This May Bank Holiday Monday, HEM News Agency writes to our beloved fans and readers from a new home office in Ilford, only a short walking distance from the town centre, after four years in the Plaistow area of east London.
For those of you not familiar with Ilford, it is a suburban district which sits just to the east of London. Traditionally part of Essex, Ilford is today considered an outer stretch of Greater London. Home to hundreds of homes, offices and shops (including the great Ilford Exchange shopping centre), the area is becoming increasingly popular with people looking to escape the rising house prices and rents of London itself, and some have described it as ‘upcoming’. Ilford is very hectic, but also relaxed at the same time. It is an ethnically diverse area and I have also family around here, many of them established here for years.
I arrived here on Saturday, 27th May 2017, after seven hours’ packing and cleaning, hiring an estate car to take me and all my belongings. For a month before, after my landlord served notice on me to leave, I was frantically searching for another room to rent (and base my blogs from too) and had to deal with a lot of timewasters. Finally a week ago, I got in touch with an estate agent in Seven Kings, Ilford, who showed me the property. I was satisfied with the room, and duly handed over the monies, including their eye-wateringly steep agency fees.
As mentioned before, I had been previously living and blogging from a houseshare in south Plaistow, close to Barking Road, and a stone’s throw from Canning Town and the border with Tower Hamlets borough. The landlord, who lived in the property with us, one day wanted a ‘quick chat’ with me, and that’s when he dropped the bombshell. For the day job, he worked as a solicitor with his own firm, and after he took over the firm in its entirety, suddenly found himself with boxes and boxes of case files relating to the law firm’s clients filling up his office. As a result, he proceeded to punch a hole through the ceiling to create an access point to the house loft, leaving my room covered in dust.
Back to the conversation, he told me that he wanted to stop renting out the house to lodgers, and that he needed my room first to convert into storage space for those files. He also planned to move his daughter and grandchildren into the house too. Once the smoke from the bomb cleared, I realised my time was up. It was my signal to exit stage right.
Here in Ilford, the Bank Holiday break has given me a chance to more or less familiarise myself with my new room, house and housemates. Not everything is perfect or ideal, but this is the nature of flatsharing. I am impressed with the room though, and am adapting quickly to the rhythm of this place.
As the Half-Eaten Mind Blog, this site began life in another houseshare in Stratford five years ago. Since then, I have moved twice. Moving and hunting around for places to call home is very stressful I can tell you, but until I can save enough for a deposit for my own home, this is my reality. Renting rarely provides stability. I plan to stay here in Ilford another year or two, then possibly look to progressing to a rented studio apartment, or maybe try for a mortgage, depending on my situation then.
Our planet is home to around 35,000-50,000 species of spider (the estimates vary), the vast majority of which spin webs made out of silk generated inside the spider’s body. As any arachnid expert will tell you, spiders weave their silky masterpieces primarily as a means of obtaining food. With strands stronger than the equivalent thickness of steel, spider webs are covered with sticky substances that ensnare their prey, trapping flies and even birds and snakes, ready for the web’s resident to deliver its venomous coup de grâce.
When an insect flying about and minding its own business collides with a web, which is often designed to be invisible until it is too late, the impact creates vibrations that alert the spider. Spiders have extra sensitive hairs on their legs, which are attuned to pick up the slightest movement coming from the web’s fabric.
However, arachnologists have not yet figured out how exactly the spider interprets the movement signals when its equivalent of a pizza delivery happens. In 2016, a team of scientists from the American state of Oregon decided to try and solve this puzzle by creating a web of their own.
Using nylon from parachutes, the team built a web that replicated a traditional ‘spoke’ layout, popularly associated with spiders. The strands of yarn were arranged radially and were held taut by a specially constructed machine with an aluminium frame, alongside an attachment resembling a spider placed centrally, as can be seen with garden spiders and orb weavers.
The vibrations caused by insects were reproduced with the help of a subwoofer-type speaker, and the spiral of the web was emulated with elastic cords. Ross Hatton, a member of the research team at Oregon State University, told GrandesMedios.com, the source of this story, of how realistic they made the web experiment, explaining that they used two different types of nylon rope, just as spiders use two different types of silk.
The artificial spider in the middle was calibrated to pick up vibrations from the speaker, even the slightest ones. As Hatton explained: “We started with the hypothesis that if you moved one of the radial lines slightly, the arachnid perceived that one moved more than the others,
“We also speculated, that the spider would go towards the line that undergoes a variation in its movement”
In other words, Hatton and his team expected the spider in real life to gravitate towards the line of silk from which the most movement was travelling from. However the result of the experiment was quite different from the team’s original hypothesis.
