It’s Saturday 14th, and Bishopsgate is eerily quiet as I exit Liverpool Street station. I’m sure that the weekend plays a part – who would want to be here on a rainy Saturday morning? – but I can’t avoid thinking that what happened in Paris is joining up with the weather in advising Londoners to have a quiet one today.
I climb out of the station, yawning. I’m tired, for what was supposed to be a brief glance at the news, yesterday night, ended up in a all-night marathon glued to France24. I’m tired and it seems that everyone around me speaks French rather than English. Policiers, parquet, garde à vue and many such words wobble about in my head.
I cross Bishopsgate and head north, towards Spitalfields. A door opens and out come three officers, clad in the dark blue uniform of the City of London police and red Sillitoe tartan cap bands. They pass me, and cross the road.
That’s the moment I notice the row of dark blue riot vans, filled with similarly clad officers. And that’s the moment I notice the police helicopter buzzing in the distance, hovering above Heron Tower. A cop, a stocky white man in blue overalls, bulky in his gear, shouts «Come on lads, let’s move it» to the three latecomers.
I stand on the corner between Bishopsgate and Brushfield, watching them. A woman stops, then a man joins in.
«Do you know what’s happening?» asks the woman, a hint of alarm in her voice. I realise she’s speaking to me. «No, not really ma’am» I say.
«There’s a demo down in St Paul’s» says the man. «Some anti-austerity march, or somethin’. I saw the Met goin’ there and I s’pose the City of London cops are goin’ there too».
«Oh, just a demo, thank Goodness» says the woman, relieved. We all nod to each other and drift off, as the City of London police vans get in gear and the helicopter buzzes overhead. At the end of the day a demonstration, in the current state of things, sounds so blissfully normal.
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