Life & Liberty

Life, Words and Freedom

Month: May, 2013

Woolwich, alienation and belonging

An articulate piece that pinpoints the conflict felt by young, disaffected men. It illustrates cultural discomfort and the wider implications of ignoring warning signs and delves deeper into the causes of cultural conflict in the UK today.


Catriona Robertson

After hearing Nick Clegg speak to a multi-religious audience on Friday, I went down to Woolwich.

I attended Juma prayers at the local mosque, bought a peace lily at Tesco’s and went to the place outside Woolwich Barracks where British soldier Lee Rigby was killed, in a particularly gruesome attack, two days earlier.

The peace lily, on behalf of London Boroughs Faiths Network, joined hundreds of other flowers around the railings and in spite of the pouring rain people kept arriving to pay their respects.

I was with two Muslim friends who laid flowers in memory of the young Fusilier – Julie Siddiqi for the Islamic Society of Britain and Dr Shuja Shafi for the Muslim Council of Britain.  Another friend, Siriol Davies, who works closely with several mosques in south London, also laid flowers.

Although the media swirl has revolved around Islam and terrorism, the video footage…

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Rude Tube

The London Underground is a hostile place. Its dog-eat-dog during rush hour, forcing yourself on to a tube crammed full of business suits and wafts of body odour drifting around your nose isn’t pleasant.


You would have thought Londoners understand that travelling to work on the tube entails sacrifice of personal space, unpleasant smells and getting your shoes dirty; not for some…

On the journey to work one morning this week I was  pleased at how my daily commute was going. I had a seat on the first available tube, it wasn’t too hot in the carriage and I had enough room to read the morning news on my phone. Then a woman sitting next to me kicked the man standing in the aisle in front of her really hard.

I was shocked that she kicked him so hard but I was even more shocked at what came out her mouth next “You knew I was going to kick you because you’ve stood in my foot twice already, what the fuck is wrong with you”

The man turned around and said that he was sorry he hadn’t noticed to which she replied “Yes you did dickhead, you knew you had stood on my foot, obviously I’m going to kick you” Ridiculous.

I’ve clearly been living away from London too long because I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. As a born and bred Londoner, having gone to secondary school in Central London, I know full well what the morning rush hour involves. This woman was also a Londoner, a south London accent wouldn’t escape me anywhere. So why was she being such a bitch?


What should this toe-treading gentleman have done instead of the docile apology he produced. What would Boris Johnson have done? Would he have issued a meek response or responded with a sharp dismissal? Would Ken Livingstone have handled the situation in a more approriate manner? Livingstone is known for using public transport regularly so I would be interested to hear his view on the way Londoners treat each other.

The amount of anti-social  behaviour I have witnessed riding the tube throughout the years has been hilarious. I love London Underground but my god are there some hilarious stories.

I’ve seen people’s bags get caught in closing doors because they were to busy chatting to a mate, only to have the tube depart the platform with the bag still hanging out until the next stop. Drunken revellers indulging in explicit sexual encounters in full view of other passengers with not a care in the world. Public domestic arguments about affairs and other topics to the enjoyment of a fully occupied carriage. The most frequent distasteful behaviour though is probably the worst…men who watch female passengers applying make up on their way to work and masturbate under a newspaper. This is unfortunately a regular occurrence.

But seeing a fully grown woman kick another passenger simply for unknowingly stepping on her toes, that shocked even me. The normal reaction would have been to say “Excuse me, you have stepped on my foot a couple of times now, please don’t do it again” but in London maybe thats not good enough for some, the unforgiving rush hour claimed another victim when this man boarded the train.

I wanted to tell her to shut up and stop being so childish but, having seen a recent trend of videos on YouTube of racist and abusive passengers ranting at people on the tube, I decided against it, I didn’t want the hassle of getting involved in someone else’s battle purely on principle. With hindsight I would have liked to have said something.

When friends or partners decide to treat each other with disregard in public it is a bit of a social faux-pas, but its just embarrassing to see London folk treating each other like this. Just because we live in the biggest city in Europe, doesn’t mean we have to behave like children just to protect our personal space. It doesn’t quite scream Olympic spirit.

Social Psychology teaches us that society is what relates us to other people, in the sense that we have something in common with other people. Its argued that human beings follow the rules that society prescribe to us. All individuals influence society to the same extent, which results in the fact that you cannot have an individual without influence from society and there cannot be a society without influence from individuals.

With this in mind, what or who influenced this woman to behave in an aggressive mode of Londonism? Is it the way the city works in general, how badly her morning had gone or the job she hates? Maybe it was just the type of person who stepped on her feet. It could even have been Boris’s smug face smiling back at her from the Metro…

After putting her headphones back in and muttering “Prick” under her breath the journey continued to the next stop in awkward silence, the rest of the carriage having been witness  to her outburst also seemed to me to be a bit embarrassed that they too hadn’t said anything about her rude behaviour.


Next time I will say something, or maybe I’ll film it, either way I don’t want to be that person who by failing to hold rude people to account tarnishes my hometown’s reputation. London is a big and exciting city full of uniques experiences, this experience is unfortunately not unique and it would be a shame if people thought that Londoners are ok with being treated like this by their own.

For information on Transport for London visit their site  here. Read interesting updates and events on the tube here and find tube tales, facts and miscellanea about London Underground check out the Facebook page here

Get in touch if you have any funny or unusual stories about travelling on the tube, I’m sure everyone must have at least one…


All Photos © P.L.M.R 2013