It’s been a strange couple of days. We’re sitting at our laptops, trying to work but keeping an eye on the Telegraph‘s live feed and another eye on Twitter. There are sirens in the middle distance. Tits and sparrows are pecking at the bird feeder.
I worked at home today. About half past one, just after I’d returned from a lunchtime jaunt to Canary Wharf, I heard a load of sirens, quite close. Twitter and the live feed were talking about Lower Road and Surrey Quays shopping centre being next in line. I discovered that the sports store, Curry’s and T-Mobile had been robbed last night, although there were no reports of rioting that close to us. Someone on twitter said it was quiet, but ‘tense’. I decided I should check it out myself.
So about an hour later I took what I called an “unarmed reconnaissance” trip on my bike—although I did carry my heavy D-lock with me. Quite a few people—shoppers, by the looks of things—seemed to be heading towards Tesco. There wasn’t a hoodie in sight. I rode round the car park and looked towards Lower Road: not as busy as usual, but people around, doing normal people-y things. A few shops were shuttered up, but there was no sign of trouble.
In Surrey Quays itself, one of the doors was closed to people going in, although people were coming out. Workmen were starting to repair some damage. The other door was open, and although Tesco seemed to be as busy as usual the shutters were down further in. I even met my neighbour, pushing her pram.
I went to look at Decathlon, noting that a couple of windows were boarded up and it was dark inside. I took a photo of the sign on the door—and three black men walked towards me. “What did you do that for?” one asked. “So I can let people know what’s going on,” I replied.
One of them looked at my big, heavy, D-lock. I smiled and nodded towards the library. “I live round the corner,” I said. This seemed to calm them down. “Are you keeping on eye on things here, making sure it’s all right?” They said they were—I thanked them, and rode home.
I can’t imagine the landlord and patrons of the local pub standing for any nonsense, either.
Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has said in the Guardian,
What is happening in London is not an insurgency that is going to topple the country. There are 8 million people in London and it is a tiny proportion doing this. They are gangs of looters and criminals and although it is concerning it has to be kept in proportion.
Now, and strangely for this time of evening on a Tuesday, St Mary’s Church is ringing its bells. It’s a little bit crazy out there, but we’ve had worse. Everything’s going to be all right. But that’s no reason not to enjoy some Clash…