North/South Division

There is, and always has been, a great division between London north of the River Thames and London south of the River, or certainly between the Londoners who live in these two areas of the metropolis.

South London, according to the postal districts, extends north of the river, but areas like Fulham, Chelsea, Westminster and Victoria are not part of true South London despite having postcodes beginning SW.

There is also a division between East and West London, but it is not so psychologically significant. Crossing the River Thames, particularly for those living north of it, entails crossing a physical barrier, and many never get much further than the South Bank complex.

I have now lived well over half my life south of the River Thames, having moved to Battersea in 1973, so 41 years ago. However I am still lost if I go much further south than a mile or two from the River Thames, Battersea being on the south bank. I know fairly well a strip along the River to the West as far as Putney, and a strip along the River as far as Tower Bridge, then there is  a big gap until we get to Greenwich, an area many Londoners know because of the river trips there.

My mother grew up in East London (Bow) but futher east than that is a bit hazy to me, and she was born at an aunt’s place in Acton in West London. I don’t know that area at all well, and in fact I’m only really familiar with West London as far as Shepherds Bush, or Northwest London (erroneously called ‘Middlesex’ by many who live there) as far as Wembley, where my uncle and his family used to live.

However the areas with N postal districts I know fairly well, at least as far north as the outer North London boroughs. I was born just off Oxford Street in the now demolished Middlesex Hospital, where I spent a lot of my childhood due to many operations, hospital stays and outpatients visits.

My first six years were spent living in West Hampstead/Kilburn area, where I went to primary school. After my parents split up in 1951 we moved to my maternal grandparents’ house in Wood Green. This is where I spent most of my childhood, and where I went to school, then college in nearby Tottenham (now both part of the London Borough of Haringey). I lived in two places in Wood Green, then when I was 16 we moved out of London to Welwyn Garden City, a place I hated from the outset. After a year working locally, I got a job at CND headquarters in first the Aldersgate area of London, then Grays Inn Road, and commuted for six years, till moving back to first Camden briefly (with my father), then Stoke Newington, and finally Camden where I also lived in two places.

So the areas of London most familiar to me are Hampstead, Wood Green, Camden and to some extent Stoke Newington (where I only lived a few months). Also places in between these areas and Central London.

South London is largely residential. There are few Underground lines which cross the River and extend far into South London. It relies mainly on buses, trams (in the Croydon area), the Overground and other surface trains for public transport.

There is very little reason to travel anywhere in South London unless you live there or are visiting relatives/friends. Even when musical events have been held in South London (by which I mean south of the River) I hesitate to go there unless they are near a rail or Underground station. It is a problem knowing where to alight from a bus or a tram when most of London south of the River is a strange city. Streetview helps enormously though, as you can now do a virtual walk from your destination back to the nearest bus or tram stops.

Physical barriers like the River Thames do psychologically divide towns and cities almost as efficiently as the Berlin or Nicosia walls once divided those cities. In Welwyn Garden City it was the railway tracks, all the social housing and factories being on the unfashionable East side of the railway when I lived there (on the East side naturally), and the shops and posh houses being on the fashionable West side of town. As a member of the local CND group in the 1960s I attended meetings at the Friends Meeting House on the West side of town. A elderly middle-class woman with the equally middle-class nickname of ‘Squib’ was giving several of us a lift home in her car. I was the last one to be taken home, and gave the street name. ‘I’ve never heard of that street, how do I get there?’ asked Squib. ‘You go over the railway bridge….’ I started to explain, as a look of sheer horror crept over her face. I might just as well have asked her to drive through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. ‘Oh, over THAT side of town!’ she exclaimed in disgust. ‘You’ll have to direct me, I’ve NEVER been over there!’

It is much the same with many North Londoners when required or invited to cross the River into South London. They might visit the National Theater, the NFT, the London Eye, even Battersea Park (especially when the fun fair was there), but venture any further into the residential areas of London south of the River and they, like me are lost. Croydon, being on the main line is better known to me, but not most of the places in between it and Battersea/Clapham Junction. As for Southeast London, forget it! This is the part of London I am about as familiar with as the far side of the Moon. I venture there with extreme reluctance, and am not even familiar with many of the names of places there. A friend once told me she lived in Mottingham, and I thought she meant Nottingham! I went to Hither Green to visit another friend,  had never heard of the place, and was completely lost when I arrived. Fortunately my friend eventually arrived to guide me through the jungle of residential streets to where he lived.

So, except in the area immediately around Battersea where I live, I am unable to give directions to strangers for almost anywhere in London south of the River Thames, but am able to give quite detailed directions for places north of the River unless in the extremities of East or West London.

Once a North Londoner, always a North Londoner, even if you end up by sheer accident, like I did, just south of the River!

Memorials to Bombers

Bomber command memorial, Green Park 1

RAF Bomber Command memorial, Green Park

There is nothing so shameful as erecting memorials and statues to bombers. Bombs kill innocent civilians, little children, babies, animals. Burn them alive or blow them to pieces. Nuclear bombs also kill by radiation, even generations not yet born.

