Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I heart London.

I had every intention of keeping Ripping Yarns open today, but I'm writing this to you from my house, because I've had to close up.

There were a few riot vans passing early in the day heading away from Archway, but then seven riot vans all appeared at once heading in the other direction, and several police on foot. There was a very uneasy vibe out the place, several shops had closed already and pulled their shutters down, I'd had no customers in the shop all day, there were groups of people starting to form near the woods... so I decided to close. We're also next to Wood Green and Tottenham. You can read The Big Green Bookshop's post on the riots. Some idiots also decided to use the unrest to perform a hate crime.

I'm now home, listening to police sirens in the distance.

I love London. The people doing this are not representative of our city.  It's all crazy, and it makes me very very sad.

I'd like to take this opportunity to quote from a letter sent to a small girl by Adrian Mitchell (my boss's late husband, the fantastic poet). We found this letter amongst his papers a few months ago. It is so relevant today:


...You must be strong. It's not good thinking about the dark side of the planet obsessively or all the time. Your imagination should also delight in the beauty and warmth of the people and creatures around you, the joy and often absurdity of life.... It is important not just to have feelings about the horrors of today, but also to think and study hard to discover - what can be done to change all this? What can I do to change it?

I don't mean that you alone can abolish all the evil in the world magically. But maybe through your songs, or poems, you could change the lives of thousands of people you've never met. Or maybe you'll be a doctor and add to the healing part of the world's population, rather than the destructive side...

...I was a child in World War Two. I was really too young to be afraid then, even when the bombs were falling, for I didn't believe that it would ever happen to me. But many times since I have been afraid, for myself and my family, for my country and for the whole world.

But fear isn't the answer. Courage and hard work is the nearest I can find to one... I share your fear sometimes that the whole world seems to be in flames. Well, we better learn to be good firefighters and save all the people we can. 

Yours, with love



Please support @Riotcleanup. Stay safe, everyone.

Jen xx


  1. Jen, I live in the North of England now but I'm still a Southerner at heart. Last night, watching the news, I was close to tears. This isn't the place for what I want to say about the rioters so I'll just wish you well and hope things get back to normal quickly.

  2. Oh, my. There's, er, something in my eye.


  3. PS. I'm so sorry about what's going on there. It's breaking my heart, and I'm an ocean away. I can only imagine what it's like calling it home.

  4. Beautiful letter. Yes, we can all be good fire fighters. We have a responsibility to each other

  5. Wow...I didn't know about this until I read your blog today. I hope things clear up soon, this is making me really sad. I love London, I visited last year and haven't stopped thinking about it. I wish you well, hope things clear up and that your shop and you and everyone are safe.

  6. I'm reading this from the US, where we've been getting glimpses of what's going on in your area via the news. There aren't really any words to offer that won't sound hollow from such a distance, but I'll say them anyway.

    It's always worse hearing about such darkness on a site or blog that's dedicated to the lighter side of things, as if the heaviness of the event has made it impossible for lighter ideas to fly free and float. And I can't imagine what it's like to suddenly see the world's perception of my home skewed through broken calm as though it's no longer possible to get a clear view. But for whatever value you can find in good thoughts and prayers, know that there are people all over the world watching this happen via their televisions and computers and phone calls from friends, and we're reaching out the only ways we're able.

    Stay safe and know that when this ends (and it will) the news will turn to stories of hope and rebuilding and the strength of those who prevailed to make something stronger of the communities such reckless violence and hate tried to consume.

  7. Thanks for sharing. The letter is wonderful. There are more than us than there are of them. Time the silent majority learned we need to speak up for ourselves. Hope and each other are all we have.

  8. My thoughts are with everybody in London. This is such a beautiful, inspiring letter, and so true. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Beautiful post. I'm reading this from the US. I've only seen the coverage. I can't image being in the heart of that.

    I've seen some of the photos from the cleanup effort; that is representative of the people of London, I think. ~Ali

  10. i live in wood green and seeing local shops/business windows smashed and looted is so awful. destruction with no purpose.

  11. I fell in love with London last year and this really hurts. I wanted to come back later this year but I'm not sure anymore. Stay safe, so one day I can visit your bookshop ;)

  12. The letter from Adrian Mitchell is truly wonderful. I think I might print it and learn from it every day.
    I can't imagine how stressful this time must be for you - I hope you and your friends and families, and their homes and work places stay safe.