Our streets are a battleground

Living in a city like London has almost as many advantages as there are drawbacks. For me, it is home. I have lived in the country – I still have a house there – but it doesn’t really suite me and I never visit, except for family occasions and the like. No, to me London is home and I am rather proud of the city and its people.

But every now and then I hear something in the news that makes me sad and angry, both at the same time. This is how I felt this morning when I heard about one of these so-called “acid attacks” at the Stratford Centre in East London. I don’t actually know the place, the East End is not somewhere I frequent on anything like a regular basis, but I assume it is much like the shopping areas we have in other parts of the city, vibrant and busy.

According to the reports I heard, a number of youths were involved, with at least one throwing acid into the faces of his victims. It is horrifying the think that such things are going on here, so close to home. I cannot understand why anyone would want to hurt another human being so badly, and leave them scarred for life. Dorothy tells me this kind of thing is on the increase and I am not afraid to admit that it worries me a great deal. Throwing any kind of liquid is rather inaccurate, you can’t exactly aim it, so I suppose that many of those hit by these substances will be innocent bystanders, people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thinking about it makes me so angry, and I can’t help but be concerned for my friends who I know frequent some of the busier areas of town. People like Dorothy and Hope. To think that either of them could fall victim to such an indiscriminate act just makes my blood boil.

And what do the perpetrators get out of it? I hear that the only arrest in yesterday’s attack is a 15-year-old. A teenager for heaven’s sake. What on Earth is a 15-year-old doing with acid, and why would they do such a thing? When I was 15 all I had on my mind was girls and sports cars (not necessarily in that order). The very idea of getting involved with any kind of conflicts or gangs just didn’t occur. For me and my school friends, it was all about exams, getting one-up on the masters, and how to avoid family gatherings in the holidays.

I know that not all young people are members of gangs, and they certainly don’t go around throwing acid into innocent people’s faces, but as is so often the case, the actions of the few tarnish the reputation of the many. Any small gathering of youngsters these days attracts mistrust and fear, as do groups of Muslims, or any other ethnic group for that matter. It saddens me very much that one cannot walk down the streets of our fair city without being constantly on the lookout for threats.

As I said, I am both angry at those responsible, and sad for the rest of us whose lives are impacted, either in reality or just through fear. London is and always will be my home. No one is going to change my love for the city, not least those who chose to turn its streets into their own battlegrounds. What we need are more bobbies on the beat. And maybe a return to the kind of punishments that worked so effectively when my own parents were children. A good clip round the ear-hole never did anyone any real harm, and might just be the shock some of these louts need. Let’s not let a silly minority spoil our beautiful city.


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