Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sin City

When I told my dad I was moving to Brixton in South London, I swear I nearly finished him off.
“What about the riots?” He spluttered. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the events he was describing happened two decades ago, and instead tried to reassure him that I wasn’t moving to that part of SW9. He was even less impressed when I told him I was moving close to Finsbury Park five years later. “What, where that mosque those terrorists went to is?”
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking my dad is racist. Not at all. He has just never lived anywhere where anything happens. He grew up in rural Lincolnshire before a short stint at Loughborough Uni. Then it was Smalltownsville all the way. I don’t hold this against him. Let’s face it, before I moved to London my geographical history was no more spectacular. But blinded by the bright lights of the big city, rather than worrying about its hidden dangers I just put my head down and got on with it.
Nine years on, I still do. To some extent. But that doesn’t mean that I am not aware that London has its shady corners. Only two years ago London was plagued by a plethora of teenage murders. One of them just around the corner from my home. Six months on, a man was shot in a shop about 500 metres from my flat. Just before that a man was stabbed less than 50 metres from my front door.
I’m not going to lie to you. These incidents starkly reminded me of the darker side of London that is literally on my doorstep. But they haven’t stopped me enjoying my life in the big city. Okay, so I carry a personal alarm and keep it in my pocket if I am walking home after dark. But it doesn’t prevent me from going out and making the most of the capital’s delights.
The way I see it is that, at the end of the day, you are either in the wrong place at the wrong time or you aren’t. I am fairly confident that no gangsters are after me personally, but I am not stupid enough to think that innocent people don’t get caught in the crossfire. The odds are surely stacked in my favour. I doubt I am more likely to get shot or stabbed in London than killed in a road traffic accident anywhere else in the country. And as I don’t drive, I hope the two balance each other out. I just keep my eyes open and my wits about me – and hope that fate has not dealt me a duff hand.
In the last few months the violence crept closer once more. Walking home from Kings Cross a few weeks ago I passed a crime scene. Another man, not even in his second decade, had been murdered. Last week I came out of the tube at Finsbury Park to find my route home obstructed by a police blockage. Another stabbing on the bus.
But it isn’t just young men who are at risk in London. I recently met a group of girlfriends in Soho. The evening passed without incident. It wasn’t until the next day that I received an email telling me that a woman was raped that night, metres from where we met. Last week I received an email telling me that two women had been sexually assaulted – yards from where I live. And on my route home. Scary stuff. I thanked the people who let me know about these despicable attacks, but carried on about my business, just without my headphones stuck in my ears.
London is a densely populated city. An in any densely populated place, you also have a higher number of murderers and sex offenders per square mile than your average English town. Sad but true. It isn’t that London is a particularly evil place, it is merely a victim of its own popularity. If it was all doom and gloom, a lot less people would have chosen to live here. Including me. But whilst I may appear flippant about my own personal safety Dad, please rest assured that I will be looking over my shoulder when I walk home tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment