Working at my hospital yesterday, the day was full of rumour, half-truths and supposition which I found myself getting drawn into more easily than I expected or wanted. They were boarding up the high street, then there was a riot on it already, then that was discounted. Then there was talk of other places being targeted. Nothing to support this other than something heard from someone else who had a friend who knew about it. It's weird how the contained group of nurses all fell to recirculating rumour in lieu of fresh information. Then the hospital quietly advised non-essential personnel to leave by 4pm and said they would be locking the main gates before night fall. I began to feel ever more uneasy.
From the third floor of the hospital I could look out over South London all the way to Canary Wharf and it was amazing to me how there was no difference I could see. Life was just rumbling on, same as it ever did. When my shift ended I legged it out of the hospital and headed to the train station. Every group of people, no matter how innocent they looked, made my spidey-sense ping and it was all I could do not to sprint for the train. As I got to the station I was passed by two horse carrier lorries, blues and twos going and zooming off to an incident somewhere. On the platform I overheard a group of police officers on their way to work debating whether or not annual had been cancelled.
My wife had been working up in North London in a shop and had had the police come around and tell her to shut up shop and go home. In the middle of the afternoon. She had tried to do a bit of food shopping on the way home only to find all the supermarkets by us shut and some even boarded over with plywood in preparation for violence.
I am torn between worrying about the next few nights and thinking that this will blow over soon enough. The Met have made lots of noise about intensifying policing in the capital and their no-nonsense approach to public order offences is well known around the UK. They are issuing plastic bullets and allocating water cannon.
I'd also like to raise my voice to join the choir of Londoners appalled by the behaviour of a violent and antisocial minority. The best description I have come up with is an amalgam of disenfranchised people, who have been raised on a diet of mass consumerism, with nothing to lose and little fear from prosecution. Arguably a very dangerous combination. That there has been such a united front against these people is something which gives me hope for the city and the species in general.