Posts Tagged ‘london’

Trying to make sense of the senseless violence

August 11, 2011

Over the past few days, many people have tried to analyse why the riots started. Many have said that they ‘understand’, even if they do not condone, the way young people in the UK are behaving because they are so ‘detached’ from society.

These thugs (and they seem to be aged between 10-20) are on a rampage smashing up shops, burning down homes and in the tragic event that unfolded last night, killing people in cold bold.

Some argue it is because of the government spending cuts to youth services, because many of these children need help and attention which has supposedly declined since David Cameron was voted in to head up the country.

Government spending cuts have not yet been put in place though, and statistics show British expenditure this year is actually up when compared to the same time frame in 2010.

I believe that instead of the government not giving these youths enough, they have given them too much. These children, most from the poorer end of society, have often been brought up in troubled homes, living on council estates and not having good role models in their lives. The British benefit system is so vast that many do not see the need to work – why bother when you can get given a house for free and an income for nothing?

The younger you are and the more children you have also increases your chance of getting up the free-housing ladder. If you’re an unemployed single mother, your prospects are greater still and it won’t be long before you’ll be getting benefits for your children, your rent paid for, exempt from paying taxes – such as council tax – and even enjoying free dentistry.

Looking at it this way, it is easy to see why many have jumped on the free-ride train.

Unfortunately, getting something for free doesn’t bring many people joy. How can you have appreciation for something if you haven’t worked hard to earn it? How can you feel a sense of purpose when you feel you have nothing to lose or anything to gain?

To say that these people are struggling to get work is a myth too. When I arrived in the UK, excited and disillusioned about the amazing journalism job I believed I would find within two months, it was disheartening when it took two years. Arriving in the middle of the recession meant I had to work in a call centre, become a shoe shiner, and work as a waitress in a diner – basically every scummy job you could think of aside from selling my body.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t awful and that I didn’t feel like packing up and going home. But I stuck at it and things slowly improved. What this does prove is that even when the UK was in its worst economic state it had seen for decades, during the recession of 2008-2009, jobs were still to be found. They’re always hiring at McDonalds as they say!

When I finally got some money in the door, I even managed a holiday on my minimal budget. But it was the best holiday I’ve ever had because I felt I’d earned it.

As these youths loot stores and steal their neighbours’ goods – many of which are small business owners who will lose their livelihoods as the items are stripped from their shelves – I can’t help but get the feeling that these thugs feel they deserve it.

The government has given them so much already – why not take a little more?

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London’s looted as police tell us to stay indoors

August 8, 2011

Tonight as I write this, London is under siege. I can hear helicopters humming above my terrace flat and police sirens wailing.

Damage is widespread throughout Brixton

I’ve just returned from Brixton where the streets were eerily quiet. I was the only one heading on the bus into the area and cop riot vans raced past me, looking for where the incidents are.

Not a soul on the bus

The problem is – the riots are everywhere. What started in north London, from the shooting of one man (whether innocent or not is still unknown for certain) in Tottenham, has now spread to the south, Croydon. Along the way riots have started. The violence is everywhere now – from Hackney to Deptford; Oxford Circus to Islington. Police are warning us on the news that we should stay indoors.

When I got into Brixton, police were scattered out the front of shops that had been looted. There was little activity going on but the atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The few people I passed were skittish, unsure whether they should be there.

Looters smashed into this phone store

I saw a woman, about my age, walking quickly past me carrying a bin bag, speaking on the phone in a panicked voice. It was only after a moment I realised she had a backpack and a big handbag in tow too. Shortly after, a man ran across the road dragging two suitcases, casting nervous glances over his shoulder. Then I realised – people were fleeing with their belongings.

Topshop and Morleys boarded up

I walked down the street and saw Topshop boarded up in an attempt to stop hooligans breaking in. Other shops weren’t so lucky. Across the road H&M had had its windows smashed, mannequins lying on the floor, arms broken and flung to the opposite sides of the shop. Dresses had been ripped from the hangers and clothes’ racks pushed over.

H&M

H&M

The Footlocker had been burnt, all three floors, and the alarm was repeatedly sounding. Although the fire was out, the area was still cordoned off as smashed glass scattered the footpath. Three policemen stood out the front, guarding it from further looting. I met some residents who were worried about the people who lived above the shop.

Mobile phone shop

McDonalds

Electronics store

I was surprised to see a mother, her two kids alongside her, racing excitedly up the street screaming into her phone about what was going on.

The mood was dark and few people were coming out of the tube station. As I headed back on the bus – the 109 that leads to Croydon, which is ablaze at this moment – I couldn’t help but notice the four men who got on behind me. I say ‘men’ but really they were probably only about 16. They seemed twitchy and were talking amongst themselves in low voices about getting to Croydon. I couldn’t help but feel that London is being over run by youths, who are no more than this age.