Far from being a simple case of only a single strand of the web notifying that it caught dinner, the team discovered that the cobweb gave off a complex pattern of vibrations, with some sections of the web being more sensitive than others. According to Hatton, at different frequencies of sound from the speaker, different web strands and layouts did not vibrate at all. Different parts and strands of the web vibrated only at certain frequencies and remained unresponsive at others.
These different frequencies of vibration are believed to help the spider identify what type of prey had crashed into its web, and perhaps also help it distinguish between live prey and inedible objects such as leaf fragments and debris. The study, which redrew the way people thought about how arachnids predate, was presented at the American Physical Society conference recently.
Instagram is currently one of the world’s most popular social networks by usage and membership. Owned by Facebook, and lovingly known by its fans as simply ‘Insta’, the site is a valuable treasure trove of pictures and memories and offers a glimpse into the lives of its 600 million or so active users. While Instagram has developed a reputation as a bit of a narcissist’s heaven with many users flooding it with selfies, posing like there is no tomorrow, it also has become a valuable resource for creatives such as photographers and graphic designers to showcase their work, and many celebrities use it to give their fanbase a way of keeping up to date with their daily goings-on. And of course, if you ever feel hungry or have no idea what’s for supper tonight, then Instagram’s impressive collection of food photos is the ideal place for culinary inspiration. Not to mention those awesome filters.
With the help of content, social media and online marketing blog The Social Ms, here are twenty facts and statistics about the photo-sharing network you probably had no idea about.
By the end of 2016, Instagram reported it had 600 million active users, that is, people who use their accounts and upload photos or images. This is an additional 100 million shutterbugs joining the service since September 2015
Instagram has a rapidly increasingly ‘growth base’ with rises of 15 per cent, and there is no sign of it slowing down. In the United States alone (its biggest market), the number of users is expected to hit 116.3 million (34.8 per cent of the then population) and become the second-most popular social network, overtaking Twitter, fellow photo social network Pinterest and micro-blog Tumblr, according to recent figures by eMarketer.
Not surprisingly, just like all social networks, Insta is a hit with the young ‘uns. For all age groups of Internet users, 28 per cent use it, 55 per cent of people between the ages of 18-29 are Insta-fanatics, forming its largest demographic, according to the Pew Research Center in the US. The centre also reported that 52 per cent of teens aged between 13 and 17 were also fans of Instagram.
Instagram has good product loyalty. Fifty-nine per cent of its users post daily, and another 17 per cent use it at least once weekly, according to the Pew Research Center.
The site has enjoyed massive growth rates in some subjects, according to MediaPost. Beauty (74% growth rate), ‘big box’ (128%) and household goods (149%) have been some of the most popular topics, at least for businesses using their Instagram accounts to promote their goods to private users. For the rest of us, I assume selfies probably have a growth rate of 100,000 per cent (I kid).
Instagram is big money for marketers. In 2015, it netted advertising revenue of USD $500 million (GBP £407 million). It is expected that this year, Insta will make more money from its advertising platform on American mobile handsets than Google and Twitter, claims eMarketer.
Although Instagram is US-founded and run by a big American tech company, most of its success has been from outside. Eighty per cent of its users are non-American.
Over 80 million photos are uploaded per day. There is believed to be more than 40 billion images crammed into Insta’s servers and users generate an astonishing 3.5 billion likes per day, says ClickZ.
The most prestigious account, going by popularity and celebrity anyway, is the one owned by U.S. singer Selena Gomez. She has 99.5 million followers allegedly.
The most liked photo over all of Insta was one by reality show star Kendall Jenner. The picture of her lying on her back, eyes closed with her hair spread out and arranged into hearts got 3.5 million likes.
If you post a photo, fifty per cent of comments will appear within six hours, meaning a good post will stick around and not get lost in the noise.
Instagram is quite secure, with only eight per cent of its accounts said to be fake, according to an unnamed Italian security firm.
Like any social network, people sometimes do get bored of posting or other things happen in their life that pull them away. The same Italian firm discovered that nearly 30 per cent of account are rarely used or inactive, usually posting one post per month or less, according to Business Insider.
For businesses, Insta is marketing gold. Forrester published stats that suggest people engage with brands ten times more on Insta than they do on Facebook. Facebook ads are annoying, I grant you that.
