seems so senseless.

    Most of all, watching whats going on from the safety of my own home, being provided images by the media, I see a lot of young people behaving very very badly.

    Where are their parents?

    I would go absolutely banana's if my kid was involved.

  2. It's incredible. Along with all the other bad news in the world, I've stopped reading about it. It's the only way I can cope. That's not very good of me, I know.

    My sister and her family are going over to the UK in a week to stay for six months. My mother follows a week later to stay for a month and their first destination is London. I hope it is all sorted out by then.

  3. Bron - I would be LIVID too if my kids were involved in something like this. There's just no excuse for it.

    Mel - I hope your sister (and your mum) have a lovely time there. Is it there first time? Six months will be a good chunk of time to experience the UK. I hope it's all sorted by then, too.