9 Aug 2011

London's Burning - A small post on the riots in London

It's all anyone's talking about at the minute and not just in London, or the UK but across the world. I spent most of last night on Twitter (no change there then) and watching the news live from the various places that had been affected. It seemed appropriate therefore just to get down on paper (or online, whatever) what I'd experienced. I'd also like to point out that really, very little happened where I live in London and we were so incredibly lucky.

This post is therefore dedicated to all the people in London - and across the UK - who've lost their homes, their belongings, their livelihoods and who have been affected in some way by the riots.

I think maybe the best way to do this post is a little timeline for you as follows....

Sunday 7th August
Nothing happens round where I live during the day but we read about the horrid rioting in Tottenham and again in Enfield during Saturday + Sunday....we also begin to hear some nasty stuff happening down the road in Brixton.
I try not to read too much into what's happening on Twitter unless I feel it's reliable news source - hearsay just causes panic and takes away from what's really happening.
We go to bed feeling unbothered by anything as Brixton seems to have quietened down.

Monday 8th August
In the office, discussing the riots, I say nope, we were fine, nothing happened down our end of town - only to be told that actually 3 shops minutes away from us - including the one where I bought my mobile from - were smashed in last night and it was all a bit iffy further down the road. I also read about the violence and looting in Brixton around 1am and hear about all the shops that are so familiar to me - Body Shop, M+S, WHSmiths etc - having their windows smashed in. It's all starting to feel a bit more `real`.

Mid Afternoon
We see images of stuff kicking off in Hackney and listen to the news a little. Reports also coming in about Enfield too. It all seems North London centric and I am not worried for me/us at all - but very concerned for those in North London and in particular colleagues travelling up there.

Early Evening
After having a quick drink after work and ensuring we all tweet when we're home safe, I head back to the flat via clapham junction. Arriving at my station I don't really notice any particular atmosphere - but I was busting for the loo (!) so that may have clouded my observational skills hahah.

I put a nice casserole on to cook for dinner and switch on Twitter to check that everyone has got home safe. Meantime I worry a little about husbando who has wisely (!) chosen to run home from work through South London. I try not to worry too much and have some lovely reassuring tweets from people.

The general feeling on Twitter is of concern - lots of people hearing sirens and worrying. I still don't feel like anything is going to happen to us despite issues in Peckham and last night's issues in Brixton.

Around 9pm
 I spot the local chemists taking advance precautions against possible looters:

 (btw I object to calling them rioters, they're thieves!) I start to feel slightly concerned but again remind myself of what's happening in Hackney and really, we should be okay.

By this point, I should add, that there are sirens going haring up the high road every 3-5mins. We live in an area with a fair few sirens - but normally maybe every 20-30mins max. Something was definitely heating up.

Husbando has also gotten home by now, I dish up dinner and flick on BBC News 24 after reading concerning reports on Twitter re: clashes in both Croydon + Clapham Junction. Immediately I am confronted with the sight of Reeve's Furniture store going up in flames. I am rendered speechless - I've never seen anything like this before - outside of a movie:

I immediately hop back onto Twitter and check out what else is happening - worrying tweets starting to come through about Clapham Junction - which is extra upsetting as I lived in the area for awhile and still go back there.

About 9:30pm
I tweet to say that everything is fine where we are but asking other local residents to report from their homes, so that we have a good and realistic picture across the area.
Immediately tweets begin coming in - generally saying all is okay - but reporting that the flames from the Croydon fire can be seen from the common. A few other more sinister mentions of smokey smells also coming from the common as well as gangs of people loitering - with baseball bats and wearing hoodies etc.

Lots and lots of sirens still whizzing up and down the high road - Croydon at one end, Clapham Junction the other. Feeling really very worried and concerned for people in these places. I hear the owner of Reeves Furniture Store (pic above) on TV talking about the loss of his family's livelihood. The store had been open since 1874 and was in the 5th generation in the family. I actually feel very choked up hearing what he has to say. So utterly devastated. I feel very angry with the looters for just causing such wanton damage and misery to so many innocent people - and for what end?

Am still in contact with lots of local tweeters - their company and reports cheer me up and I think we all feel supported by each other. We're not alone in feeling a bit nervous.