Why do people think it’s fine to erect memorials and statues to some bombers and not to others? OK to erect an obscene, expensive monument to RAF Bomber Command in Green Park, responsible for countless thousands of innocent lives, but not to the IRA bombers who also killed innocent civilians? To erect a statue to Bomber Harris who ordered the bombing of German civilians in World War II, along with Winston Churchill, but not OK to erect statues to any of the Al Quaida-sponsored bombers? I myself took part in a demonstration when the obscene Bomber Harris statue was erected in London. A pity there wasn’t a similar demonstration when the Winston Churchill statue was erected, or statues to any other British Prime Minister since the War come to that, as they’ve all endorsed nuclear weapons targeting civilians. Is it any wonder terrorists take a leaf out of their book and also target civilians for political purposes?

Bomber Harris statue, Strand

Bomber Harris statue, The Strand (vandalized)

All such monuments and statues are obscene. Bombing is always done for a political purpose, and those doing it justify it, even though innocent civilians are nearly always the target.

Every British government, Labour, Conservative and Coalition, since the start of the Second World War are guilty, not just because of the bombing of civilians in World War II in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe, but because of Britain’s nuclear weapons developed under the Labour Attlee government and continued to this day, with the Conservative government planning to spent £100 billion to replace Trident. Our nuclear weapons threaten millions of totally innocent civilians and generations yet unborn.

Let me state it as clearly as I can. ALL BOMBING IS A WAR CRIME if civilians are killed or injured, even if it is dismissed as ‘collateral damage’. This makes all bombers war criminals. This includes the Dam Busters who succeeded in drowning innocent civilians in their homes, even though the main target was military, and also the terror bombing of cities like Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden. Also Wurzburg, which was bombed in the last months of the War, killiing thousands of totally innocent people.

A friend of mine on Facebook put up a picture of the Memphis Belle Bombers’ memorial which has been protected by a fence to save offending Libyans, but all these bomber memorials and statues offend me.Memphis Belle memorial

Memphis Belle memorial (protected by a fence)

I see no distinction whatsoever between the RAF, the Luftwaffe, the IRA and Al Quaida. Nor between any of these and those who piloted the Enola Gray and dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and those who a few days later dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. All are guilty of war crimes, as are those who ordered the bombings carried out. And the two atomic bombs didn’t end the war with Japan; that’s another lie. The Americans had to let Emperor Hirohito stay on the Throne and avoid a War Crimes Tribunal before the Japanese would surrender. The atomic bombs were just dropped on live, innocent human beings to demonstrate to our ‘ally’ Joseph Stalin what a powerful weapon the Americans had. It was the start of the Cold War!

The very possession of nuclear weapons threatening innocent civilians is a war crime because there is always a readiness to use these terrible weapons.

I make no apology whatsoever for offending many people who lost friends and relatives carrying out bombing raids. They should not have done so, whether under orders or not. Nothing is more cowardly than dropping bombs on innocent civilians from planes high in the sky, unless it is doing so remotely by pushing a button and setting off a V2 rocket to hit London or an ICBM to hit Moscow, or a British Trident missile to hit somewhere else probably in Russia. However much ‘fun’ it may be to watch cities being destroyed! If you don’t believe many thought it was fun, read the inscriptions on some of the bombs, including the atomic ones dropped on Japan. Just reading them makes me realize how very sick humans can be when they relish killing other totally innocent human beings, including little children! Bastards! Yes it makes my blood boil. I’m angry. Bloody angry at all those who drop bombs or let them off, or who target them remotely. You’re all bastards and you’ll  regret your actions some day, if not in this life, in the afterlife.

Bombs are weapons of mass destruction, they are indiscriminate, and those who drop them or fire them are guilty, in my book anyway, of heinous war crimes.

No wonder monuments and statues to bombers have to be protected, and no wonder they are frequently vandalized. If members of your family were burned alive or blasted to pieces by an RAF bomb, you would find that monument in Green Park offensive surely? No good saying ‘it was war’, that does not excuse this sort of mass murder.

There are other crimes committed in war, in fact all war is a crime as it is mass murder. The machine gunning from airplanes of children, innocent civilians and yes even soldiers. The killing of conscript soldiers just because they were born in another country is also a war crime in my book. Yes I’m a pacifist and proud to be one. I will never ever condone war under any circumstances whatsoever. Target Hitler and the top Nazis by all means, but don’t involve civilians. And don’t let old men safe in their bunkers order young men still in their teens to go and kill other young men. Bastards yet again! How DARE they order those barely out of childhood with their whole lives in front of them to kill each other. Let the politicans and generals go to some remote island or desert and fight it out among themselves if they want to; they might do us all a favor and wipe each other out!

I can see circumstances where certain actions have to be taken against individuals to prevent atrocities, but these should be policing operations caefully targeted, not the indiscriminate slaughter of conscript soldiers and certainly not the bombing of cties and towns where totally innocent civilians live.

‘Germany did it to us, so we gave them a taste of their own medicine’ is not an excuse, it is the pathetic cry of a child who gets involved in fights in the school playground. All bombs and weapons of mass destruction, including landmines and machine-guns, should be banned, and an international security force should replace all armies, navies and air forces. An international security force under the UN which would patrol every country and use policing methods, and not be armed with weapons of mass destruction which are indiscriminate.

I am deeply ashamed of what the RAF did to German cities in WWII and to cities under Nazi occupation. Even more ashamed that Churchill, Harris and others who ordered these bombing raids were not put before a War Crimes Tribunal.

However everyone, according to the evidence I have heard and read about, has to feel the pain they cause in others, Karmic law cannot be evaded. The effects of our actions, good or bad, will eventually be felt by us. This is perhaps the only lesson which will teach us right from wrong as we slowly develop spiritually.