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July 14, 2005

Who Stopped?

An hour ago: The 177 bus stopped. A teacher (? white/pony-tail/self-conscious) came out of Addey and Stanhope School, stoppped and bowed his head. The people in the bus queue opposite stopped (talking) and looked at the ground. A van stopped. Some more people coalesced around the teacher and stopped and stared at the ground. I stopped. I stared at the ground. I looked around when no-one else was watching. A blogger at work, checking out his city.

The Pakistani conmen selling long distance telephone cards outside their ripoff supermarket opposite didn’t stop (rather unwisely I thought). Most of the mostly young Caribbean men and old Carribean ladies walking up and down the street didn’t stop. None of the trucks and cars and vans heading through the noonday heat down the A2 towards Dover stopped, or even hooted, or did anything. Whichever way I looked up and down the hectic, culturally-diverse, road, not many people stopped at all. A lot were walking and talking as ever on their mobiles, a lot more as ever staring at their mobiles desperately as they walked along, a few others - mostly Celts and Anglo-Saxons - simply talking to themselves or their cans of Kestrel and Special Brew, also as usual.

For a moment just before, reading the online news, I had imagined something out-of-the-ordinary, truly remarkable might be about to happen - the whole of New Cross frozen and silent, perfectly choreographed for one dramatic freeze-frame moment in the history of the Dover Road: ‘the inner city shares its grief’ - one of those West End or City moments down here at last in SE London. I thought I might encounter urgently creative teams of schoolkids inspired by groundbreaking media teachers undertaking brilliant video and podcasting projects built around these two amazing gut-wrenching minutes in the day and life of inner Deptford. I thought at least that given all the publicity most pople would probably stop walking and talking and possibly driving, more or less on time. But it wasn’t like that at all. The only thing I saw happen couldn’t have been more expected if it had tried. Namely, nothing. Or, even more expectedly, virtually nothing. Nearly nothing. This was probably for the best, seeing how the whole idea had been a little unEnglish in its expectations to start with, trying to make us show feelings, share grief, things we never did and never had done and never wanted to. And from where I was standing just now, a thing we definitely didn’t do this time either, or not in a way that anyone would notice, not around here at least, with just a few exceptions, and praise be for them. That’s not to say no-one else cared. Not to say that they did, either.

Posted by Iain Stewart at 1:11 PM in deptford and london
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