About 10pm
Images and reports now on the BBC + twitter (via @billykenber) of situation in Clapham Junction. There is no live video footage due to the danger posed by the looters but it sounds hellish. Apparently 200+ people looting all the stores, the big Debenhams, TK Maxx, Starbucks, M+S - nothing is safe.

The reporter on the BBC starts to sound very shaken up - apparently it looked like things were calming down but then a store is reported to be on fire - and it is similar to the situation in Croydon - the whole building is engulfed rapidly. As there are residential apartments above the store there is much concern for anyone trapped. Police are ushering people away as they fear gas canisters in the store will blow.
I am also saddened when I see that the building on fire is the fancy dress shop in Clapham - I know it sounds trivial - but it was an amazing store and my first port of call for all my fancy dress needs - from my Roman outfit to my Amy Winehouse tattoos (dressed up as her for Halloween about 3 years ago). I found out today also that all their profits go to a charity for young people.

Late Night to about 1am
I stay up, watching the news reports, tweeting the odd update about my local area.
Around 11pm I spot police cars outside Carphone Warehouse - according to Twitter, looters have hit there - but their getaway car crashed into a lamppost. The whole area seems to be sorted out fairly quickly and with little fuss. There's not much about it online.

I speak to people all over the world who are asking about what's happening. For some reason I just can't bring myself to go to bed even though I think the worst is over for us. Finally I get a grip, I've work to get up for in the morning after all. I don't want to the looters to `win` by having an impact on my life. I head to bed with my kindle around 12:30. Husbando stays up, watching the news.

I wake up to the sound of husbando talking to someone. I realise he's on the phone and looking out the window. Without my glasses on I can't see much. He gets off the phone and tells me that he's had to call the police because looters have hit the parade of shops by us. He is very concerned for us.

I look out the window and see 2 police riot vans and fully armed police hunting down looters who have run down the alleyway by our building. Husbando informs me that there was a worry that the building was on fire but it was just a smoke security mechanism that one of the shops has. I feel incredibly relieved.

I tweet to report the police presence, the vans and the dogs they have. I go into the kitchen and peer out  the window into the communal no-mans-land between several blocks of flats. I can see the armed police with dogs and torches hunting around but no one comes out. The police take statements from witnesses outside - we watch from our windows. 

As the police clear up and move on, we worry about the security of the back of the building - could looters breach our fire escapes and break in? I'm starting to feel properly scared now and husbando looks less than happy with the whole situation. However I am also totally shattered. I kind of feel like `f**k you looters, I'm going to bed and you can jolly well f**k off`. At that point I really felt so angry to feel so scared in my own home. I go to bed and to sleep

Tuesday 9th August
We wake up + I get ready for work. Husbando looks exhausted, I ask him what's up. He says he didn't actually get to bed until 4:30am because of scuffles with looters - sirens and noise and shouting. He doesn't look like a happy bunny and I think he's quite shaken up by it all.

I'm quite calm this morning, I seem to have forgotten how scared I was. I'm keen to get photos of the damage to the shops so that people can see what happened, but I'm also concerned for my work colleagues and want to get to the office to check everyone is okay.

I take the following two pictures on my way to work. We were very lucky that the damage wasn't any worse than this:

At work it becomes clear just how lucky husbando and I were. Although there wasn't a lot of trouble where we were, what small trouble there was was just too close for comfort. Everyone else in the office reports feeling scared, lots of sirens over night, difficulties getting home. I picked up some cake on the way into the office to cheer us up - as much as for me as for anyone else! 
After checking we're all okay everyone settles down to work

This afternoon
We have the news on intermittently during the day, people are concerned about getting home, we worry about possible further violence tonight but generally everyone gets on with everything - seems like the best thing really. We can't let the looters win. I feel quite militant about this - it's important to be safe and not take risks, get home safely but also, business as usual. 

This Evening
I get home about 6:30 and every shop seems to have its shutters down and/or is boarded up. There is one pub open - with lots of people taking the opportunity to chat and drink. As much as it's scary to see my 24 hour city on shut down, I know it's the right thing to do. 

Shortly before I get online and start to write this post, around 14 fully armoured police vehicle with lights flashing and sirens on, drive slowly up the high road accompanised by helicopters overhead. If it's a warning I think it's a good one. Although its a bit scary to watch, I know that they are there for the right reasons. I switch on the news and watch all the reports of the looting and violence in Manchester, Wolverhampton and Nottingham. I just feel very sad for us all that it's come to this.

