Rioting again broke out in London this last Saturday. It occurred in a small area of parkland in the SE19 district, known commonly as Crystal Palace. Thousands of people of all ages, even including small children and the elderly, were involved.
A police helicopter put in a very brief appearance, circled once then went on its way. Two foot policemen were seen at some point in the afternoon, making their way through the jostling melee. They too appeared to have little concern for the mayhem taking place all around them.
It was a pleasantly different sort of mayhem. We’d had quite enough in this city of that recent infamous variety which has been plastered all over the the world’s TV and computer screens. And one which I doubt will get any mention at all. That’s a shame because this is an aspect of London which is one of the most admirable things this recently ravaged city has to offer to the world – its multiculturalism and the ability of the vast majority of its inhabitants of whatever colour and creed to get on together.
On Saturday there was pretty-well every race and colour under the sun. The atmosphere throughout was one of common pleasure and accord.
The newly-extended playground got a severe bashing by black kids, white kids, brown kids and anything-in-between kids. And by a few adults as well. Outside of a theme park like Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many children at one and the same time scrambling, leaping, rushing around, climbing, swinging, spinning about and generally having a good time. Or so many adults sitting on the grass – many with babies in pushchairs – just chatting, laughing, drinking wine or beer and just – being. There were so many people throughout most of the afternoon that to get from one place to another in the park you literally had to pick your way through them.
The music was, to say the least, catholic. Live music spanned everything from rock to Ivor Novello, along with a disco thrown in in between. People clapped, people jigged about. And when evening crept in and the time came to wrap it up and go home, they did it slowly, easily and over a long period of time, many sitting on the grass talking until dusk.
In this area of London – a part which is turning into a serious cultural, artistic hub – there are a huge number of nationalities. A quick tour of the restaurants for example along the three streets which form what is known as The Triangle will reveal Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Polish, Brazilian, Italian, French, English, Thai, Portuguese, Nepalese – and even then I’ve maybe missed one or two – for which, if so, I apologize. (EDIT: I realize I left out the Sardinian one – which is really excellent). Walk around these streets enough times and before long you will find yourself greeting and being greeted by shopkeepers and restaurateurs who recognize your face. The only thing I can think of that the area is missing at the moment is its own cinema. But that’s being worked on. It is a small and very friendly village-type community. There are a number of them throughout this sprawling metropolis both north and south of the river. They don’t get enough publicity. I hope this helps. I’ve seen comments on Facebook, in the aftermath of last week, calling London and its inhabitants ‘scum’. Easy, isn’t it? Especially when you know so little about it.