“Tourist-one who travels for recreation, for pleasure or culture, visiting a number of places for their objects of interest, scenery, or the like.” Shorter OED
I had seen the hulking Grenfell Tower from the Hammersmith and City Line the day before. The whole blackened mass with its vacant eye sockets brooding and life sucking. As the train went on exhausted firemen and a debris strewn playground caught the eye. So the next day, Saturday, had me alighting at Latimer Road station. Only three miles from my house but two worlds away.
All around missing notices. Pathetic,brief and to the point. Jessica Uhano 12, five feet,brown eyes and curly hair. Steve Power,16th Floor,last spoken to at 1.30am. Marjorie and Ernie Vitol 16th Floor. Mario and Gloria,Italy is praying for you. Missing Okhar Belhadi and his wife Farah and their six month old daughter. In many third world countries similar notices of the recent dead are posted in the village.
There was the anger “Justice for Grenfell”, “Your Anger Must be Heard,Your Demands Must be Met”. Just two of many.
Heavy police presence and cordons meant you could not get close. But looking up at the wreck of the Grenfell one knew in those top floors there were the charred remains of people,many who had left war zones for a better life. Some would be still holding their phones, others clutching their children. All incinerated .
Tourists, sightseers, ghouls, vampires, pilgrims,agitators, supporters, most taking selfies,all muted in respect, this was thoughts and prayers country. “It should not be allowed to happen” one told me ,I replied “that fires and disasters in high rise blocks are a world wide phenomena.” You are not excusing them are you.” No, we shook hands.
In the next block a man was tending his raised vegetable patch. I said it was good to see someone adding to life. He said”If I didn’t look after my plot the plants would die.”
There were the piles of flowers, cards, teddy bears, candles. Walls covered in messages of love and pain. A steady stream of tear soaked citizens added to the pyres. Elsewhere some large black people in white robes were leading a very full on service.” We are helpless , You are the father of the helpless, Come to Us, Bring Us Love in this time of Hate. Come to Us,we are broken, bring us together, Love for All, Hatred for No one.” The Lords Prayer. We sang We Shall Overcome.
Much to the delight of the ever present TV camera crews one of the church went into full of spirit, swoon mode. Hands aloft, eyes to the sky.“Come to Us. Give us a Sign. We are your children. We suffer.” She fell into a colleagues arms. My lily livered CoE instincts were feeling a little compromised. As I left the crowd, I said to another tourist, I don’t think he’s coming. No, he smiled, I don’t think he is.
And if he was coming it would not be by tube that day. While I was there TfL had closed the line.