London is burning. I don't live by the river. But I see what's happening and I read the rumours on Twitter, the horrible photos and the even more terrifying words of people I previously thought of as well-adjusted calling out for curfews, water cannon and martial law, and I worry. I'm on holiday in London next weekend, on my way to somewhere else, and I am seriously considering donating a couple of hours of that weekend to volunteering to help with any clean-up efforts going on. It's not much, but London has been good to me on the gigs I've done there over the past year. And I feel I ought to do something.
Because the riots will burn themselves out. They always do. This kind of intensity, this kind of lawlessness, is not self-sustaining. Eventually tomorrow will come, and when it does it will be time to rebuild.
The following is a poem I wrote some years ago now, after Hurricane Katrina and the Boxing Day Tsunami. I wrote it and then left it in a file, finding it again only recently. It's not my best work - the influence of Auden is extremely obvious - but it somehow seems appropriate. It's all I can really contribute right now, from where I am:
Pump water from your flooded home,
lay the new foundation stone:
Walk again on plastic legs,
unwind the bandage from your head:
Pull the landed boat to sea,
dig the living from the scree:
Bring order to the troubled city:
on your own or by committee,
Take the orphaned hand in yours,
obey the deeper, human laws:
rebuild, rebuild, rebuild.
* * *
Actually there is one more thing I can do. The South Tottenham Customer Service Centre at Apex House, 820 Seven Sisters Road, N15 5PQ, is asking for donations of bedding, clothes and so forth to help those made homeless as a result of the rioting in Tottenham. Please, if you're reading this and in a position to give something, help. Shelter are also worth donating to, ditto Crisis. And I'm sure there are many more charities whose work is germane to what's happening now but it's half-past one and I'm rambling and can't really think too clearly right now. Suggest charities and I'll add them to this list. But the important thing to do now is to think about where we put our resources and what we do to fix our cities, and our polity, and fix them deeply enough that something like this cannot happen again. And that repair will not come from curfews or repressive legislation or squaddies patrolling the streets of London. It will come from all of us deciding, together, to do what we can to put things back together. To rebuild.