London at night
by Lynda Archard
©: May 2002
The full moon on Sunday has left some chaos this weekend. First the weather was as cold, wet and windy as winter with hot sunshine in between drenching rain. Then a virus hit my computer. That started two weeks ago around the dark moon after I returned from a weekend away and wanted to know who had touched my computer. My passwords had been taken off and I automatically go into places on my computer that most people would not dare to venture to see what else had changed. There was no other signs of use anywhere. I ignored it until last week when a new virus checker that I had installed informed me there was a virus in an email. After instructing it to delete it nothing else happened until Friday when programs started closing and files disappeared. I spent all night waiting for an up-to-date on-line virus checker to tell me it found nothing, turned the computer off and went to bed. Saturday morning I switched it on and the screen flashed ‘non-system disc – please remove.’ There was no disc in it so I re-booted, went into the bios and re-started booting my old hard-drive first. It started and when I went into explorer it was clear that my new hard-drive that Gary had bought as a birthday gift only two weeks ago on May 11th was completely wiped clean and had to be re-formatted. I make regular back-ups every month or so and I had only lost two weeks of graphic design and animations I had started. If this had happened before May I would have lost all my programs too, which would have meant hours of searching for and re-installing discs and pass-words instead of copying one hard-drive to the other in one go. Even so, I have no idea what the virus was or where it had come from or even if it might be the new hard-drive, but I will fiddle with it and find out by tomorow.
The usual havoc had been through the weekend in London. Abandoned cars were seen in many streets and two were parked up on the A40 fly-over. I suppose they were in full view of everyone and were safer there than in the streets below where they could have been victim to the thieves who think they can take what they want.
As daylight approached as early as 3.30am it is clear that the summer solstice is not far away. By 4.30am the Thames was looking gorgeous with the sun shimmering along the gentle flow of the tidal river and reflecting off windows in the tower block offices and old buildings in the city.
Just after then Gary had remembered he had forgotten an order and we made our way back to the kitchen. He was fairly calm considering it set us back a while and he had marked the order on his work-sheet before forgetting to actually load it onto the van. But then nothing is quite as it seems is it? We got to Liverpool Street Station and the lift was out of order, meaning Gary had to take 6 heavy boxes of sandwiches down lots of stairs. He was not happy.
The most surprising sight of the morning was a pair of trousers laid out on the path near Shaftsbury Avenue. There seems to be a lot of clothing lying around every day, usually jumpers and the odd shoe. These trousers looked laid out ready to iron.
A little bit further down a man was already sat in his place waiting to start the day of begging money from passers-by.
There were two girls wandering King’s Cross this morning and three in Shoreditch. A young man aged about 18 years was cycling towards one girl in Shoreditch. She could not have been any older than him and watched him move towards her with some suspicion.
Families and groups of people were walking around Greenwich dressed in long flowing ballroom dresses around 2.30am. I assumed it was passing-out day at the University of Greenwich. Some young girls walked as if they had plenty of blisters on their feet from the high-heels they wore. One young man staggered about with his jacket ripped to shreds and barely hanging over his shoulders. It must have been a night to remember. I left school today in 1976 and I remember clearly feeling free and wondered what life would bring next. I have certainly seen a lot of things, been to places and seen changes since then. I have also learned a great deal more useful things since leaving school than I ever did while I was there, such as bringing children into the world, dealing with relationships and getting qualifications as an adult learner. It would have been so much easier if we had learned more about life while at school.
Abandoned cars are still in the same positions. One car in Bermondsey is parked at an angle facing the road on a slope outside of a petrol garage. The windscreen and headlights have been smashed and mothers with pushchairs have to walk in the road to get around it. We first saw the car a week ago and it has not even been pushed to one side.
At the Elephant & castle end of the Old Kent Road the speed cameras captured a few unsuspecting drivers. The camera gets traffic speeding in either direction and seemed to be set higher this week.
There was a crowd keeping warm around the bonfire in Waterloo Road. Last week I took a picture of the burning fire that was left unattended after they all left. Perhaps there was someone more responsible there this morning.
