Is there a sense of community in London?

13 Jan

On Thursday, I watched DIY SOS because I couldn’t find the freeview remote to change the channel. They were renovating the house of a lady who, with 3 children of her own and a full time job, took in her best friend’s 5 children after she and her husband died within the space of 2 years. It was just heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve seen such an incredible woman. She was so so gentle and so so strong. The way she interacted with the children was incredible. She said that she tried not to cry because she knew if started she would never stop. Taking control of your emotions, your heartbreak, your exhaustion, to be able to do all these amazing things-how do you describe something like that?

I didn’t mean for this to be an emotional post, and it’s taken me by surprise how I am still coming to terms with this wonderful lady. The point of this post was actually to mention the end of the episode. It was already a very uplifting episode but the presenter Nick Knowles gave a little speech at the end that felt a bit forced and unnecessary, along the lines of “You see, people say there’s no community in England, but look at how many people came to volunteer to help this family. There is a sense of community in England”. It was a bit suspicious to be honest, a very David Cameron’s Big Society thing to say. My first reaction was “huh?”.  Maybe in greater England but in London? Unless by communities, he means gangs.  To be fair there are ethnic communities, but I see these as being based on ethnicity and not being a Londoner. Don’t get me wrong, I adore London. But a sense of community, or looking out for one another, or even acknowledging each other’s presence, are not things I would associate with London.

Perhaps I am being a bit bleak. I was walking to the station one morning last week, and I see a car has pulled over in front of me. As I walk past, an elderly Indian lady calls me over and offers me a lift to the station. I thank her but refuse, telling her that I enjoy the walk because it makes me feel fresh. The real reason was that all I could imagine was those reconstruction films they show on Crimewatch, with the voiceover saying “she was last seen entering a blue BMW on her way to the station”, with the viewers at home thinking, “why the hell did she enter a stranger’s car?”. And you KNOW that’s what you would have thought.  I’m pretty sure this lady has stopped for me before, but last time with her husband. I definitely, no doubt about it, assume good intentions on her part and think she is lovely for doing so, but its just so uncommon in London that I cant help but be precautious. Isn’t that the sensible thing to do? Or perhaps is it because of people like me that there will never be a sense of community in London?

6 Responses to “Is there a sense of community in London?”

  1. Haha yet another comical post! I’m somewhat indifferent about whether we have a Muslim community in London. Certainly, as you say communities exist along ethnic lines and I feel tempted to agree that there isn’t a clear overarching sense of a Muslim community that penetrates through these ethnic divisions. However, in extreme circumstances I do believe that Muslim Londoners are capable of pulling together and certainly have done so in the past eg peaceful demonstrations etc. That being said I think there is a more important question to address which is, are Muslim Londoners capable of integrating into the broader community and Vice Versa? Personally, as I am sure perhaps you are, I’m not a fan of communal segregation.

    Peace,
    Leila xo.

  2. Oh gosh I’ve just realized I’ve miss read your post!! For some reason I thought the title had read ‘Is there a Muslim sense of community in London?’. I’m clearly having one of those clumsy days!! Yep, you can just ignore my previous post- or even better delete it! haha xo

  3. poorlittlemuslimgirl January 15, 2013 at 9:11 PM #

    Aww Leila! it’s OK I have been having an awful lots of those days lately, I think its the weather? But if you don’t mind I’ll keep your comment, because whether we have a Muslim community is also an interesting question. I think the fact that there’s just so many of us means that it would be difficult to have it in the sense of everybody knowing everybody (And I have friends from small towns who point out the disadvantages of this)but we do definitely have a common identity, like you pointed out. Also agree with you that its community in the broader sense that we should be focusing on-though as my post suggests, it would be difficult to define what this is in London! xx

  4. Souzan January 18, 2013 at 4:37 PM #

    one time, i tried to talk to a stranger on the underground one late night coming home from the movies on my own. he was yawning a lot right in front of me and i told him hes making me sleepy. so he laughed and we chatted for a bit.

    the whole car looked at us like we’re crazy. strangers talking? on the underground? in central London?! quite ridiculous, i was told later by my Londoner girlfriends.

    perhaps Londoners need to stop watching silly crime/police shows :p

    • poorlittlemuslimgirl January 20, 2013 at 10:46 PM #

      Oh you typical foreigners…coming to our country… stealing our jobs..,talking on the tube..but seriously, you do know they were all staring at you enviously right? Every human being wants to connect and
      no social norm will ever rid us of this basic desire. I think maybe its a reason why we’re so stressed most of the time. But come on, if we don’t even talk on the tube, you can imagine how totally out of my comfort zone it would be to get into a stranger’s car! xx

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