 

Riot van

As the tension builds tonight, the same question keeps arising on all the news channels – ‘How did we let the young people in this
country get to this point?’

The snow makes London slushy… and sluggish

December 6, 2010

It snowed in London in November which is very unusual, apparently. What was unsurprising was that London went into complete chaos yet again and nobody could walk along a footpath let alone get to work.

View from my office.

There were 50 mile traffic jams (!) and all trains were cancelled. It took a colleague four hours to get in, only to find that most of the staff didn’t even bother because they knew they’d get into trouble with so much snow everywhere.

Struggling to work

 

I’ve been living in London for nearly two years now and the novelty of snow is starting to wear off a little. Especially when it turns to muddy slush or freezes over and I fall on my arse in front of a group of school children. (That happened).

I swear, only a couple of weeks back I was taking photos of the autumn leaves everywhere and then, it felt like a few days later, I couldn’t see our garden bench! That’s how much snow fell in the space of a few days.

Autumn leaves a few weeks ago.

There was an uproar in the press with people complaining about the UK not being able to handle a little snow fall and at work I spoke to people from other places in the world (Canada, Scandinavia) and certainly felt like we were the laughing stock!

Sigh. Although I’ll stop being such a pessimist – the snow does make it feel more Christmassy! No cocktails by the pool for Chrissy this year!

Christmas tree in Covent Garden

Good things come to those who wait

May 19, 2010

I’ve had a good week. On Monday I was offered a job as an editor at a business and finance magazine and with glee I accepted it.

After 18 months of living in the UK it finally feels as though my partner and I have finally cracked it and landed good jobs.

Everyone thought we were mad (even we thought we were a bit crazy) to leave perfectly good jobs in Australia at the end of 2008 and move to London. The UK was facing its biggest recession since World War II and there were about two million people out of work – a statistic that we joined.

I won’t lie because it hasn’t been easy getting where we stand today. I worked as a shoe shiner, in a greasy spoons restaurant and in a call centre before I finally got media work. A year and a half later I can look back on those times and laugh but when we were living through it, it wasn’t so great.

We very nearly ran out of money and even had to borrow $200 from my parents to pay the rent one week. I was ashamed to ask for the money because it seemed like admitting failure. But I had to swallow my pride or face being kicked out on the street!

It just goes to show that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough to get it, it will come your way! I’ve really learnt the virtue of patience over the past 18 months – something that I never had before.

Thank goodness things are finally looking up! It’s been a good week!

Things will happen if you work hard enough!

March 10, 2010

After months of hard work, my boyfriend has landed his dream job. I’m so happy for him, he really deserves it and it just goes to show that perseverance pays off!

He’s had a lot of disappointments over the past year, just as I have, as we’ve tried repeatedly to crack into the London journalism world in the UK.

It didn’t help that we arrived in the middle of the recession after 1,000 people had been laid off at the BBC and 500 local newspapers had shut down. This limited our chances, considering my partner worked for the ABC in Australia and I worked for a local paper!

It was a hard slog and whilst trying to make money we did any job we could to pay the bills. I was even a shoe shiner at one point! No joke! To think I’d gone from reporting on bankers to shining their shoes… it was demoralising to say the least. Now I can laugh about it but at the time I was seriously considering giving up and flying back to Australia and to safety.

I’m so glad I didn’t because getting through those tough times has made me feel as though I can do anything these days. My boyfriend did so many internships over the past year at so many organisations – Sky, ITV, Channel Four – and it was always the same story. They said he was perfect for the job, it’s just that there was no work going.

Finally he’s got a job in an organisation that he really enjoys and is back to working in the media. He’s loving it and he deserves it more than anyone. Now I just have to crack a job I love and we’ll be here for the long haul.

I won’t give up though – this past year has taught me that if you want something badly enough and work hard enough to get it it’ll come your way. I think it’s also important to push your boundaries and try new things.  If I had of gone home when things got tough, where would I be now? Back to where I started, doing the same old things in boring ol’ Perth… yawn.

Ah London…you’re beginning to grow on me

February 23, 2010

London town

My friend is coming to visit me today and stay for a few days. It’s her first time in London and I’m really looking forward to showing her around.

I must be starting to become a London local because I was thinking to all the bars and places we could take her and then I realised that I know this city a lot better than I did a year ago. It has taken awhile, but at long last it’s starting to feel like home.

When I first arrived – I’ll be honest – I didn’t really warm to London. It’s one of those cities that seem to grow on you gradually. Now I love it. It’s not the prettiest of cities. You don’t walk down the streets and marvel at the cuteness of it, like you might do in a city such as Paris. London is grimier than that. But there is a certain something about the city that excites me. The hustle and bustle, the old pubs that have people spilling out of them onto the pavement, the immaculate terraced houses of Notting Hill and the rougher streets of Tooting. It’s all exciting and no matter what the day or the time, you can find something to do and somewhere to go.

