Back in Old Haunts

September 1, 2018

Back in my old haunts, I see London as quite a different place today from what it used to be, especially returning from a clean city like Switzerland. There was a time where one could walk on London streets, even at midnight peacefully, but today the knife culture seems to be dominating where the murder rate in London appears to have overtaken even that of New York.

Once it was a pleasure to walk on the streets of London, even late at night, without having to bother about being mugged or racially harassed. During weekends, socialising became part of the students’ routine, which brings some nostalgic memories of how we used to enjoy Friday evenings as students, till the very early hours of Saturday morning, and taking a cool stroll along the Hyde Park back to our bedsitters.

However, everything seems to have changed now. Is London becoming something like New York or worse? Fifteen people were killed in London alone, in February 2018, compared with fourteen in New York, in the same month! The latest on the news was about an eighteen-year-old young man being stabbed in Hibury New Park in North London. Hours prior to this crime, another teenager was knifed several times in the back; that was described as a ‘vicious’  stabbing attack  on a harmless guy’in West Drayton with a Rambo-style hunting knife.

Metropolitan Police seem to maintain that violent crimes across London are beginning to ‘stabilize’; despite eighty-seven people being killed in the capital, up to July this year. Although every death is ‘one too many’, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s interpretation is that ‘murders are  nearly  and always  gang or drug-relate’.

General behavioural patterns of the young, over the years, worldwide have changed dramatically. They have turned boisterous, undisciplined and most of all raucous. In contrast, today the streets of any city, particularly in London, drug addicts, psychopaths and mentally-disturbed patients intermingle with the ‘normal’ population, which many point a finger at ‘Mrs. Thatcher’s Government policies’ that helped to close down many psychiatric hospitals, due to lack of facilities or funds.

The Office for National Statistics, in the UK, identifies 40,147 offences ‘involving a knife or sharp instrument’ in the year ending March 2018, which is a 16 per cent increase from the previous year, and the highest level ever registered, since the UK commenced recordkeeping in 2011.As the crime spate continues, the latest figures released by the Metropolitan Police statistics on knife crime has swelled up by 16 per cent as the highest number in a decade. From January  to April, this year,1299 persons had been gravely stabbed in London.

Royal commitment

Prince William

Young Royals together, particularly the sons of Diana Princess of Wales, have been driven by a desire to make a difference to society, which is evidently coming down from their mother’s genes.  Diana Princess of Wales always projected her kind and humanitarian qualities towards other human beings, forgetting the fact that she belonged to a group of ‘blue blood’ Royals.

Diana Princess of Wales

It was tragic indeed that she had to leave this corporeal world at such a young age, either killed as  speculated at the time, or lost her life while being chauffer driven in Paris with her Muslim male friend Dodi Fayed. She always ‘travelled’ on a ‘hell for leather’ journey resolutely focusing on humanity.Her untimely death was shrouded with many a speculation, which seems to still linger. Whatever the reasons behind her demise, the British folk lost a worthy and compassionate royal, and her young children lost a loving and caring mother on 31 August 1997.

On ‘Mother’s Day’ in 2009, Prince William (Duke of Cambridge) spoke of the emptiness he felt for the first time and the devastating effect on him of losing his mother as a teenager. The Prince was just 15 years old when Princess Diana died. He publicly announced his sorrow by stating: “Never being able to say the word ‘Mummy’again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it’s now really just a word-hollow and evoking only memories.”

Subsequently, the Prince became patron of a charity Diana Princess of Wales helped to launch. Prince William and his younger brother Prince Harry (Duke of Sussex) activated the charity under ‘The Royal Foundation’to take forward their kind ambitions. Subsequently, Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex have joined as patrons of the foundation.

Duchess of Cambridge

Duchess of Kent


The Royals’ interest in the foundation work is primarily philanthropic and acts as a charitable vehicle to revolve around four main themes such as mental health, wild life and conservation, young people and the Armed forces community, to bring about a sustainable change in the society on relevant issues.

Tackling knife crime

With the increase in the knife crime epidemic in London, Prince Harry appears to be determined to deal with this endemic problem among youngsters. The Duke has vowed to work on the ‘root causes’ behind the rising level of violence, and he is expected to launch a new programme specifically at fighting crime, by the end of this year, because he believes ‘knife crime as a symptom of a cause in reality’.

Prince  Harry -Duke of Kent

With this as a backdrop, staff at the Royal Foundation have been asked to investigate into the root causes behind the ever-increasing violent acts performed by the young. The Prince believes in working on real problems rather than sympathizing and accepting statistics that reveal to what extent knife crime has skyrocketed. The Duke of Sussex is acclaimed as having tackled violent gangs, specifically, in Nottingham in the past.

According to what is stated in the Royal Foundation’s annual report, Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle,  since becoming the fourth patron of the Charity, is expected to concentrate on ‘lots of ideas’, particularly around female empowerment, while the Duke focuses his attention on knife crime.

Brighter side

On the brighter side, many Londoners seem to be more conscious about their health and prefer to consume organic food to other varieties now. To make life much easier e-shopping has become the latest trend where one could order (including organic food) and weekly rations from supermarkets via internet, with the help of credit/debit cards, where the deliveries are done to consumer’s door step and right into the home too, if one happens to live on a multi storey building, with a fixed ceiling price for purchases to qualify for free a drop, otherwise only a nominal sum of £1 will be levied on a home delivery.

No motorist can get away without paying road tax (formerly known as a ‘tax disc’) which is levied as an excise duty payable on vehicles, which are used or parked on public roads. From 1 October 2014, the physical paper disc has been discontinued and law enforcement is affected through Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system where cameras detect, deter and disrupt criminality, including organized crime groups and terrorists. When Traffic Police stop a vehicle, all records pertaining  to insurance, road tax and driver details, MOT(fitness test) are stored in a master computer which is linked to every car.

Vehicle movements on UK roads are recorded by a network of around 8,500 cameras capturing between 25 and 35 million ANPR system ‘read’ records daily. These records are stored for up to two years in the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC), which can be accessed, analysed and used as evidence as part of investigations by the UK law enforcement agencies.

Commuters in London no longer have to worry about public transport in getting back home during weekends as many London Underground Railway trains operate 24/7 at reduced fares as per new ideas by the current Mayor of London.

Although the fares have risen dramatically, from the old three pence many moons ago, the transport system has improved correspondingly where one does not need to use a vehicle, in a real sense, as buses run by a private company in London (Arriva) are seen moving frequently every few minutes where commuters can travel  seated comfortably.

It does make life much easier for the senior citizens with ‘freedom passes’where one does not have to pay anything at all on travel, except swiping the pass on a yellow ‘oyster’ head inside the buses.  As a cost cutting and efficient operation bus driver never handles money (no conductors) and one has to use pre-paid system with Oyster Cards or simply by swiping their credit card. One great advantage here is that buses have a separate entrance and an exit, and doors are closed by the driver before pulling off, for the safety of the passengers.

This is an area Sri Lankan transport Ministry needs taking into serious consideration as commuters at times are seen hanging on to the foot board like ‘owls’, and inside passengers are squeezed like sardines, having had to pay their fares.




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