It’s already kicked off up the road.
I’m playing phone tree with various friends and loved ones, getting them to their respective destinations by feeding them updates found on twitter.
Last night, a couple of hours after eventually nodding off over the sound of helicopters and sirens, I stirred to the smell of smoke. Unfamiliar smoke. But then, I’ve never smelled a burnt out car before. (I assume that’s what it was. I’ll let you know tomorrow.)
My first thought: This is right on schedule. My second thought: Gosh, it’s going to be off the hook tomorrow night. (Tonight.) My third thought: Just wait until it spreads to Spain. Our Southern neighbour has a youth unemployment rate of 46%. That’s a riot.
BBC Breakfast told me this morning -in it’s usual hyperbolic fashion (it’s a dreadful programme)- that more of London was on fire last night than at any time since the Blitz.
In an odd way, that made me smile.
Let me explain. Too often, “the Blitz spirit” is invoked (literally) to explain or understand how Londoners cope with certain things. And over-invoking, like familiarity, leads to contempt. I have honestly heard it referenced when discussing how people have coped with road works affecting their bus route.
Thing of it is… “the Blitz spirit” is real. And I’m glad the BBC invoked it.
Because what keeps me eternally in love with London -and I am eternally in love with London, wherever I live- is that it is the original theatrum mundi. Whatever happens to the world happens to London.
Terrorism, banking crises, racism, class battles, wealth, food trends, art, immigration concerns. As previously mentioned, the mayor of London’s upcoming book is called The People Who Made The City That Made the World.
London has been continuously occupied for 10,000 years. Bears used to fish from the glacial flow of the Thames. The Romans built a heavily fortified port here to keep safe the exports that were swelling their coffers. Normans, Catholics, Republicans, plagues, fires, floods.
When the bombs started to fall during the Blitz it was the first time Londoners had been attacked in their homes for a thousand years. That’s what she’s like. Here she is, still. You can’t stop London. If she feels like it, she stops you.
So here we sit, with round four of a much larger game kicking off around us.
The much larger game is the absolute abandonment of the youth of the developed world, the outrage at unpunished bankers who have become obscenely rich by robbing us of the futures we have all worked for. It’s appalling, misdirected rage. The damage over the last three nights has been in poor areas, for fuck’s sake. Rioting is terrible magical target selection.
Some isolated incidents of arson and a few stolen TVs don’t make this a local thing.
This is happening to London because it’s happening to the world.
And tonight, one way or another, London will get to speak for us all.