One-third of Instagram users have used their mobile to purchase a product online.
Fifty-three per cent of Instagrammers, as fans are sometimes called, are following brands.
As humans love seeing faces, this fact is probably not surprising, but selfies and group photos on average are 38 per cent more likely to get liked, than other kinds of pictures, such as inanimate objects.
Accomplished Baltimore rapper Sullee J returns with a new single as he recently announced his new signing with Bogish Brand Ent. in the United States. This new track is entitled ‘Bad Habits’ and sees Sullee J pay homage to his Pakistani heritage by dropping a bilingual flow in English and Urdu, the national langauge of Pakistan, of which Sullee is a fluent speaker.
Bad Habits, also called ‘Old Habits’, or in Urdu ‘Jiyu Kaise’ speaks on the battles between culture and politics. Produced by AnnoDominiBeats, the music video starts off with the sights of the once-glorious city of Detroit, the erstwhile ‘Motor City‘ of the Americas. Sullee J appears near some cool street art and immediately drops some Urdu lyrics with his unmistakable delivery and raw emotion, before moving onto English. It is a powerful song, which speaks of the bad and good of human society and the struggle of existence in an international theatre of hate and war, interspersed with video and news footage of the tragedies unfolding in the Middle East, some of which is raw and unsettling for some viewers.
Some words extracted from the hook which Sullee J has translated especially are “How can I live like this? am I also suppose to break hearts, or help join them? Everywhere I look, it always seems corrupt, it feels like this whole life is a game, and people will do whatever to win in it, How can I live like this?”
Bad Habits is now out on YouTube and you can download the MP3 version on SoundCloud.
The small Indian Oceanisland of Mauritius may not have the clout of many other much larger countries when it comes to producing people that can be defined as ‘great’ and ‘multitalented’, but that does not mean that Mauritians are not capable of reaching those dizzy heights.
Enter Bagooaduth Kallooa. He has been described by Le Defi, one of Mauritius’ most widely read newspapers, as ‘a man of many talents’. He began his working life as a nurse working in patient care on the west coast of Mauritius, inspired by his humble origins, and his desire to help the poorer parts of society who rely on the island republic’s government-run hospitals. Kallooa’s talent and professionalism was quickly noticed by the health managers of Flacq Hospital, who readily promoted Kallooa to the position of head nurse, a role he still holds.
Bagooaduth Kallooa also became keenly involved in the local trade union movement, as he understood the importance and hard work of looking after patients, where there is a major requirement of patience, sacrifice and a good dose of determination to heal the sick. He also understood, as a nurse himself, that he and his colleagues worked tirelessly and selflessly under very trying conditions, and he personally felt saddened by the negative and abusive attitude shown by some members of the public towards caregivers and other medical professionals just trying to do their job. Kallooa began organising trade union activities to protest against the difficult conditions nurses endure, as well as trying to build unions that are there “24/7” for their members and at the same time avoid the militant unionism that has annoyed many ordinary Mauritians in the past.
More than thirty years after Kallooa began his nursing journey, things have gone full circle for the multi-talented health professional, who also a keen photographer, sculptor and painter. He is the first Mauritian to be elected as Second Vice President of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The ICN, founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1899 is a non-governmental organisation made up of worldwide national nursing organisations. It works to promote and guarantee the quality of patient care, lobbies for sound healthcare policies and to make strides in improving and developing the teaching of the profession. It currently has 16 million members in 137. Kallooa will have joint responsibility for the ICN’s activities in the Africa region, according to Le Défi.
Despite his keen involvement in a busy career and his new promotion to the ICN, Kallooa finds time to draw on his many creative talents. He practices painting, sculpture and photography, receiving several international awards for his photo work alone, including one memorable gong from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation, relating to a photography project he did on the theme of communication . He has exhibited his creations all over Mauritius and the world alongside the Alliance Française, often based on his observations of everyday mundane life, and in 2015, Kallooa travelled to China to showcase a photo exhibition of children he took pictures of in different countries over a span of 25 years. He donated the proceeds of the Chinese exhibition to the Girls Child Education Fund (GCEF), a charity that promotes the education of orphans internationally.
Kallooa is a shining example of not only the talents and determinations of Mauritius’ people, but also a solid lesson in how working hard and using your skills and talents to benefit others is in itself a blessing.
