FIRST of all, abject apologies for the prolonged absence.
It’s just that ever since I chronicled the widely celebrated reopening of my favourite local boozer, the lads have been ringing up on an almost daily basis to check whether, if they’re in the area, I might be up for joining them for an afternoon pint or three.
The back terrace of the pub has in fact become something of a quiet refuge from my nearby home turf, which has frankly gone bananas.
Since the start of April, even before the lockdown lid started to come off, armies of teens and twenties have been turning up at my nearest patch of green – it’s dead opposite Traitors’ Gate – and transforming it into party central (today’s picture).
Locals have been up in arms, as the saying goes, and have cajoled the police into imposing dispersal orders at the weekends.
The true horror of the influx only really sank in when police sleuths revealed that most of the revellers came from Essex!
It turns out the impromptu turnouts were being organised on Snapchat, no doubt along the lines of: “If you want to get sloshed, toke up and shit in the bushes, why not join us at Potter’s Field?”
The patch of green, planted on a former docklands quayside, is right next to City Hall and fronts the new One Tower Bridge, a luxury block where incomers have paid squillions for the river view and not to watch young tearaways vomiting.
Local councillors have jumped on the bandwagon, pledging in online meetings with local residents cowering at home that they’ll “get something done”.
Some are comparing it to the “Great Bicycle Terror” of 2019 when a bunch of sub-teens took to racing their two-wheelers around the park until public opinion had them jailed, deported, castrated or whatever.
The weekend invasions can certainly be annoying but no worse than when the park is rented out for the Chinese Food Festival or Indonesian Weekend or, worse still, the start of a joggerfest called Run the River.
This year, covid permitting, they’re threatening to turn it into a football village for the Euro Cup. Maybe I’ll pencil in a staycation in Essex.
The regular parties haven’t all been fun and games. One 22-year-old got stabbed but is recovering. The Southwark News quoted one old moaner as saying: “This has taken a deeply sinister tone. When the air is so heavily laden with cannabis that a simple walk across the park is enough to get you high, something is…very dark and very sinister.”
I must say I can’t personally vouch for the quality of the second-hand smoke as I’ve clambered past the piles of litter but maybe our unnamed grumbler has a more sensitive nose.
Live and let live, I say, although I was somewhat miffed to be roused from my slumbers by a 3AM barney involving a dozen Latinos below my bedroom window. Assuming that some of the more responsible neighbours have the police on speed dial, I went back to bed.
I did cautiously intervene, however, when the police arrived mob-handed one morning to take away a suitcase planted in a niche of the empty office block opposite. I shouted down that it belonged to the homeless man who sleeps under Tower Bridge and parks his gear there overnight for safety.
“Yeah, OK, thanks mate,” one of them replied, policespeak for “Mind your own business and sod off”. To be fair though, they did return it to its spot when they’d given it the once-over.
I should have said the homeless guy, an East European, used to sleep under the bridge, where he’d been in residence since long before the pandemic. He tells me he’s been moved on by the powers that be and now has to catch a nightly spot wherever he can in the neighbourhood. Maybe the One Tower Bridge crowd didn’t like him spoiling the view.
The mayhem will probably settle down as things return to normal and the weekend Essex crowd head back to Basildon or Southend. I bet half the kids had grannies who grew up in Bermondsey before the great post-war flight. In a sense, they’re only reclaiming a bit of their lost territory.
I’d just say that, while you’re up here, try and behave lads.
As to the moaners and groaners, try to remember you’re in south-east London with its rich tradition of mindless excess, noise, booze and even occasional thievery. If you don’t like it, you can always head back to the home counties.