A murder sign was prominent on the road asking for witnesses in King’s Cross. It was close to the area of the pub forecourt that was closed by police last week. There has not been anything in the newspapers that I have seen. It could be in the local paper for the area or be just another murder that goes by unnoticed. These yellow signs are seen all over London, usually asking for witnesses to muggings, assaults and accidents. A murder is, thankfully, not usual in London. This is a seedy area of East London where crime is quite high and living standards seem low compared with the rich areas of West, North and South London. It is the stretch of area from King’s Cross station leading to Shoreditch and Whitechappel where drug dealers, prostitutes, the homeless and police are seen every day and night wandering among tourists.
The Blackwall Tunnel was closed and a detour had to be taken back through Rotherhithe Tunnel. A sign said that this one is also shut every Monday for essential maintenance and could be the reason that an escort was available for the Blackwall Tunnel on Monday mornings. Both are open as usual during the day from around 4am.
The strange tall black woman was trying to stop drivers in Shooters Hill Road again around 4.15am. Apart from risking harm to drivers who can’t see her clearly at night she is also in danger of getting herself hit by a car. Perhaps she might read this and either stand in a place with more light or wear brighter colour clothing in future. We have seen here in various sections of this long road that leads from Blackheath, South East London through Woolwich into Welling, Kent. Stepping out suddenly from the darkness is never the best way to catch a drivers’ attention at night. It is however the best way to get killed or cause an accident.
I decided to see if the door lock was fixed in the toilets at Guy’s Hospital only to discover that it wasn’t broken when I last visited it. It is a modern door with an unclear push button locking contraption that closes the door for you. I didn’t hear it lock and I never want to use again. In future I will look for a toilet with a manual lock that I am fully in control of. The door is facing the reception area and I didn’t know if it would automatically open without me knowing. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
The girl in Deptford stood in the telephone box watching traffic go passed at 2.30am and was not there when we drove back passed an hour later. Only one girl stood at King’s Cross and two walked along Shoreditch High Street.
The usual stuff took place tonight with nothing unusual. Drivers behaved as bad as ever, driving through red lights, cutting up other drivers and speeding. The homeless wandered around or slept in doorways and some doorways had been left in a filthy state with empty beer cans and rubbish.
The highlight for me was watching a family of foxes at North Woolwich. The first picture is of a Vixen checking who was watching her cubs. By this time the three cubs had hidden amongst the bushes and although visible clearly to us, these are the best pictures I can get after months of trying. You can just see the face of the young fox peeking out. I also took pictures of a fox in a main road and unfortunately, when lightened and blown up, they are invisible after blending into the background.
Two girls were out this morning. One walked towards Shoreditch and had very long hair. Many of the girls have very long and thick hair that spreads out sideways, some from under baseball caps, others left flowing in the wind. The second girl walked up to a car that was pulling up beside her. She wore a skimpy shoestring vest with her jacket over her arm. It was, I think, the coldest night since April.
I decided to stay in the van while Gary loaded the sandwiches. Another driver turned up to collect his deliveries and so I watched him load up. It was cold outside and it was the first morning for weeks that I had not stood behind the wall with my camera waiting for a fox. It was also the first morning for weeks that a fox walked right passed, under the light, and I missed picturing him. I did, sadly, get a picture of a dead fox cub an hour later on the road between London’s Docklands and North Woolwich. It was not the kind of picture I hoped for, especially as I don’t know if it was one of the cubs I pictured playing around yesterday 50 yards along the road. Gary stopped to move it from the centre of the road and it was still warm and limp. He placed it on the kerb to stop other drivers mutilating it further. There are only two reasons why this young fox is dead, either a speeding car had hit it, which could have been avoided had the driver been slow enough to stop, or it ran out suddenly. The later is easily done if the animal had run from the bushes without hearing traffic or expecting a vehicle to be so close.
