Saturday, June 12, 2004


It was mid-afternoon on the aforesaid hot Tuesday as I cycled up to Hampstead for a swim. The traffic stopped at a red light on the roundabout at Archway in North London. A man began to cross the road. He was middle-aged, short, looked like an alcoholic in a sober phase. He has two crutches, and is barefoot on his left, but wears a boot on his right. He takes two meagre paces on his crutches, and then..

His trousers started slipping down. The fly was undone. He was not wearing underwear. They fell to the middle of his thighs. The car drivers stopped beside me watched, unblinkingly, unflappably. For 10 seconds his equipment was fully on view, while he became aware of it and tried to manoeuvre his trousers upward while perched on two crutches. Eventually he succeeded, and went back to the beginning of the pedestrian crossing, because the lights were going to change again.

The afternoon before the London Mayoral Elections. Forest Gate again. There are two Bobbies walking and having a jolly chat. Actually walking, as though they are on the beat. Ken Livingstone seems to have strong armed the police into putting on a good final show. There is a car stopped at the traffic lights, its windows are half-open, and music at a moderate level is playing on its sound system. The two guys in front are larking about a bit. And then...

The police went over to the car, and told them to pull over up ahead for a word...
Zero Tolerance has finally reached Forest Gate. Even I was amazed, as I saw no reason why the car occupants deserved this, and I'm usually all for discipline! And the stopping of this car was not going to easily improve ethnic relationships, as the police belonged to their classical stereotype, civilians of which are as uncommon as panda bears in East London.

1.30 in the middle of the night. Walking past Manor Park station, whose lights are kept on for the Mini-cab office, although there are no more trains after 12.30. And then...

As if it were a commuter who was just returning home from a day in the office, a fox saunters out of the train station, looks left and right and then crosses the road

Thursday night, about 10.30 pm. There is a helicopter beating the air in the sky above. Outside, police and an ambulance have assembled at the junction of Capel Road and Forest Drive. The police have blocked off Forest Drive and cordonned off a section of the grass on the East side of Forest Drive opposite Capel Road. They seem to be inspecting a crime scene. They stay there all night, but have gone by the rush hour in the morning

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