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 | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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May 25, 2005

Deptford Foxes

Even down here in the beating heart of Deptford, in the very soul of the South London that North London wants to forget, there is an hour or so in the darkest time of the midweek night when humanity all but disappears from the streets, and the foxes take over.

As another creature of the night, I have watched as the foxes of Deptford have grown in confidence and pride over the five or so years since they first moved into the neighbourhood. Many a deadline taken down to the wire in PHP or Photoshop has been tightly accompanied by the wailing frenzy of the two foxy squatters in my garden as they fuck each other’s brains out, the bitch’s demonic ecstasy sounding too like a woman being raped for any shred of comfort.

And then strolling out towards the only other oasis of human endeavour impinging on the silence of Deptford in the darkest hour - the legendary Cool’n’Cozy on New Cross Road open 9pm-4am every night of the year, saving the lives of the lost - I see the fox walking his domain.

Even a year ago, the foxes would walk out only in pairs, and the moment they sensed you would run for cover. Now the fox walks alone, and doesn’t hear you until he wants to, and when eventually he looks back over his shoulder, maybe fifty yards ahead, for a moment things are left to hang in the balance while you look at each other, before the he lopes off casually into an alley, or under some obvious car.

Next year, or sooner, it may be me who crosses to the other side of the road. Anyone who thinks the city is taming the foxes should see what’s been going on while they sleep. The wild animals are taking over the city.

Posted by Iain Stewart at 10:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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