A man was oblivious to traffic as he sang loudly while waiting to cross the road in Shoreditch. He was wearing headphones and was close to the area where we saw a girl doing the same thing a few weeks ago. There is a nightclub in the road and a friend, Andy, told me that it is a gay club that is also the haunt of agents hoping to discover the next singer to sign up. Some well-known stars visit the club too.
Outside The Queen Mary University, at 3.30am, a man walked passed us hurling what looked like bangers on the pavement every few steps only they didn’t go bang. He was singing, “Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word their saying…” which seemed apt.
By 4am the Strand and Parliament Road were very busy. Police were out closing roads ready for the celebrations for the Queen’s golden jubilee at the weekend. Nightclubs, restaurants and cafes were busy the homeless were awake early in Shaftesbury Avenue. One man approached while we stopped at traffic lights and asked, “I know you are sick of it but can you spare some change please?” Although he was very polite we couldn’t help him because we did not have any money with us so he went on to the window of the next driver.
There are several things that drivers do in London that cause hold-ups, traffic jams and accidents in London, which is the reason I wrote ’10 things drivers think they can get away with.’ (A link is at the main page). Recently outside Greenwich Park at the junction of Maze Hill and Park Vista drivers have constantly ignored ‘no entry’ signs. At 6am two local residents had coned off the road and stood watch with coffee mugs in hand along with paper and pens to note registration numbers of these drivers. The reason it is a problem is that it is next to an entrance at the park and cars, that swing suddenly driven by people in a rage, have nearly hit me and several others including children. I have contacted the police and so have others. I saw a patrol car once for ten minutes before he left and the bad driving started straight away. Today I pictured a car and a van doing this after the women left both within minutes of each other. The white van (in front of us in the first picture) narrowly missed the unsuspecting driver of the orange car who was the only one with right of way in this picture.
The usual girl was out waiting at Deptford, two girls stood on corners in amongst the road works at King’s Cross and two walked up and down at corners of Shoreditch High Street.
Just after 2.30am, in a side street off The Old Kent Road, the cab of an empty lorry was ablaze. A man standing on the corner of the street was already on his mobile telephone calling the fire brigade. We had not got to work yet so I took some hurried pictures and went back at 6am and took some more in daylight after the fire was out at 6.30am. Water was still dripping onto the road and it had been abandoned once again. Some might think this was vandalism but it is also common to see older vehicles burning for the insurance when they are too old to sell, which bumps up everyone’s premiums. A ‘D’ registration is 1986 making this vehicle 16 years old.
2.30am and 6.30am
In the Lime House Link Tunnel, in a 30mph zone, a police car sped up about 12 inches from the bumper of a BMW driven by a middle aged white woman with blonde hair. The police car kept up a speed of 45 mph, intimidating the woman to eventually move over into the next lane. The police car then sped off even faster without pulling her over for speeding. Well he couldn’t really could he!
In the road leading up to Westminster a policeman stood in the street. I had to look twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things – he either had a black balaclava on the wrong way around that covered his whole face or his head was on the wrong way.
There was another dead fox cub. This time it was on the other side of the river in Shooters Hill Road.
One girl was in King’s Cross. Across the road from the railway station an arcade is situated on the corner. This is the most likely hangout for pimps who seek young girls who have run away to London and find themselves unable to find somewhere to sleep for the night. I have also noticed on several occasions that young boys, early twenties or teenagers, cycle in this area quite often. Sometimes they talk with the girls and the rest of the time they appear to be keeping an eye out for something.
Three were in Shoreditch High Street, one of which had short black hair pushed harshly off her face. Another was walking over to a punter who had just pulled into the side street next to where she was standing.
On the way back to The Old Kent Road at 6am a woman was just approaching a punter who had pulled up beside her. She must have easily been in her mid-forties, wore a skimpy leopard print top and tight jeans and looked as though she had been up all night or spent years addicted to drugs or alcohol. I wondered if the younger and prettier girls of King’s Cross and Shoreditch might end up looking as rough as this when they reach their forties too, or if they just looked better and younger in the dark.
Please note Next week is the school half term and I will not be going to work with Gary during this week. The next up-date will be Monday 10th June.
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© Lynda Archard