LONDON — The headlines were shocking, the images sickening. The widespread rioting, looting and arson in early August here and in several other English cities recalled the work of two 20th century novels, William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" and Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange," come very much to full-blown, 21st century life.
Now, nearly two months later, those disturbing events seem long ago. After recently spending three days and nights in London walking its streets and taking the tube, the capital seems to have returned to normal.
And yet the aftereffects are still evident. News reports on the riots were frequent: an 11-year-old boy who participated in the rioting was sentenced to an 18-month sentence for looting; a headline, "Stash of weapons seized by police," flashed quickly across the Jumbotron screen at King's Cross railway station; Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited London's Tottenham neighborhood, where the riots began. Inquiries were being conducted into the origins of the riots even as London's wild-haired mayor, Boris Johnson, warned that rioters should not be "abandoned" by the system but rather "rehabilitated."
The media reports served as background chatter for those who wished to listen. It was just as easy to ignore them altogether. The buses and trains ran as usual, the iconic London taxicabs weaved in and out of clogged traffic, patrons packed into the Duchess Theatre on a weekday night to see American comedian Ruby Wax's hilarious show "Losing It"; bartenders served up pints of beer and ale; and tourists read dog-eared copies of "London A to Z" outside city-center hotels.
Unless prompted, no one seemed to want to discuss current events. When asked his response, Adam Ford, an Anglican priest and author of "The Art of Mindful Walking," referred to the riots as "an aberration." Indeed, to the unsuspecting eye the only obvious evidence that something terrible occurred was the jarring sight of two police officers on the street near Kensington Palace carrying automatic weapons.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times