Monday, August 8, 2011

Tenants have no water for 3 days while London burns

Tenants in Wilshaw House have been without water since Friday. No water to flush the loo. No water in the bathroom.

The problem was reported on Friday. Today someone came and parked their Lewisham Homes van outside 41-60 Wilshaw House, leaving the engine running for half an hour (are they pretending they're stuck in traffic somewhere?) whilst they sat inside the van chatting on the phone. Result? Still no water.

Meanwhile, London's Burning. But not, as yet, in Deptford. A Greggs in Peckham was set on fire which Channel 4 claimed was in Deptford High Street. There's not a lot of any value to loot in Deptford, but an hour or so after the misreporting by Channel 4 (and the resulting hyperbole on Twitter), the windows of the HSBC were smashed and a bin was turned over. Oh, and Tescos.

Shutters were down on almost all shops by about 6pm, and at around 8.45pm when this blogger went to take a look, there were just a few rubberneckers, some with quite flashy cameras, hanging around outside the HSBC, some walking freely up and down the high street. A group of kids seemed to be waiting for some action, and a couple of boys on bikes were hanging about in the road at the Ladbrokes end. Someone said they'd seen a Twitter post about a proposed attack on Wavelengths, but this was part of the same hype about the fire at Greggs (what are they going to do at Wavelengths, go for a swim?).

We dearly hope the high street is not subjected to arson later on, but we are quite happy to see all the bookies looted.

Brockley Central has been doing a fine job of keeping local people updated. It appears there has been some looting in New Cross but Twitter hype about the Venue being alight are (unfortunately) false. Some comments are a bit Daily Mail, but some are very funny, even though this isn't really a laughing matter.

10.30pm: a friend who lives on the high street reports small gangs of black youth have been gathering. No police up till now. It's all going on up at the HSBC and about to kick off with one lone police wagon.

Whilst slightly fearing for our friend's life should a fire break out, we agree that there are three major and obvious things about all this:
1. There's a Tory government
3. Torys cut Youth Projects and Youth Clubs and Youth Provision.

11.00pm: Kicked off in Woolwich. Had to leave the house.

2pm: Back after a recce...Sick of television coverage, we had gone to join the onlookers at the high street. A car was on fire in Douglas Square. It appeared to have been er..taken away from the Chinese takeaway nearby, since a calm but obviously disturbed Chinese lady seemed to be the owner. Police stood in a group outside the HSBC with a van further down outside Barclays. The burning car was still on fire but smouldering like a neglected and dying bonfire.

We found that considerably more damage had taken place than we'd previously seen earlier on. The tally at this point was: HSBC, Barclays, Greggs, Samuel jewellers next to Corals, HandT Pawnbrokers, Fish Brothers Pawnbrokers, Ladbrokes, and Tescos. It seems the attacks had been sporadic (but well aimed for political statement, financial advantage and sugar rush) – Greggs had been raided at around 8pm but we'd not noticed when we saw the windows at the HSBC earlier.

We met a Deptfordian who works in Peckham who told us it was completely nuts in Peckham – anybody and everybody were just walking out of shops with anything they liked. He was drinking from a can he'd found on the pavement in Rye Lane. He'd been chatting to a Jamaican shopkeeper there who had suggested some Asian shopkeepers might be 'taking advantage of the situation'. That is something that'll never be televised. Unlike the old lady telling them all off in Hackney:

We debated the question of bored youth (he is a youth worker) but he said it was everyone, not just the youth, who were looting in Peckham. But he agreed the loss of the EMA didn't help.

We walked down the street. The police, who initially had been on guard, were more relaxed and not bothering to stop anyone taking photographs, or stop anyone passing. They were guarding the banks, Greggs and HandT pawnbrokers. It turned out that some places had been robbed but owners had managed to pull down broken shutters after the event. We were pleased to see that no one was guarding William Hills further down, the door front opened out with a sheet of broken glass.

Tescos had broken windows but appeared to be secured, with first floor windows boarded up. Which begs the question, why were the police still having to guard the other places at taxpayers' cost?

We chatted with a couple of shopkeepers who were standing outside their own premises. Having survived the looting, one had sent his family to stay somewhere else and faced a sleepless night fearing an arson attack, whilst the other had called in a van load of family and friends to stand guard. You really wouldn't want to mess with those guys.

We got chatting opposite Tescos to a couple of white guys who were on their way home from town, and were joined by a young mixed raced couple on bikes. The first two were asking the question Why? What's going on? It's not just black kids surely? We put it to the young couple who were obviously local. They said it's cos everyone's bored, and because the kids have lost their EMA.

