I hate London. It may seem like a strong choice of wording, but a part of me truly dislikes the country where the sky is always a shade of grey, to wear thongs (or flip-flops) outside of summer gets a disapproving stare from the public, and the city whose main form of public transport permanently smells like a homeless man (sorry Circle line Tube…) I hate London for leaving me feeling beaten, battered and depressed enough to run back to Australia after only 4-months there.
I hate London.
At least I thought I did up until 5-minutes ago.
Through the Glass
As if peering through the glass of a window, the weekends events in London have left me feeling far removed, almost with an blasé attitude. But as texts woke me throughout what was early Tuesday morning in Australia, the backlight of my laptop soon burnt my eyes as it whirled to life at 3am; It wasn’t long until I found emails, Facebook posts or tweets about the events that were occurring in the areas where I had lived or where some of my closest friends currently reside – a human face to the front line of the events. Worry stuck me, but more dumbfounding than that was the sadness I felt.
I’ve been bringing up my dislike towards London for almost a year at any given chance, and there I was feeling sadness, as well as, was this traces of anger? – towards the people wrecking havoc on the streets of the city; My friends city; My families city – perhaps even I cared so much because despite my turbulent relationship with it I saw it as my city?
As the riots spread outwards to Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and beyond, my dislike towards Mother England diminished and soon faded all together.
Talking ’bout my Generation
As I read new stories, followed live updates and Twitter hash-tags it became apparent that the rioters and I had one thing in common: we shared a generation.
But what makes a person, a group of people, turn on their community? Perhaps one in which they have lived their whole life. What makes them turn on the places their feet tread each day? Is it simply boredom, or trouble makers? I thought my hate for London was tremendous in size but could it ever manifest in such an anger that these young adults were driven too? Simply, No.
Whist it has been reported that BBM, Blackberrys free instant messaging service, and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were used for organising and then to further exacerbate the riots, it was also one of the only ways I, like others, could get in contact with my friends still residing in the country. Though some found themselves amid the reckless crowd, they were, for the most part, out of dangers way.
In reflection, it pained me to see how technology was being used. Whilst most were using it for good, there was, of course, the small minority using it for the wrong reasons – the double edged sword. The technology people used to check-in with friends and family to ensure of their safety, the technology which I used every day whilst residing in London to stop the bitter feelings of loneliness creep in to my life, was being used by people to organise chaos and plunder the High Streets.
To quote one rioter: “If we hadn’t done it, you wouldn’t be talkin’ to us.” So the question remains, is violence the way to get your voice heard as a young member of society?
London was set to be my big adventure after surviving 4-months at an American summer camp. No one I knew had lived or worked in London and I was ready to travel to the great unknown. But the stars flew from my eyes when when I realised that I had underestimated London in every way. From the costs, to the people I thought I could rely on; and my meagre savings quickly diminished when converting from Australian dollar to mighty pound.
During the riots windows were smashed around Oxford Circus, both a tourist haven and also one of my favourite places to meet friends because of its real ‘British’ feel. Michelin starred The Ledbury in Notting Hill, a place high on my ‘to visit’ list of culinary places, was attacked by thugs whilst diners were eating; even Camden and Chalk Farm, both areas where I was hoping to live and spent months diligently hunting through properties and enjoying the ambiance of the Lock Markets, was not spared some form of trauma from the riots. with stores being broken into.
At the time it felt like living in London sucked at my soul, which was already battered from living on kosher food and with rabid American kids. What I failed to do then was smell the roses which were right under my nose and which only became apparent when I realised how much I wished I could be there to help protect my friends, help with the clean up, or how strongly I feel against the actions of these people. Despite many tears and tantrums, London was the place I ‘grew up,’ but despite this it was also the place I discovered there was a whole new world to be discovered. including one filled with travel bloggers.
Although I am not scheduled to return to London until early January, I do wonder if the scars the city now bears will still be able to be seen. Windows will be fixed, the burnt out remains of cars and buses will be long gone, but what about peoples mentality towards my generation? There are also scars which will take much longer to fix despite the best efforts of the community. The House of Reeves, a 140-year-old family-run Croydon establishment which survived the Blitz, will be demolished; and the Carpetright shop in Tottenham, which has become the face of the riots (and is the image at the top of the post) will most likely be gutted. I question if other areas I frequented will be changed or if they too will wear their scars.
I’ve struggled writing this post. My head is conflicting my hearts true feelings with facts about why I should despise this, I can’t believe I am going to say this, great city. My opinions on London have been effected by some of the not-so nice people I met and the daily struggle I had living in a city which I felt didn’t want me. Upon reflection of photos and memories though the bad memories are more prominent, most of my experiences in the city were positive. From living in quintessentially London areas, to working on the famous Baker Street next door to the Sherlock Holmes museum. I drunk British pints, ate bad chinese (and liked it!), rode double decker buses and saw the Queen… okay, I lied about the last one but I saw her house. It counts right? I became a Londoner even if it was only for a few months; and despite the short-time of my residency I still feel somewhat protective of the city that made me giddy with excitement when I arrived. (I was giggling and dancing because I was ‘breathing London air’ according to my travel partner! Whoops!)
If you can lend a spare hand and are in London or any of the other effected riot areas get in contact with @Riotcleanup or use Twitter hash-tag #riotcleanup to find out what you can do to pitch in.
Photo credit: AP Photo / Lewis Whyld, PA