18 June 2007
Depressed and depressing, violent and blighted. Last week's Newsnight film in its series Broken Society, recorded almost entirely in the vicinity of the bus stop I use to get home from Manor House tube station, dealt with the so-called 'postcode wars' in NE London, the alarming rise of the gang mentality whereby youths in Tottenham will challenge and attack Hackney counterparts who dare to stray into "their" territory. And of course vice versa. The familiar, gallingly so, cycle of poor education leading to drift leading to crime leading to prison leading to more crime.
Emerging from the tube at Manor House tonight, however, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all a bad dream, or a joke in poor taste played on the Newsnight viewer, or a ruse to crash the property prices in the area. Sure, there were one or two crazy people about, there always are, it's a metropolis. But there was no moral panic in the air, no one skulking or stalking. None of the shops have installed the cage-like fittings you see in other inner cities (Liverpool, for instance). At the bus stop, a young woman was reading a book. Another asked directions from a guy who responded with a cheerful smile and a half-decent attempt at a chat-up, but she took off with a laugh and a wave when she knew the way to go. Meanwhile I looked up at the summer sky to see Venus and the Moon in twilit conjunction, a pinky quilt of cloud sailing north on the southerly breeze, and a swallow, jinking its way over the kebab shop.