After my post-holiday-exercise-regime run I head to the pub to meet Kim and Shereen for a pint or two (forgotten post holiday diet already) and at the start of a fresh round of drinks my friend Amie rings me, panicked, to say there is a mob of 50 hooded youths (and growing rapidly) and riot police outside her flat which is just down the road. I instruct the girls to get up and leave, immediately. Not saying why but impressed they don’t question me and abandoned full pints without hesitation. I questioned this later, scolded myself for not sculling it, little did I know I would need a stiff drink just a short time later.
My flat is just off the main street of Clapham Junction, above the Pizza Metro, not far from where the trouble is, and I argue with Kim about her walking home, trying to make her ring a taxi but finally compromising that my flatmate, Kate Jones, will walk her home along the back road that connects our two houses. When she gets home she rings to say everything has kicked off the these hooded youths have began a demolition spree and now Jones is now trapped at her friend’s house, randomly next door to Kim’s. Eventually Jones rings our flatmate Paul to go and fetch her, I try to make Paul take a taxi but he’s intent on being the hero and you can’t argue with an Irish criminal lawyer, they think they know it all. They arrive back to the flat a bit dazed by what they’ve just witnessed although they didn’t feel unsafe because at this stage the frenzied youths are only focused on stealing, one even stepped aside with his plasma TV said ‘excuse me’ and let them pass.
Meanwhile, I have Shereen at my flat freaking out. She’s fresh off the boat and already having a tough start to London life so these circumstances are escalating her uncertainties. At the pub I’d been telling her how great London is and now she’s shouting at me ‘I thought you said London was safe’ .....um yeah..... damn you karma you always like to show up and prove me wrong don’t you. Amazingly, I remain calm and somewhat composed. My friends who know me well will be doubtful that this is the truth. Instead of having the usual Kate Senior Ridiculous Meltdown I do practical things like change out of long floaty maxi dress into shorts and lace ups to enable running from window to window for rubbernecking opportunities. I also worked out a fire escape route, which involved climbing out windows onto neighbours roofs and a lot of shimmying down drain pipes…..that did not impress me much. We turned off the lights so we could hang out our second floor windows and survey the scene without the risk of being identified, occasionally my anger overpowered my ‘practical’ nature and I yell out ‘you little mungrels’. Then I smartly retreat because a friend in Peckham reported petrol bombs were now being thrown around his street.
I set up camp in our living room with the news on, flicking between searching on the Internet for more information, ranting on Facebook and swapping stories on instant chat because all the phone networks are down. Between Amie’s roof window view of Debenhams, Kim’s flat in view of KFC on lavender hill (plus Laura on next st) and my flat on the corner of the escape route, we form a triangle over Clapham and I can get instant updates of what’s going on.
From her window Kim can see hundreds of the rioters trashing the shops and restaurants in the heart of Clapham Junction. She said she saw a lady drive her car up, park one child up as security and drag off another child to help her bring armfuls of loot from Debenhams and filled the car before skidding off. Meanwhile I'm watching in absolute disbelief as teenagers, some just children, are staggering down the streets with bulging sacks fastened from sheets. The smug little buggers were not even running away, they swaggered around like they owned the show, and for about 7 hours they did. No policemen in sight, the riot police stayed half an hour and then nobody could recall their presence. When eventually the police do turn up they stand by and watch the carnage, thumbs tucked into their bullet proof vests and a smirk on their face. I imagine the Bombay rugby team could have done a better job than them.
The majority of the rioters are young and there appears to be as many girls as there are boys, but it’s hard to identify accurately under their hooded disguise. Some of the stuff they were hauling off was unarguably a good score, although reports will later come out that a lot of the electronics can be tracked. I spot three young girls with arm loads of awful beige grandma style handbags; I roll my eyes and mutter ‘amateurs’. Another bright spark is sprinting past with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s stretched out like a trophy. The ridiculousness reaches its peak when I witness a looter with his plasma waiting at the lights for the green man to flash go.
Our flat door sits nestled around the back of the of the Italian pizza shop, a five foot wall juts a metre out from the side of the house. Usually it’s the Italians perch for a cigarette break but tonight the hoodrats are stacking their loot against it, waiting for the wheels to arrive, and we can’t help but joke about opening our door and snaking their loot back off them (to hand in to the police of course).
* There is no such range of Alexander McQueen at primark prices.
The day after the night before.....