Wednesday, 10 August 2011
But I love you, London is written through me like a stick of rock. It's marked everything from my accent to the way I act, so it's not that easy. London has a place in all my memories.
I love to eat chips, hot and salty out of the packet on the Embankment, right where I can see St Paul's. I love the solid cold stone of the seats at The Scoop, the twinkle of lights as the sun goes down over Regent's Park theatre. I love the close heat of the underground, the phantom gusts of wind as I miss my train. I love weaving through the crowds on Oxford Street on a sweltering June day, the heavy Christmas decorations and the slush on the pavements. I love the post-club crush on the bus, the long walks home in blistering shoes.
I once kissed someone, pressed up against the wall of my house one New Year. I once had a Hollywood kiss at 3am on Camden High Street. I fell in love in Harrow and my heart broke in Kensal Rise. I have eaten cupcakes in Brixton and enjoyed music on the South Bank. I meet people under the clock at Waterloo station. I have collapsed on the top of Primrose Hill and then hauled myself up to make a fool of myself as I did a circuit in front of Sunday picnickers. I have had my wallet nicked in Camden Town and my hand held in Golders Green.
London is something that lives and breathes for me. I feel that it is mine in a way I cannot describe. And to see what I have seen on the news these past few days makes me sick. Where are those sweet strangers I have chatted to on the bus? Where are the people who give up seats on the train or help you pick up your dropped shopping?
I'll tell you where they are - they are out with brooms, sweeping up the mess left by a minority. Because it is a minority - that is not the true face of London, not the London I know at least. The London I know is full of brilliant people - bright, funny people who make music, hold their drink and are not to be beaten by a bunch of hooligans.
But these people are Londoners too and as much as I want to see them punished for what they have done to our beautiful city, how they have shamed us, I also want to understand them. My friends and family, have sat and watched all of this unfold on the news. Some of us have gone out to help with the clean-up. All of us would quite like a new computer, a new pair of trainers or a snazzy new plasma. None of us have gone out to grab one. I want to know why these people thought that would be ok. Punish them, yes, of couse they deserve it. But I hope that someone, somewhere, will figure out the why so that we can make changes and so that this will never happen again. We should be - we are - better than that.
Today, parts of London are blackened ruins. Businesses, the products of people's dreams, have been destroyed. More damage has been done to our city than was done on 7th July 2005. But we fought back then and we shall fight back again. With brooms and spades and plastic bags. And humour and love and respect.
That is what London is - full to bursting with people who are unbelieveably tough. We have this city in common. No matter our race, our religion, our sexual preference - London is our city.
London, I still love you. We can get through this.
(We shouldn't forget that these riots are no longer just occurring in London. But I've been heartened to see the clean-ups going on all over the country. I am really proud to see this - this pulling together should be the enduring legacy of these riots)