Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The sights I'm seeing are priceless...

Today I am a bit poorly sick. I have an infection of a bodily organ, a pretty important one. It hurts. Let's leave it at that.

However a day "off" and the requirement for enough drugs to double my Boots points in a single transaction (in the absence of getting a doctor's appointment - curses on you Bush Doctors!) meant I got to see and experience Shepherd's Bush during the day in the middle of the working week - a first for me.

I work 8 - 6 (Dolly Parton's lesser known hit) in the City so very rarely am I to be found in Shepherd's Bush between the hours of 8am and 7pm, though I'm not sure really what I was expecting to occur in my absence or why it would seem different. I suppose it was probably the break in that routine that made it all seem unfamiliar to when I wonder around the Bush on a weekend. I also think it was different because I was more shuffling than walking and the next commitment in my day wasn't until the England game at 3pm, so I had the time and slowed pace to be able to take more of it all in. And in true Shepherd's Bush style, amongst the usual hustle and bustle there were some unusual (at least for me) treats for me to observe and enjoy, like the following:

There were two portly men in suits talking business in hushed tones over a Jumbucks breakfast.

I noted the young, trendily coiffed and healthy looking shop assistants for the newly opened Cycle Surgery where I paused to lust after a Pashley Traditional bike in the window. Next door a few electricians and a petite pretty lady in a summer dress seemed to be putting finishing touches to the Headmasters hair salon which is due to open imminently. (It's a depressingly clear sign of my age and changing priorities that I was more excited about Cycle Surgery than Headmasters opening on my doorstep).

Bizarrely I saw another suit armed and tapping away with purpose on a netbook in Bagel Bite of all places. If this site was unusual, the smell from this all night bagel bar that has saved me on many early Saturday and Sunday mornings certainly wasn't. It doesn't smell like home, it smells like "nearly home".

Outside the tube a group of Police Community Support Officers were setting up a Wear Your Seatbelt demonstration - interesting spot really as this is right in the centre of public transport hub where I imagine the majority of passers-by are proud Oyster card holders as opposed to speed demons and seat-belt dodgers - but still a very valid and worthy cause to capture commuters' and Westfield shoppers' attention.

Boots mission accomplished I walked back to see smiley black teenagers handing out free Christian magazines from UCKG outside both the tube and West 12. As I took the publication my distributor widened his grin and said "God Bless" to me, prompting me to feel sceptical and touched in equal measures.

Then I walked across the Green where at 11am there were sun worshippers already in position and a few workmen dotted around smoking and clocking any female in anything less than a hijab. I passed by the Children's Play Area where only a few kids were cavorting around and I wondered to myself for how long the "No" on the "No Dogs Allowed" sign had been erased from sight and possibly memory. Though I heard my name being called by the charity shops across the road, my sick-ed beckoned louder and I took myself, my infection and my antibiotics home, happy nonetheless to have seen a time of day in Shepherd's Bush I don't normally see.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Too many gone before they're grown...

Last week I went on holiday. At around midnight on Saturday as I flew home moisturising my above average tan and looking forward to my first cup of tea (it never tastes the same abroad does it?) I reflected on what a lovely week I had had with 5 good girlfriends of mine. At approximately the same time back in my beloved (Shepherd's) Bush a young man of just 16 years was found with stab wounds outside the tube station.

The following morning I learnt that two days after I left Shepherd's Bush for my holiday full of excitement and Panama hat firmly positioned on my head (giving me hat hair for the rest of the day) a man with exactly as many years of life as me was killed on Askew Road.

Naturally these stories sadden me deeply as do all the killings and senseless violence we learn about all too frequently but when this happens on your doorstep, where you get the tube everyday to work and where you see families living their lives it does make you examine it with a new focus.

It is not for me to even suggest the rhyme or reason behind these type of incidents. Nor, sadly can I offer any concrete explanation for why they should (or shouldn't) happen in Shepherd's Bush, a neighbourhood which, despite this and so much more, I still feel safe in. Yet perhaps that is the point I am trying to make. Though I am acknowledging the fact that both a tragic murder and stabbing occurred in Shepherd's Bush in close succession, I am determined not to let this affect how I treat Shepherd's Bush and how Shepherd's Bush treats me. Devastatingly still, the truly awful events in Cumbria only go to prove that locations are just backdrops to violent crime that could occur in all corners of our country, though on the surface statistics will suggest, and with good reason, otherwise.

Instead I choose to pray for the family of Jaabe Roberts and every victim of violent crime. And I choose to count my blessings: for life, for holidays with lovely ladies and for my home, Shepherd's Bush.

(If you don't already please do follow Chris Underwood's Shepherd's Bush blog who I always link in to - he is the real man in the know about all things Shepherd's Bush and frequently has local information and news first. Thank you Chris)