London riots – A distorted countdown

(written on 12 Aug 2011 – Internet down, so couldn’t publish)

The countdown of late was severely distracted by the current series of events that shocked Britain. The London Riots impacted dozens of localities from Tottenham to Hackney to Ealing to Croydon, including (but not limited to) the cities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol. What was initially thought to be triggered by the shooting of Mark Duggan by the police on the Thursday prior to the Tottenham riots, has now led to speculation on the true socio-economic causes that led hundreds of youths and individuals with low-incomes to take to the streets. 

A common question that has been asked by friends and family around the world is: ‘So how have the London riots impacted you?’ Well…they’ve impacted everyone to lesser or greater extents.

It was formally announced recently that the death toll of the riots has gone to 5. A 68-year-old pensioner who suffered from head injuries in an attack in Ealing on Monday night died in hospital. A 26-year-old man was shot and killed in a car in Croydon on Tuesday. 3 men were victims of a hit-and-run incident in Birmingham, and two police officers were injured in another hit-and-run incident in Wembley, near Fulton road, where suspected looters were attempting to raid a nearby electrical store.

Unfortunately, the impact of the riots isn’t limited to loss of life. Extensive property damage amounting to an estimated £750 million will lead large and independent retailers to spend much of the coming weeks rebuilding and restocking their businesses. Businesses in the service sector were also impacted as the police advised companies across the company to shut shop early in anticipation of even more riots.

Ingeus closed down all of their offices by 1530 on Tuesday afternoon. I happened to be based in our Uxbridge office on Tuesday, and nearly all clients shared rumours with us that the ‘rioters’ were planning a comeback on Uxbridge High Street for 1600. There certainly was an increased police presence which made us feel both (un)safe and apprehensive.

I left the Uxbridge office by 15:40, and in anticipation of trouble in 20 minutes, decided to hitch a ride with my lovely colleague to Rayner’s Lane. We noticed a few armoured riot vans, we were told of a looted Curries in South Ruislip on the way, but we didn’t really see anything. Essentially, there was a lot of hype and discussion, and fortunately, I was always situated at a reasonable distance away from any violence.

For a couple days, our local Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose on Holloway Road were all shut down. On the first night, we thought it would serve as a good excuse to eat out at a restaurant, but it turned out all of the restaurants were shut down too. My other half and I limited ourselves to pesto and noodles for a few nights, and then literally celebrated when the shops were open again. It almost felt like a short-term food rationing of sorts. 2 days and we still couldn’t really handle it!

The media’s account of violent disruptions abated as soon as David Cameron announced that he would increase London’s police present to 16,000. However, Wednesday morning, on my way to buying my takeaway skinny latte for my journey to work, there were four fire engines putting out a fire in a flat on top of Subway on Holloway Road. A group of girls in casual clothes were sat at another coffee shop right next door, watching the firemen put out the fire. The windows of Subway were completely broken into – I couldn’t for the life of me understand what could motivate anyone to break into Subway?

Then, of course, there are all of the shops whose windows have been boarded down. Businesses have spent a lot of extra cash trying to secure their fortunes through wooden and metal boards. I suppose some industries may have made a profit on these mishappenings. I read an article recently that said baseball bat sales had skyrocketed by 6000% as individuals sought to protect themselves from prospective looters. There are always winners and losers to every tragedy.

Of course, living in Britain means that any tragedy can be twisted into a funny joke. A colleague says to me the other day, “a looter was being interviewed and was being told this is disgraceful, what would your parents think?! And the looter replied `your mum`.” There are numerous ‘looter jokes’ that have emerged on the web. So yeah. A distorted countdown until I commence my new pursuits. I pray for those who have been directly affected, and hope that no further riots will take place in the future.

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