London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: August 2002
Oxford Street was packed with people, probably staying in London for the Notting Hill Carnival. The cameras have been set up on the A40 to film the streets for TV and it will also film any troublemakers that unfortunately cause the nasty side of large crowds. Many are arrested after the cameras capture their images. The police know most troublemakers from other events.
Liverpool Street was very quiet considering the TV newscasters have been telling us that record numbers are due to fly out of the country this bank holiday weekend. The station opens early at 4am for travellers to board the express trains to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead Airports. Inside the station a drunken man lay half inside the lift and Gary had to walk with 8 boxes on a trolley to the service lift at the other end of the station.
We followed a taxi driver doing 15 mph in an empty road with a 30mph speed limit. I’m sure he was practising how slow he could go for when he has tourists paying by the minute for his service. Why are drivers of Black Taxi’s the most hated on the road? They get special treatment for ripping off tourists. They have a café at Charring Cross, can drive in no go areas for other traffic and are generally arrogant and rude. They park anywhere at any time, including disable bays, and drive very slow when carrying drunk revellers from parties or take the long way to places when tourists don’t know London. Despite all of this Government treats them in the same way as public transport such as buses and trains. They are private transport and up their prices. We know they rip us off but still tourists want a ride in one!
There were no girls out tonight so I assume they are either working or on holiday like the other London workers. There were a few drug dealers around King’s Cross in their place though.
In London the main streets have bus lanes to help the flow of public transport in the daytime. At night the bus lanes can be used by any vehicles but can cause accidents with drivers overtaking in them. Every now and again a car will speed along these lanes only to discover a parked car that causes them to re-join the moving traffic at a speed much faster than the usual. Often causing panic and swerving. Of course if drivers read the signs and used them as proper road lanes and not for overtaking or parking after 7pm then this problem would not occur.
The second dangerous thing we saw this morning was a driver wearing sunglasses – in the dark. Streetlights are often a yellow shade to prevent eyestrain and is also the cause of foxes blending unseen into other colours in the streets and being killed under the wheels of speeding vehicles. Imagine being in control of a vehicle at night in dim lighting wearing dark glasses too!
Every morning on the way home we see a jogger running through Rotherhithe. Six months ago he looked ready to collapse and certainly did not look fit enough to do aerobic exercises. Today we noticed that he looks smaller and much fitter and we want to say well done to him for keeping up the workouts.
The prostitute at Deptford was hidden inside a telephone box. We have often seen her in there when the weather is a bit colder and she still looks as if she needs a good dinner instead of walking the street. King’s Cross had three girls working but now they are not quite outside the station but further along around the side roads. At Shoreditch there were four girls and three on the way walking towards the area.
If you have read Lynda’s London from the start you might have got the impression that Gary is a perfect driver. Compared to other drivers he is not a bad driver but he is capable of speeding on an empty road like anyone else. Today he was flashed and stopped just passed King’s Cross by two policemen and ordered out the van. They told him he was speeding and of course he argued the point that he was accelerating up hill and the van couldn’t go that fast up hill. After a warning he got back in the van and I agreed with what they had told him about the dangers of speeding, especially at night when everyone seems to think they are the only drivers on the road. We had a bit of a debate and when we came through Blackwall Tunnel and on to the motorway he sped up a bit. I asked him to look at the speed when he reached the speed I thought he does through some streets and it was the same as the speed the police said he did. Then he drove perfect for the rest of the journey.
London is still fairly quiet while it is still the school summer holiday. Even so Victoria coach station was still busy and when the doors opened at 5am the security guard had to wake a few up that had slept in doorways.
There were two girls close to King’s Cross and several pimps or drug dealers around the area. At Shoreditch there were four girls. Although we see the same girls each morning they are different to the girls here in April. The new ones are less demonstrative and do not bother drivers in the same way as the first girls that we saw at the start of this job.