But how come the kids know which places to attack, we asked – not just the obvious looting targets like Currys etc but impossible places like banks and food places like Tescos? They said they'd got a message on BB last weekend about where to meet and what to do, like everyone knew where to go and when, and this wasn't the end of it.

We mentioned Birmingham and Croydon. Birmingham, the girl said, was mad, they were very bad in Birmingham, they'd attacked a children's hospital, that was really bad. (?) It would be Bromley tomorrow and she reeled off a list, and it could go on all summer. They had an invincible air about them. Maybe there's some new drugs we don't know about. It surely couldn't be politics giving these young people that whizzy self confidence.

As we walked away, we wondered how kids who couldn't survive without the £35 a week EMA could afford Blackberrys. If BBs were that cheap, maybe we should get one? But, it seemed perhaps you only need one person with one among many to spread the word....We speculated on the nature of viral messages: that it must be pot luck whether your BB owner and message recipient was a leader of people (possibly even a designated and recognised lieutenant of a potential army, or a gang leader) or just a loudmouth showoff...or maybe just someone charismatic and influential....or a copper....

We walked back up the street and bumped into some neighbours and went to their flat for a beer. In true Deptford style, the appropriate music went on to accompany the rolling news (though unfortunately these neighbours were far too sophisticated to put on The Clash or else they had already played them earlier). By then trouble had started in Liverpool. We didn't fancy the police's chances there. A shopping list had probably been scrawled on Friday night. It was cheering to see Camden was finally in the mix. Media panic and Notting Hill coming up, oooh scary.

We debated who were behind the Blackberry messages...We looked on Facebook, someone said "Gangsters at the top, gangstas at the bottom". Hmm. And,  "Cameron's coming home to his Big Society...The Big Rioty Society" there were the usual japes from the Daily Mash: "With the economy plunging once more into the abyss, middle income professionals keen to maintain their standard of living are now learning how to smash a really big window, grab a Dualit toaster and run like fuck."

Another post caught our eye: "Money-Free Shopping: At last the working class have re-entered the arena. BIG TIME. THE REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN TORY BRITAIN HAS BEGUN! LOOT NOW WHILE SHOPS LAST! The SHOPPING WITHOUT MONEY craze swept across London overnight – and likely to spread to the rest of FIRESALE UK over the next few days. While the Tory toffs holiday in Tuscany effective wealth redistribution is taking place...''

Whilst we warmed to the sentiment, we wondered if the whole thing might be a covert operation to rehearse the police for 2012 and security measures beyond (had the police really failed or are they just underfunded?), or a clever terrorist attack (no message other than anti-capitalism that has harnessed and exposed the true nature of street capitalism). Either way, it wouldn't be long before tear gas or the army had to be brought in. The agonising analysis that the media and the chattering classes will now indulge in must surely be a cue for a holiday.

Back at home, the pictures on the Beeb of the activity in Woolwich are horrific, mainly frightening because of the armoured police vehicles employed. Thank God Deptford has not had to go through that (crossing fingers and touching wood). They tried to make me go to Woolwich but I said No, No, No. 853 Blog has some footage. Here's one of the shocking videos he's posted:

It reminds us that some people have been missing a football season all summer. It's just about to start again, is it not?

Here is a map of London Burning.

Doilum has some pix of Deptford – he got there a bit earlier than us. Here are ours...

Starting at around 8.45pm, HSBC has a brick positioned to show you the best way to keep your money safe...
Burning car in Douglas Square
 Police guard HSBC and Barclays
 Empty jewellery boxes from H Samuel's
 Greggs plundered for doughnuts and crisps
 H and T Pawnbrokers
 Doughnut tray, crisp packets and jewellery boxes
 Just one small flame now in the headlight


  1. perhaps some one was after getting some water from Wavelengths?

  2. I just did a quick tour of the High Street, which was looking more shuttered than shattered. The two banks and Tescos Express had had a fair amount of glass damage. The Betting Shops seem to have taken a worse battering though only the William Hill at the north end of the street seems to have been breached. There were a couple of battered gambling machines lying in the pavement outside the shop's missing door. The entrance to Greggs was boarded up but there was staff inside cleaning up.

    I didn't take any pictures because I've already seen enough riot photography to last me for a good while.

  3. Excellent coverage, Lawless Sue!

  4. Cheers, Anon, but it looks like my report was incomplete. We didn't go up the north end last night so missed the William Hills. Marmoset, the William Hills at the south end was definitely breached too – probably boarded up this morning? We also missed the side of Paddy Power which was smashed (and now all boarded up). Looks like they had a go at the fence round the back yard too.