Londoners also aren’t the warmest of people. They’re very reserved and it’s hard to get to know them. Once you do break the barrier down though, they can be very friendly people. And after a year of being here I’m slowly starting to break the barrier and become friends with the Brits. (Most of my friends over here are Australian, even though I’m ashamed to admit it!)

So when my friend said she was coming to visit, I picked my brain and organised her an itinerary. We’ll be visiting places where we can get 2 for 1 cocktails and we’ll be eating at restaurants where I can get 50 per cent off because I know if you visit a certain website beforehand you can get a voucher. Living in London is expensive, but if you’ve been living here awhile you can learn to get around the expense.

I’m even becoming a local at a bar in Covent Garden because I go there nearly every week for cocktails and my boyfriend and I celebrated our birthdays there. Will definitely have to pay that bar a visit when my friend arrives…they practically know me by name there!

The worries of living in a big city

January 15, 2010

Since I started living in London I’ve had to worry about certain things that never even crossed my mind when I lived in Perth, Australia. Living in a big city you have to think about your safety and be on alert all the time, otherwise you could be mugged, robbed, raped and so on.

I don’t live in the most salubrious of neighbourhoods and just a few months ago a man was murdered at the end of my street in front of his granddaughter. He was in his sixties and the attack was apparently racially motivated. He was Muslim and was coming out of a mosque when he was set upon by a gang of youths, the youngest only 12.

So of course, these thoughts cross my mind when I’m walking around the streets near my house and I always have my keys in hand to use as a knuckleduster if I was ever to be attacked. I don’t walk around on my own at night, whereas in Australia I used to walk around where I lived in the dark and not worry at all. (I also used to leave the house without locking the door – those days are long gone.)

It’s annoying not feeling safe where you live, but the truth is that if I were to move to a wealthier London neighbourhood, I’d probably just have as much of a chance getting mugged there. Some of my friends take more precautions than myself – one girlfriend removes all her jewellery and stashes it in her handbag before leaving for a night out. I can’t be bothered, but perhaps I should make more of an effort?

Two nights ago my friends and I went to a nearby pub for dinner and drinks. We were sitting at a table near the door and one of my friends got up to go to the bathroom and another went out the front to have a cigarette. When they were gone, two men came into the pub and stole my friend’s handbag from underneath our noses.

My mate came back from the toilet to discover her handbag gone, even though there were seven of us sitting at the table at the time. She lost her iPod, phone, bank cards and some cash. The thieves were so sneaky that we didn’t notice a thing.

In the future I think I’ll be keeping my handbag on my lap when I go to the pub, which is annoying but one of the precautions I guess you have to take when living in a big city.

Have you ever been robbed? What precautions do you take? And do you feel safe where you live?

The festive season is upon us!

December 21, 2009

I’m really starting to look forward to the festive season. I have so much planned I pretty much don’t have a spare day in the one and a half weeks I have off work!

What makes it even more exciting is that the festive season will be in London, which means more things to do and see than the small city that I come from, back in Australia.

Some of our plans involve going to Winter Wonderland – a festival in Hyde Park full of German markets, rides, Christmas lights and ice-skating – as well as some going to a huge IMAX Theatre to see the new Avatar movie. Also want to try and go to a pantomime show as well during my time off…something that is particularly English!

 

The weather is really starting to have a festive feel about it – watching the snow fall and being careful not to slip on the white frost everywhere. My traditional live Christmas tree doesn’t look out of place for once, now that it’s decorated in an English terrace house!

I’ve got all my Christmas shopping out the way and spent some of the weekend making Christmas decorations to put up and on the table for when my family comes around for a Christmas meal. All the presents are wrapped and sitting under the tree… my biggest worry is that the tree won’t make it to Christmas because the heating is drying it out!

What are you doing for Christmas?

White Christmas in London?

December 17, 2009

I got a little bit excited yesterday. I was stuck at home in bed with a cold, with the lap top resting on my lap when I read someone’s Facebook status that it was snowing outside. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window and witnessed the snowflakes falling from the sky.

There is something magical about watching snow fall, I must admit. Especially in December, when snow fall is quite rare (apparently) for London. It’s a four in one chance that it will snow on Christmas day and because we’ll be outside of London at our friends’ house, I’m hoping that it’ll be an even greater chance.

I must say that if this is the case then I’ll just have to take back what I said in my previous blog about preferring the sunshine at Christmas. A white Christmas would be the ultimate, especially in London with all the Christmas decorations and jolliness. It must be the only time of the year that Londoners manage to smile and greet their neighbours.

And the best news of all is that eight inches of snow is predicted for tomorrow – meaning that we might be snowed in and won’t have to go to work! Now that’s a nice early Christmas present for me! If it does snow again, I’ll promise to take photos and put them up on here. Merry Christmas everyone!