I was evacuated from my office today.
I’m from a leafy, fairly affluent area of West London. I’ve lived here all my life; I’ve grown up here, went to school here, and was lucky enough to find a job here when I left university. You could say, I suppose, that I know the area quite well.
I try to walk to work as much as I can. In most ways, the walk home from work is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. I’m quite the people watcher, and there’s nothing more wonderful than ambling down the High Road, past cafés and shops, seeing people being people. Today was very different, however.
Just after lunch, I noticed a few police officers walking up and down the road on which my office is located. They seemed to be attracting a lot of attention. They’d go up to a shop, stand in the doorway, poke their heads in and wait for a staff member to come out on to the street. I’d seen all the news coverage from down the road in Ealing, so it was understandable that there would be a heightened police presence in town today. I acknowledged this, and got back to work.
An hour or so later, I received a text message from a friend. “My friend just text me this. Are you OK? Apparently the riots have already spread to Chiswick.” I looked out of the window, and replied back, assuring my friend that everything is fine. More work ensued.
A couple of hours after this, I received an e-mail from reception. They’d had a visit from a police officer, and had been advised to evacuate the building. Due to this, they’d be locking the doors at 3:30. We were all advised to go home.
Reacting to some rumours online (which after all, are just rumours), I decided to leave. I exit the office, then walk up and down the road, which is adjacent to the High Road. Everything is shut, save for a convenience store at the end of the road. A clothes shop had all of its stock pulled away from the windows, implying the police had warned business owners to prepare for the worst. I pass a café which is closing, with its staff congregating near the entrance. A woman says, “All we can do is go home and hope that things are okay tomorrow.”
Moving to the High Road, things are quiet; too quiet. Things are eerie. There’s something a little odd about seeing fruit stall traders packing up their wares so early, their bare stalls a poignant indication that something is afoot. Shops are closed, mostly, and the pavements are relatively empty, as a result. Police officers are on every corner. I pass a shop with a board over the door, with a sign stuck to it apologising for their early closure. A local hi-fi store had ‘whited out’ its windows, while the owner of a nearby TV retailer stood at the front of his shop, Sellotaping bin bags to the windows there. Domino’s Pizza was boarded up altogether.
I don’t mean to make the situation here seem worse than it is. Indeed, there is no guarantee that anything will actually happen. For that, I think we can only wait and see what happens tomorrow. I’ve already pointed out that rumours are nothing but rumour. As I’m writing this, the sun is beginning to set, so I expect if anything is going to happen, this is about the time it’s going to kick off. Still, I can’t shake that feeling of walking home today. Even if no tragedy will befall our fair town this eve, we’ve all certainly been rattled.
To anyone in or around London, or indeed to anyone, anywhere that has experienced rioting, my thoughts are with you tonight. Stay safe, people.