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)


  1. Beautifully written post. I want to agree with your well-made point that violent crime can occur in every corner of the country, and that location is merely a backdrop. But if you look at the reality of geographical crime statistics, it doesn't happen in every corner of the country. What happened in Cumbria was horrific, but we can somehow console ourselves in the knowledge that this was a societal anomoly. And a statistical one. The shock value was inherent only in the magnitude of the crime.

    Can the same really be said of crimes in London, and in Shepherd's Bush?

    During the six years I have lived here in my twenties, I have witnessed a fatal shooting on my road on Christmas Eve, violence from groups of young boys towards residents in my road, my car being shot at whilst parked (yes, really - it left me with the fear that someone wanted something from me despite it having obviously been random vandalism - as well as a huge insurance repair bill), my tyres being slashed (along with those of every other car on my road in the same incident), friends being mugged, fights breaking out outside my own bedroom window, and every single female who ever visits my house telling me they are scared of the area. I live in a beautiful large road lined with Victorian townhouses. Not an estate.

    Similar to you, I hate being defeated by a place, and hate to lose my idealism and faith in people, whatever their colour, race, religion.

    But I am starting to get angry when I can't understand the language being spoken outside my window. If it were English, I could at least figure out if a fight were about to break out. And I'm sick of the different values people here seem to have, and how they cannot be reconciled with each others'.

    It's not just Shepherd's Bush. But my point is that the events of the last week are not comparable to those in Cumbria. With respect to the families of the victims, these events are far more shocking, because their causes are deeply rooted in society rather than being merely attributable to the one-off psychotic human behaviour of one single nutter. These events in the Bush are within the bounds if social expectation.

    I'm truly sorry if that sounds horribly pessimistic. Actually I am a very optimistic person! But these are my experiences here in the Bush and my opinions and reflections.

  2. Thank you hazymat for taking the time to read this and to comment - I welcome (virtually!) any point of view from a fellow resident of Shepherd's Bush and will happily consider and publish it.

    I agree that the events I reported are not comparable to Cumbria and that wasn't my aim - other than to state that they are all tragedies which seem senseless and avoidable to most.

    Your experiences sound pretty terrifying and I am quite in awe of you for still feeling so open minded about the area you live in after experiencing all of the above. Dare I say it, I'm not sure I would be the same.

    I don't think you are pessimistic - I would actually say realistic with subtle hints of optimism - an outlook I think highly admirable and demonstrates well one of the things I like most about Shepherd's Bush residents - our resilience.

    I must add however that I find it sad that you comment about being frustrated about different languages and I hope that you don't intend to link this to the violent crime that goes on around - statistics or no statistics I believe we need to avoid associating violent crime with other issues in our local communities such as integration or the lack of. Otherwise our resilience is redundant as nothing will ever change...

    I thank you again for the comment and for reading and engaging with the blog and I encourage you to do so again and again with your Shepherd's Bush experiences good and bad.

    Bird x

  3. Dear Bird

    I absolutely revel in hearing other languages around me, it's why I adore London; it doesn't make me feel insecure or scared in itself, and I do not for one minute associate violent crime with societal problems such as integration. At least, there is a correlation, but it's frankly blown out of the water by that of drug/alcohol abuse, so it's irrelevant in my eyes.

    I was referring to my previous point about when disquiet breaks out in the street outside my bedroom window. The insecurity I feel due to this is heightened when I don't understand what is being said. Rereading my original paragraph, I guess this didn't really come across - it's kind of unnerving, rather than frustrating.

    I only mean this in the same way that it's unnerving when Brits get so drunk you can't make words out.

    I'm not talking about the friendly types who get a bit tipsy and wild at 1am, I'm talking about the absolutely insane ones, whose conversation rises out of normal shouty banter into something where you genuinely can't tell if someone is about to throw a punch. What's that about?

    Anyway, I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog and will continue to keep up with your tweet musings.


  4. Thank you Mat for coming back and clarifying that - I now happen to think we both sing from the same liberally-optimistic-hymn sheet which also features some healthy harmonies of realism...

    For the record I know precisely the type of drunks and the types of heated arguments/disquiet you refer and I agree whole heartedly with you that both intimidate and create unease. I sadly acknowledge that a few of them roam the streets of Shepherd's Bush and myself am woken up frequently wondering too myself "What is going on outside my window?"..

    But variety is the spice of life and, as I think you'll agree fellow choir singer, Shepherd's Bush (and many other pockets of London) take this to an extreme which every now and again works very well and inspires.

    Thank you again for reading and engaging...

    Bird x