It all began on a bright yet deceptively cold Tuesday morning. I arrived at work my usual 4 minutes late, to a barrage of questions from colleagues who live on a nearby housing estate (and rumour mill)
"Did you hear it?" "Was it scary?" and similar questions came flying toward me like cheap 3D graphics. I had not a single clue what they were talking about, and said so.
"The one's in Watford, my cousin said that a friend of hers was in town and it all kicked off, and there were riot police and hundreds of people and the shops were on fire"
I explained that I live as close to the High Street as it was possible to without actually living inside Primark, and not only did I hear nothing but I also have to walk halfway up the High Street to get to work and there were no signs of any damage to anything,
"They must have cleaned it up then" was the response.
I questioned the likelihood of this, and suggested that maybe- just maybe- nothing had happened
"Why would She lie?!" was the reply.
This was just the beginning of a day that would quickly become chock-full of paranoid nervous excitement from most, and teeth gritting from me.
A quick note on the mindset of Watford, as a town. It is situated just within the M25 but also within the boundaries of Hertfordshire- this gives it the belief that it can have the best and worst of both Herts and London. If a rapist is reported as being active 'in Hertfordshire', the people of Watford can be on edge, likewise on 7/7 people were on tenterhooks as "we're technically London though". On the other side of the coin you can be excited about the olympics coming to "our city" and also be smug about all the excellent grammar schools Hertfordshire has to offer. It is a truly conflicted place full of teenagers who believe they live in a 'Kidulthood' style urban environment, and their parents who believe they live in a 1980's middle-class Essex dream. I am generalising, but you can see why the rumours suddenly escalated.
A football match was cancelled as one of the players recieved a message warning that the riots were coming to Watford. The chain reaction began. Any siren or shout was interpreted as a sign of an impending riot- which for some reason would quickly escalate to the point that the Central London riots had. People were jittering. Living in the very heart of the town, I should have been the person that was scared- but I recognise bullshit when I see it and a lot of it I could see. At about 11am people were getting texts about "over a hundred people gathering in Cassiobury park". These people were going to work their way down the High Street, destroying everything in sight- pay no attention to the fact that it was quite a nice day and Cassiobury park often has hundreds of people in it, and it is the school hoilidays.
Then the "schedule" came through. The riot was going to march through South Oxhey, then down Bushey high street, hit Hemel Hempstead at 3, then Watford for 4. And these were ALL THE SAME PEOPLE. Never mind that they were walking for literally miles, THE RIOT WAS COMING. And worse, it was sticking to a timetable. This is the path it would walk
At some point a rumour had started that the news were not allowed to report on the riots- this meant that anyone actually looking for facts would be told that these WERE facts and the news were keeping it hushed up.
Thinking about this has made me re-angry about peoples definition of a riot, as though it were some sort of mythical beast that travelled from town to town- the same one every time doing damage everywhere. It carried on through the day, here is a brilliant yet very poorly spelled set of examples about what was going on http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110809091525AAtBZ68
Read that, go on. Then a few facts.
I leave work at 4.30, and walk through the high street by about 5.10. All shops were open- the only thing I saw was a girl running past me on her mobile phone, screaming that she had to get out as the riot was coming from Hemel. I was going to stop her and point out that riots are usually such punctual beasts and it's not like one to be an hour late but I saw no point.
At 5.30 I was standing in Tesco when I got this text - "Tesco Costco n Asda all done over, comin 2 high St now". This was odd, thought I, as people are happily shopping all around me and those 3 places are nowhere near one another
What I found were 6 other dog walkers who had all come out, like me, to disprove idiotic rumours and a group of 7-8 youths sitting under a tree. Satisfied that our town was safe from the dragon/ riot monster, we all went home.
Later I saw this on facebook
Wednesday morning and the town was undamaged again. According to some news sites, 2 cars were set on fire and the 5 people responsible were all caught. I don't know how related this was, as during the Easter holidays 3 cars were set on fire and every windscreen was smashed on my street- however the people of Watford are taking it as a warning from that big riot beasty- "you got away this time, but I will be back"