London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: May 2002
A sad sight starts this week with a fox that had been hit by a car in the Old Kent Road. It looked too late for the young animal and the larger one tried to either shake it back too life or drag it to safety.
Further into London a man walked wearing plastic carrier bags over his shoes to keep his feet dry.
One woman stood under the shelter of a bus stop. It was pouring with rain most of the night so I hope she did not wait there too long.
I had an email at the weekend complaining that I am putting girls down who walk the streets at night. I have re-read my writing and cannot find anything that I have written about prostitutes that portrays anything other than my observations. It was claimed that I should be thinking about their plight instead of writing about them. I would therefore like to point out that this site is an observation of London at night and not a condemnation or sanction of any night-time career. The point of this sight is to observe the conditions of London's night workers and the things people do not see in the day time. Click the link below to view the complaint, my reply and my opinion.
Letter of complain
As we were about to travel through a green light into the Blackwall Tunnel at 3am a red Nissan sped from the other lane through a red light. If we had been a few seconds earlier he would have ploughed straight into the back of our van. Most traffic queues in this area are caused by too much traffic at the same time. Some have been caused by accidents in or close to the entrance of the tunnel as drivers’ speed or keep swapping lanes to get through first. There is no reason for this to happen if all drivers observe the speed limits, solid white lines and danger signs that are clearly on display.
I was saddened to see three girls huddled sleeping in a shop doorway not far from the Capitol Radio building. They could not have been much older than teenagers. I hope they can find somewhere better to sleep tonight. Most of London’s homeless are there by choice and refuse any help. Gary once offered money to a woman for a coffee and breakfast and she sneered and threw it at him mumbling that she didn’t want charity. Others fall on hard times after coming here to find a better life than they had. They often find it worse than they expected, especially if all the hotels and hostels are full or their money has run out before they can find work. Others are camping out because they want to be first at a shop sale or an event such as a Royal Procession such as the recent funeral of the Queen Mother. There have been numerous articles in magazines and newspapers over the years condemning some of the homeless as pure fake. They have been pictured getting into expensive cars and driving to their homes after begging on the streets all day. These have caused Londoners to become cynical about all of them and not give anything to those who really do need help.
Another sad fact of life is the need for security cameras everywhere. It is one of the better ways to ward off street crime and theft. Yellow witness appeal signs are seen less in these areas than the rest of London where they are becoming more frequent.
Three were out and about tonight in the cold damp air. We had a debate on what the word soliciting actually means. I thought girls might be prosecuted only when they get caught actually approaching you. They do not cause any problems when standing around waiting for work but they can seem intimidating to lone drivers when they stare and then walk over to drivers who end up sitting at traffic lights. A few months ago one girl walked up to a friend of ours and asked if he wanted to get into the back for sex priced at £30. He was more than a little shocked considering he was driving a freezer van and the temperature inside is as low as minus 3 degrees and he was happily married. He locked the door and drove as soon as the lights changed to green.
At 2.30 am there were more cars on the road than usual. A few groups of mid-teens were out in the Old Kent Road and lots of rail workers around Waterloo. A man parked his car on Waterloo Bridge and got out to enjoy the view. A picture cannot portray the actual beauty of the River Thames at night. Lights shine from the buildings and reflect in the rippling water. Everything looks cleaner at this time. Although the Thames is much cleaner than when I was a child. I remember watching the dredgers back in the 70’s, combing the riverbed and removing so much junk – rusty metal, bikes, old cars. Since then fish and eels have steadily returned and large cormorants are regularly seen with their wings outstretched drying in the sun.
The garage we deliver to near Canary wharf was closed when we arrived. The man told Gary to come back in 10 minutes, which upset him enough to ask at the next garage why it was shut. No one could give any reason for the twenty-four hour garage to be shut. It wasn’t a change of shift, which should be the only reason why garages close for 10 minutes. How do I know? I worked in one for two years in the early 80’s and we were the only garage in the area who didn’t close during a change over.
Outside the garage a young fox wandered around the grass on the road island. It disappeared into the bushes at the top.
While I waited at Euston Station I was amazed to see a squirrel run across the road. This is a very busy area of London and so at 5 am he was the last creature I expected to see out and about.
One girl stood in Deptford and one walked off with a punter in Shoreditch. Around the corner two men danced together, happy and laughing on the pavement. Keep dancing boys; we need more happy people because happy scenes in London are few and far between, especially at this time of the night.
A fox watched passing traffic on a busy main road towards The Elephant and Castle. It sat with its tail curled around its feet on the pavement looking up or down as if waiting for a chance to cross the road safely. This wasn’t far from the area in which one was killed on Tuesday morning.
We were amazed to see a middle aged woman casually walking along the hard shoulder of the flyover on the A40. As far as I know there should be no pedestrians on these roads because of the legal speeds of traffic. (Yes you can reach those speeds at 3am).
At 4am as we got to the Southern approach to Blackwall Tunnel a lorry had stopped at the exit of the Northern approach. The driver was talking to a policeman. It caused a queue of traffic all through the Tunnel and about a quarter of a mile up the motorway. Although the roads seem quiet and empty during the night it can still build up if there is a problem of some kind.
There is a code to say thank you to other van and lorry drivers. If someone allows you to pass them or pull out from a side street the usual way to say thank you is by alternating your indicators to give a flashing effect. I have not seen any car drivers do this, except Gary because he is used to doing it while working in the van.
Now that daylight is getting earlier we can see people on their way to work more clearly. Young girls stand out more because of their peculiar fashion sense. Some are wrapped in thick jackets, scarves and look really cosy until you notice they are also wearing very short skirts with bare legs!
No one was out and about tonight so it might be another good night for the girls.
Next update will be Monday 13th May
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© Lynda Archard