Journey home through the carnage
I spend my life waiting for the train at Seven Sisters. I have done it so many times I couldn’t count, it being the only way of getting home to Enfield where I live on the outskirts of London. I plan social occasions around the times of the trains knowing that I need to be in Seven Sisters at either 17 or 47 minutes past the hour to avoid the dreaded half an hour wait if you just miss a train. When going the other way I know exactly where to sit in order to align myself exactly with the entrance to the underground when I get off. Today at Seven Sisters waiting for the train is different. It is the day after the most violent outbreak of rioting that I have ever seen. North London has been attacked by wave after wave of mob anger over two days and I am travelling home through some of the worst affected areas; Tottenham, Edmonton Green and finally Enfield Town.
The reports from Enfield have been vague, there has been shock and outrage screamed all over Twitter, reports that this and that has been burnt or looted. When waiting for the train I don’t know how close my house, situated as it is 10 minutes from the town centre, has come to the violence or whether anyone I know has been caught up in it. I am worried and that seems to be the shared emotion of all passengers on the station as they clutch their free newspapers, every one with a huge front page picture of the burnt out carpetright store that lies in ruins not five minutes from the station. The signs that anything is different today of all days are tiny but telling. We are grouped slightly closer together on the platform, few are saying anything, there is the distinct smell of fire in the air. Only the youth have retained their confidence, brashly reporting on their escapades via mobile phone accompanied by wild gesticulations. The train is late; at least some things never change.
When it comes I board and usually at this point I get my book straight out and immerse myself for the journey I have done a million times before. This time however I am glued to the window, watching for Armageddon to unfold in front of my eyes. In reality life goes on much as normal, two small children play with a ball on the top balcony of their high rise flat, a dad pushes a young child on a playground swing. I briefly catch a glimpse of crowds gathered on Tottenham High Road but it is not until I reach Enfield that I encounter the damage done over night. This is perhaps the most shocking part of the journey as it is the last place in the world where I would expect to witness the clear up from a riot.
I have never had much affiliation for Enfield, always wishing I came from somewhere more exciting, cool or lively. But to see it now is heartbreaking. Many shops have chosen not to open today and the shutters are firmly pulled down as if it was the dead of night. Much of the town centre is still closed off by police but you can see the street strewn with bricks and other debris where the main part of the violence happened. A jewellery store has had it shutters snapped in half and is completely smashed in; you can only imagine the fit of violence that led to that level of destruction. The parade of shops that leads to my street have all had their windows broken. Hordes of Enfielders are out in force tutting and gasping their way around the town. There is a real feeling that the place was under attack last night. Every body has an opinion which they are only to ready to share. A mother was talking to my local post man about how she felt she had to show her kids the destruction in order to show them “how not to behave”.
I round the corner and am on my street. There is my house in front of me, it looks the same as it did when I left it before all this began. You fear though that it will take a very long time for normality to completely return to this part of North London.
Read more at Thomas’ blog