More specifically, it happened in the vicinity of Silver Street train station. (And today, Sky news is reporting another stabbing near the station.) Where do you find conkers near Silver Street station? From the chestnut trees in Pymmes Park. Which part of the park do you find most of them? The part bordering Victoria Road, the road where I lived from the age of two to twenty-six. My sister and I would pick up the conkers that fell opposite our house. At around this time of year, we would witness little horrors climbing up on the cars parked on the opposite side of the road to throw sticks at the trees, trying to dislodge the large specimens.
So I’m not pretending it was idyllic when I was growing up. Late at night there would be sexual or drug-related misbehaviour in the park, or the ‘Midnight Path’ that ran between the main park and the football park. Bullying could happen in the day-time. One summer evening, as I walked over to a council play scheme, two teenage boys demanded to know my identity. When I refused, they pinned me to the ground and kneed me in the face.
The area, then, had long begun deteriorating from the pleasant place that Bruce Forsyth described in an early chapter of his autobiography (he, too, grew up in Victoria Road, some thirty-plus years before me).
But it is clearly far worse now, even if it wasn’t affected by the recent summer riots. They began in Tottenham, immediately to the south, and spread to Enfield, immediately to the north.
And the trouble is, I feel a huge hypocrite. Selfishly, I am glad not to be raising children there. I know too that long-term this needs a Christian presence, but like Moses if I thought I was being called I would say, “Here I am, Lord, send Aaron.”
Is it a cop-out just to pray?