Monday, 8 August 2011

London Riots

There is a kind of communal madness going on in London at the moment. This is the third night of incidents but the situation is escalating. Outbreaks of rioting, looting and violence are occurring  all over the city.

I arrived home from work at about 10.30 and was flipping between the BBC and Sky news channels and talking to a friend on the phone about the situation, when I heard shouting in the street. When I looked out I saw a group of youths attacking the pub across the road which had closed earlier than usual, presumably as a precaution. They were smashing the windows and kicking the doors in. They eventually broke through and a couple of them entered the premises.

Several neighbours were at their windows who were clearly calling the police and there were staff still on the premises. Although I didn’t see them leave, I don’t think the gang hung around for very long.

This was a relatively minor incident in the overall scheme of things, but it could have been much worse. I suspect that they grabbed a few bottles and moved on without following the trend in other areas of setting fire to the building. I have no idea where they went but I doubt that this was the first, or the last, attack that they made this evening.

It is now shortly after 1.00am and news reports are coming in all the time of similar rioting happening all over town. This is unlike anything we have ever experienced before.  Riots are not unknown, but in the past they have been restricted to a relatively small area. This something quite new and very disturbing.

There are reports of police inaction but to be fair there is probably very little they can do. There are so many incidents that there is no way that they can contain all of this craziness.

None of this bears any relationship to the incident that sparked the whole thing. Looting and burning is not protesting. Looting and burning is vandalism and theft. People are losing their homes and livelihoods and  before very long someone is going to lose their life.

I love London, and I am proud to be a Londoner. I really couldn’t bear to live anywhere else, but at this moment I feel shamed by what is happening. It’s impossible to see how far this will go and, for most of us, there is little we can do but sit back and watch.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Sewer and the Olympics

I saw a report yesterday about the Thames Tideway Scheme, the controversial plan to run a rainwater sewer from Hammersmith to Beckton/Crossness. Apparently  Chicago has one of these that works quite well there. However, their experience has led them to suggest that a similar system may not be suited to London and many experts here, as well as several of the councils affected by this hugely expensive scheme, seem to agree.

The really interesting thing is that in addition to the sewer, Chicago is developing an innovative system to control rainwater runoff. Known  as the Green Alleys Program, they are using permeable surfaces on a number of side streets and in the parking lane of some larger streets, allowing rainwater to drain directly into the earth rather than being channeled into the sewers (the direct opposite of our obsession with paving over our front gardens). The scheme is in its early stages but shows great promise and is being extended. It has also been used on parking lots and at least one school has a graded parking lot that drains into a kind of pond/bog garden which ultimately has the same effect. This, and a whole range of other schemes, aim to make Chicago the Greenest City in America. We could do far worse than steal a few of these ideas for our own use!

I don't like paved over front gardens for all kinds of reasons but there are existing systems in use here that utilise a kind of concrete honeycomb with grass growing in the cells of the comb so that you have a hard standing that is barely visible AND drains water away............mind you, you still can't have a garden wall or a decent bit of privet!

.......and another thing. One year from yesterday will be the busiest day at the Olympics and nerves are starting fray with regards to the transport system. We, Londoners that is, are apparently being advised to change our travel arrangements, take our holidays, or even to work from home to relieve the pressure on the buses and the tube. These people clearly do not live in London but surely inhabit the homeland of the mysterious Cloud Cuckoo. Despite the wonders of the internet and the mobile phone most people are still tied to a work place and a job that is site specific and some of those people are involved in jobs which, if they were to take the current advice, could have an adverse affect on the visitors experience of the Capital.
.........bugger it's too late now to dump the whole lot into the laps of the Parisians, can't we just sell it to a corrupt Russian oligarch to use for his own dubious ends.

Enough for now, maybe I'm just grumpy because I've been too hot and uncomfortable for the last couple of days, and I'm tired because sleeping hasn't been easy. We are, after all a temperate, if not a temperant, society..........but good news........the weather is getting worse hoorah!