For me, the abiding image of the 2011 riots will be the sight of Reeves furniture store in Croydon burning to the ground.
When I was little, my mother used to buy a lot of our furniture at Reeves, which in those days was an auctioneers. You could buy a big mahogany Victorian linen press or wardrobe for the equivalent of a fiver.
Reeves was not only a physical landmark, but a symbol of the old Croydon – a middle-class suburb where people knew their neighbours and their shopkeepers. Hearing Trevor Reeves, the current owner, talking about the loss of his shop – not to mention the jobs of his 30-odd staff — was heart-breaking.
In Surrey Street, where a woman was shown jumping to safety from a burning building, we scrounged lettuce leaves for our pet rabbits at the fruit and veg market.
Clapham Junction and Northcote Road in Battersea is now my main shopping drag and the television images that showed looters breaking into Currys and JD Sports, and burning the Party Party shop where my kids would buy fancy dress or helium balloons, seemed like a futuristic alien vision dreamed up by one of the bleaker film directors.
It was very strange to get up yesterday and find that people were going to work, and waiting for the bus, and buying their coffees and their papers as if the world had shifted on its axis again and gone back to normal life. I don’t think we have yet returned to normal, however. Perhaps we never will.There is always a loss of innocence involved in these events – policies change, the way we are policed changes, the way we view our communities is altered forever.
In the meantime, stay safe!
Stefano Hatfield is away
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