The other evening I was on the roof of a bar on the tenth storey of Peckham multi-storey car park. Frank’s campari bar has been going for three summers, and it’s been written about more than ‘locals’ who feel smug about it would like. It has the best view of London I’ve ever seen. The city looks like the place I wanted to get to from the boring north London suburb where I grew up.
I don’t know what’s going on outside in Peckham Rye right now – except through Twitter and the lamestream media – but the police helicopters are still overhead. As I left work, I stupidly joked to a colleague that I was, for once, very glad I lived in Peckham. But by the time I got to Peckham Rye station, there were the same groups of excited, expectant spectators and excited, expectant teenagers in masks, and a line of excited, expectant riot police that we’ve all seen in north London. I didn’t stay to watch; this didn’t feel anything like the TUC march.
Everyone who seemed to be planning on staying on Rye Lane was scared – and excited. Some of the teenagers made a couple of runs back to residential side streets, behind the station, and took their scarves and hoods down. You never see them there the rest of the time, not in the streets that estate agents are so keen to push in their window displays, and certainly not in the East Dulwich deli, on the other side of the Green. A girl in a group on a corner on my way home said: ‘I’m getting out of here, I don’t want to get in the middle of some shoot out.’
When the looting started, it began with Greggs bakery, Iceland and Regen’s linen shop. As yet, no one’s stormed Southwark Town Hall, or constituency offices, or the GLA assembly building. Like everywhere else, it seems to have been small stuff, so what does this say about the ‘anarchists’ or ‘violent criminals’ roaming our streets. Earlier today, there were pictures of riot barriers going up outside the Westfield shopping centre; it’s not that J.G. Ballard couldn’t make it up. He did.
There have been endless jokes about what Del Boy and Rodney would make of the scenes outside. The joke may be on gentrification because there is actually a replica yellow Robin Reliant on the roof of Franks, part of the sculpture show that’s there too. I wonder what the view from Frank’s will be like tomorrow. I wish everyone on the Rye could go up to the tenth floor right now and stop and see.