Tag Archives: Community

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?