When my car was broken into last Wednesday I was given a name of someone that I know and a few others as suspects. This was also the group I tried to report to the police for vandalising a car around here a few months ago when the police told me it had nothing to do with them and that I should contact the local council instead. I later learned that the vandalised car had been stolen from a street off Blackwall Lane near the Blackwall Tunnel. I did not report my car had been broken into simply because most Londoner’s know that the police are too busy for trivial things such as theft and general policing duties. When we returned from work this morning a car was already parked across the road from our house with 4 boys and a girl inside, a white ‘H’ registration Citroen just one year older than mine. The driver got out shouted ‘oh S—t,’ got back in and sped off. I was not sure if the boys were the ones named as car thieves until we took the dog for a walk ten minutes later. They had come back and parked next to our van and this time three boys were out of the car. The one I know panicked when my dog barked like he has done so many times before when he played football close by, which he has not done since the break-ins started, and jumped back into the car. Another ran from behind the gardens of our road and this time I stared at the boy I knew as they drove passed me. He know knows the car is mine and that I know who he is, where he lives and I know his mother to speak to.
After we drove the car elsewhere and returned home Gary called the police. They said that if we had called them earlier they would have come round and spoken to these young people. Der!!!!!!!! How could they have done that if they had already raced off? And why do we pay taxes for these people to protect us from thugs and thieves?
Someone did telephone back an hour later and took a statement over the telephone. He asked what we would like him to do when there is no evidence that they broke into the car last week and were only loitering around it in a car of the same make this morning? Well what could we say to such a comment? When he asked why we did not bother calling them last week and we told him there is no point he said they could have taken fingerprints. So why did the police get angry with me for asking them to finger print my house when it was burgled? They told me most prints are smudged or non-existent because thieves wear gloves. Forgive me for being so thick as to think this statement from a policeman might have been true. If nothing is done and they get my car then I will publish their names and pictures on a webpage of it's own. I love being an Internet writer!
Over the years I have needed to call the police many times after having my flat robbed when I lived in Abbey Wood, to stop violence in the street when I lived on the other side of Greenwich, when my school aged daughter had been threatened and spat at by two adult brothers of a girl who also bullied her at her school and after one of my other daughters was badly beaten when she was only fourteen by three girls who didn’t even know her! The last case was the only time anyone cared enough to get the people in question prosecuted and it was ME that got the information and proof for them with some detective work of my own – It took me 24 hours to get three names, ages, the school the girls attended and their backgrounds and the areas where they lived and all three were completely unknown to me and my family!
You might realise that I am a little bit angry and a little bit ready to keep vigil 24 hours a day with a baseball bat to protect me and mine! And they wonder why crime is on the increase!!!!! Another big DERRRRR to authority!
Okay now that I have that out of my system I will continue telling you about Lynda’s London.
Coincidently on the subject of the police, two panda cars, a plain car and a police van had parked at the side of the petrol station in North Woolwich. They appeared to be laughing and chatting while drinking tea from plastic cups. At King’s Cross a transport police car pulled up ready to start the day. It took him several attempts to park straight after making a meal of what should have been a snack.
No less than four drivers pulled out in front of us this morning, first a van decided to skip a red light and crossed as we drove forward near Regents Street. Second idiot was a car driver near Buckingham Palace that wanted to be in our lane. Third was a driver who screeched out in front of us in Park Lane, and the last was another driver with a death wish who was in the wrong lane at Westminster but pulled across into ours anyway just before we turned our corner. Luckily in all of these situations Gary was in the right place and after the police stopped him yesterday was driving at the correct speed too. Everything happens for a reason and I am sure any one of these situations could have been nasty if we had been speeding.
I noticed a sign on a Nike shop in Regents Street saying it was the headquarters for RUNLONDON.COM on the 22nd of September. I assume this is a genuine race and a website address that I will be checking out later.
On a lighter note at Victoria Coach Station, a young man was stamping on a long white balloon while he chatted on a mobile telephone. He kicked it several times in frustration after it proved to strong for him to break. After he finished his call he gave it one last stomp and it finally went bang!