So that's it - that's what we've been through. It's tiny compared to all the other things that have happened - we really are so lucky. I'm glad of lots of things though - I'm glad everyone I care about is okay and safe, I'm glad I met lots of lovely new people on twitter, I'm glad I got to help someone's sister get home last night.  London is my home town, my city and I'm not prepared to have someone just take away the place I grew up and the place I care about. London gets under your skin and in your blood - it's a very special place indeed - and Londoners don't take things lying down.

I know there's lots of issues and theories about why all the looting and rioting - but I don't think this post is the right place for me to post what I think about all of this. I'd like to thank all the emergency services for doing their best to keep us safe. I've seen a lot of criticism which I think is unjustified - I think it's an incredibly tough job - in many cases they are putting their lives on the line for us. So thank you for that. Stay safe everyone - have some cake and have a hug too.

Thank you and good night

Stupidgirl has left the building


  1. Very intense. I can't imagine what you are all going through. I hope you will come out unscathed. it;s so horrible to see that people are doing this, like it's just an excuse to behave like an ass, demolish things and make others feel unsafe. It's inconceivable how many lives are influenced by this, if not by direct damage, then with the fear everybody feels about this. It's a bad thing indeed when you are afraid to go to sleep at night.

    I hope for you, and for everybody else involved, that this will end very, very soon!
    Stay safe bb x

  2. Seeing the VW golf in front of JD Sports on MOnday morning it all looked a little pathertic, but I think it's getting to the stage where people have really had enough. This isn't like twenty odd years ago or legitimate grievances - it's just criminal yobbery.
    Hope you and Streatham stay safe again tonight.

  3. Great post. Found it via Twitter. I used to live on Streatham High Road, tonight I'm glad I no longer do. Stay safe x

  4. these things have happened almost everywhere at some time. but bet on this, rightly or wrongly, there'll be a spike in middleclass-suburban-flight when this is all over...the ultra-right wing vigilante group surfacing up in manchester is a bad sign. they thrive in connditions like this.....google munich in the 1920's...you'll see...it's unsettling...people gotta start talking with each other fast!

  5. Hi all, thanks for your comments :) Glad you found the post interesting.

    Down by...I totally agree, it was pathetic and just pure theft and arson - there was no solid political motivation. All the comments I've seen from the looters are just "it's not fair rich people have money we're getting our taxes back" Nonsense IMO

    I slept fine last night so hopefully that's it - back to normal :)

    I've got some more stuff to add to the post above - which I'll try to do tonight.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  6. Well done baby girl - keep safe and sound. Most proud of your Londoners Blitz spirit.

    London IS the number 1 city in the world

  7. Great post and great blog - glad you and yours are all safe. I have elderly relatives in Edmonton who witnessed things that an 85 and 91 year old should not have to in 2011, they need to feel safe in their home, yet they were terrified and slept fully clothed in case they had to leave in a hurry. My Uncle was part of the Normandy landings in WWII - fighting for the freedom for thugs to do this? I am heartened that so many Londoners are not prepared to put up with this behaviour, let's hope that we can win back this lost generation....stay safe x

  8. GiW - yeah I was brought up properly :P

    Jilly - gosh that's shocking, so sad they felt like that. I totally agree re; people fighting in WW2 - and for what?

    Thanks for your comments x

  9. Im so glad you're safe...we were away at the in-laws when the looting happened and I only managed swift drop-ins on twitter due to my crap phone. Happily I found one of your tweets to say all was well.

    Its a really interesting post you've put up..something that is both interesting to read and scary at the same time.

    We had our own mini-disaster..coming home after nearly 3 weeks to a flooded spare room (complete with mould accompaniment)but I keep telling myself that we were lucky...so many people are far worse off :(

  10. Sage - thanks for stopping by + commenting, glad the post was interesting to you. I just wanted to get our experience down on paper/online. Sorry to hear about your flood - what a PITA. Hope it's all sorted now xxx

  11. Im so happy you're secure...we were away at the in-laws when the looting transpired and I only maintained instant drop-ins on tweets due to my junk cellphone. Fortunately I discovered one of your tweets posts to say all was well.