It's 8 August and I'm sitting in Paris reading about London. Mainlining Twitter I hardly want to leave the apartment although I just got here. I was in France before I knew what was going on in the city I left behind. I spent my evening before leaving London in a luxury hotel in a recently restored grade I listed building, drinking far too many cocktails, not even noticing the riot police lining up outside.
I take my hangover shopping. The combination of walking and distraction works, but maybe no sooner than anything else. It's not a painful hangover, it just makes everything seem a little surreal.
Paris is closed for August: the boulangerie on the corner; the Indian restaurant on my street. The Hotel de Ville has a disappointing-looking filler expo which begun in July and ends in September. A friend says, 'But isn't it the same in London?' No. 'In London,' I say, 'they don't stop. They go right through.'
9th August: After a night of rioting @pagesofhackney bookshop tweets itself open, undamaged. There are Twitter rumours of bookshops looted but no books taken (the repeated story of a bookshop assistant, variously located in London, Bristol, Manchester, saying "We'll stay open. If they steal some books they might learn something." has already become an urban Twittermyth). Reports that the vitrines of hipster shops in Mare Street, Hackney, were left unlooted as they did not sell tellies, mobile phones, recognisable designer jeans... Tweets warning of London Fields residents mugged for their bikes, a crossover point of value between the rioters and the sort of locals they still call 'yuppies'.
In Paris I lick the windows of the fashion boutiques*. But Les Prairies de Paris is closed. Sandra Seraff is closed. Isabel Marant is closed. Le Bon Marché is empty, its winter collections of scarves, gloves, mohair, lumpy tweeds facing the rare summer shopper like an odd joke. The newspaper kiosque in the Place de Sèvres is closed. The APC boutique is open, but not the discount 'Surplus' store in the rue Andre des Sarte. I score a pair of APC jeans on sale and some sleeping pills you can only get in French pharmacies.
Late morning: @CatchaLooter collects pictures of 'people using violence on their communities' and passes them on to the police. Someone tweets tips on riot photography. The authenticity of a photo is questioned and then re-established. In Paris, I can't get the BBC clips: "this media is not available in your area."
I wander through the white streets, empty except of people dressed in brighter-than-everyday clothes who constantly consult their guide books. I read Iain Siclair. He threatens, vaguely, violence in Hackney if the government's Olympic Grand Project goes ahead.
By lunchtime the Twittermood has switched from last week's endorsements, retweeted from unknown sources by fellow-travellers (some of whom seem to have temporarily stepped out of the feed), to sober @riotcleanup-ers tweeting "The power of kindness" (via @emmelinedraws). These are mostly original tweets by people I know. Who are they? Artists, writers, journalists, curators. Where do they live? On the upper side of that uncomfortable millstone that grinds rich against poor in the 'edgy' areas of London - on the upper side, but frequently only just.
By the afternoon, Twitter and the comments box on PennyRed's page turn from understanding to condemnation. The words have changed: yesterday "Banned words for the day....mindless, apocalyptic, warzone, underclass" (via @harikunzru): today "vocab check: looters aren't 'protestors" (via @chriswakling).
By evening, the video of a woman standing up to rioters is jungle-remixed. A fake version of Catchalooter is set up showing rioters stealing cut-and-paste ponies, dollshouses and blow-up sex toys. In Ghost Milk Iain Sinclair self-identifies as "the worst of all weasel subversives... enjoying their status as sanctioned critics."
9th August, midnight: via @johnmitchinson "Apparently there's a riot in Salford but the Beeb has no footage. A £190m media centre, but no footage. Hmm."
10th August: I'm about to head back to London. The riots are already fading out of my Twitterfeed in favour of booklaunch news and links to obscure literary magazines. I try to retrace some feeds but find "Older tweets are not available": written in water. Looks like the revolution is over. The revolution has not been televised.
*leche-vitrines - a graphic French experession meaning 'window shopping'.