‘Update on car thieves.’
My daughter walked to the train station this afternoon to find out the prices of tickets and the white Citroen car was parked right outside of the house where the boy I know lives. We contacted the police to give them details and suggested that they go and fingerprint it and find out if it is stolen and if it has a brand new ignition, which was stolen from my car last Thursday morning. They telephoned back to confirm that the car had not been reported stolen yet but was registered to a woman that lives outside of our borough. The car stolen and vandalised by this group last month was not reported stolen when I reported it either. The owner was on holiday at the time. I did tell you that these people were stupid. Now we are waiting, hopefully, for their arrest after doing the job for the police once again! I just hope it happens before they steal a car and kill themselves!
There have been lots of foxes out and about this week, mainly in the Shooters Hill and North Woolwich areas. I have not seen a fox in West London near the kitchens for a long time now.
One girl stood with her pimp opposite Euston station and three stood on corners along Shoreditch. The only girl at King’s Cross this morning stood in her usual place and was chewing a sweet or something. Not only did it look as though she had not put all her clothes on but she had also forgotten to put her teeth in today.
Today was our last day of working in London delivering sandwiches. Lynda’s London will continue and will be more centred round the South East of London instead of the city, updated weekly. I think Gary will go back to do another route eventually in another part of London and I look forward to adding it to this journal when the time comes.
Meanwhile I am taking a break of two weeks to develop my new South East London Journal and will write articles about our previous experiences of this job. Last year we worked weekends delivering to Gatwick and Heathrow airports and my memories are still vivid enough to write about the people we met along the way. I have so much more to write about so please don’t forget to come back often.
We had another driver with us today so that he could take the van back, which has now been bought from Gary’s boss by the boss of the sandwich company. Gary discovered that although he was doing the largest route working ten hours a day two years ago he was not getting as much money as this driver. He was, however, getting more than others working the same hours. I am still amazed that this company still exists and has managed to hang on to its work force for more than ten years. We have seen disputes, strikes, chaos and good times and all of it is worth writing about – just remember that the next time you buy a sandwich it could have been outside on the street most of the night or kept inside a dirty London shop with cockroaches scurrying across the floor all night. Enjoy!
The best part has definitely been the people of London. Without them we would not have been kept alert and awake all night or have anything much to tell you. I appreciate all of London’s night workers especially the maintenance workers and cleaners who keep the city tidy for us. The song goes: ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner that I love London town…’ but I think I would still love London as much as if I had grown up elsewhere.
The best part of being free to spend more time on the Internet again will be when I sort out my pictures and bring you more when we travel through other parts of London until we learn to sleep at night again. Oh and I will still update you on the car thieves and other stuff. I have now got very limited space at Angelfire.com and will therefore reformatting this section into one downloadable zip file. By doing this I will free space to bring new pictures in a new journal and those who did not read all of this can do so on your own computer without the phone bill going sky high. (If you are like me then you are on the Internet for hours, have had £400 bills and regularly have the connection cut while you struggle to pay it off!)
In regard to ‘Prozzy watch’ I would like to say to KH, who was offended by this journal but allowed me to publish her email, and anyone else that I offended please accept my apology. I intended this site to be honest and practical for open-minded people wanting to learn something about inner city life and for young girls in particular to know the reasons NOT to run away to London expecting bright lights and fortune. Sorry but it ain’t like that here! If you had read more than the first week then you would have known this and might have contributed something useful and practical, such as a helpful website, instead of educated naivety and ignorance of real life. Politics will never help people and middle classes up have no idea what these people do, how they got into it or how to even say something useful.
To the rest I will say thank you for reading and a big thank you to those that took time to write to me and let me know that you liked it or loathed it and gave me information on questions that I have asked such as why those cows started appearing all through the city. And I will get some good pictures of foxes and a 'top 10 list,' including creepiest place, most entertaining place, loneliest place and the most hated drivers in London within a very short time too!
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