Baltimore‘s very own illustrious MC and one of its finest multilingual lyrical class behind the studio glass, Sullee J, has announced the launch of his latest album “The Undefined Soul (Andrew Slayer)” and today the Half-Eaten Mind features a single from this album, the tantalising “Do For You”.
Produced by Andrew Bayer and Dinero Films, the song and accompanying video, which was filmed on site in Chicago, is a love song from the gritty streets, of making dreams come true and being by each other’s sides. Having broken all the barriers of hip-hop, Sullee J’s performance in Do For You, not only challenges your mind when he recites those unmistakably powerful verses, but his words seem to pierce through the listeners’ hearts with raw emotion. This mixtape has been one of Sullee J’s favourite projects to date, and his passion and determination is clear to see.
Gaining nationwide acclaim over the years through major collaborations with artists such as Young Buck, Crooked I, Royce Da 5’9, Project Pat & more, Sullee J continues to bring solid music for his supporters. You can check out the new single by Sullee J and Andrew Bayer right now on YouTube and Bandcamp (free single download).
Since October 2012, all British workplaces have been required to offer a ‘workplace pension’ to all their permanent employees. The rule was first applied to large companies, but now all employers, even those run by one person with one staff member, must have pension provisions in place by law. Until then, employers varied wildly in their pensions packages or whether they even offered them.
The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, in collaboration with the Pensions Regulator have a useful website which aims to demystify the regulations surrounding compulsory pension schemes, a scheme known officially as ‘Automatic Enrollment’. As millions of people now have workplace pensions that both they and their employer pay into, the website explains to businesses how this will affect them, their businesses and their clients’ businesses.
Even if a company has only a single employee, that employee still needs to have a pension to help secure their staff’s income post-retirement. This includes cleaners, nannies, PAs and other personal care assistants. Employers are defined by the DWP as those who pay wages and deduct tax and National Insurance contributions from their salaries. If a company employs agency staff however, then responsibility for automatic enrolment lies with the agency, not the company using the workers. So far, around 79,000 employers have already signed up.
So far, 5.4 million employees have already been automatically enrolled, where they will see their pensions topped up by the employer and get these contributions paid into their pension pot tax free. The employee also benefits as this means they can start saving for retirement early. The earlier someone starts putting money aside for their later years, the better financial circumstances they will have when that time comes. Until AE was phased in, many employees had no pension plan put in place, which would have meant them relying on the basic State Pension. Many companies simply did not offer pensions, and many workers had not given any thought to what would happen once they no longer need to work. Employees who have retirement plans already in place or who do not plan to retire in the UK, for example, can opt out of the pension scheme if they wish. Under the scheme, employees can only be enrolled if they are not now with a pension, are aged between 22 and the ‘state pension age’ (65 for men and women currently) and work in Britain on a salary of £10,000 or more a year.
Using the catchy hashtag #DontIgnoreIt, the DWP and the Pensions Regulator are promoting the site with the help of a brightly coloured and furry mascot named Workie, a ‘larger-than-life’ character created to help remind employers of their pension responsibilities. The site also features a video starring millionaire businessman and panel member of the Dragon’s Den show Theo Paphitis, explaining the benefits of workplace pensions for employees.
A recent survey among UK cinemagoers has revealed that the Seventies musical Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, is the most popular film of all time, SWNS news service reported recently. The romance between high school exchange student Sandy and her beau Danny, set in the 1950s with an iconic soundtrack from the era of fast Harleys and milk bars topped the most popular movie of choice in the poll amongst 2,000 British adults commissioned by www.OnePoll.com. On its release in 1978, Grease blew up the box office, receiving record numbers of cinemagoers thanks to its catchy songs and memorable performances, and it has been lauded by movie critics to this day, with review site Rotten Tomatoes, giving the film a four star rating of 78 per cent.
It’s sequel, Grease 2, as well as its numerous stage show spin-offs still continue to pull in audiences nearly forty years after its initial release.
Second place in the OnePoll survey went to time travelling caper, Back to the Future, closely followed by Eighties kitsch romance Dirty Dancing and Christmas favourites Home Alone and Love Actually.
Remarkably – despite being one of the highest grossing films of all time, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, is far down the list in 24th place – behind the likes of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz.
A spokesman for www.OnePoll.com, said: “The results suggest Brits have a particular fondness for feel-good movies.
“Interestingly, the most popular films are relatively old – perhaps because evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding respondents of their childhoods.
“This might explain why movie studios invest so much money in remakes and sequels as seen with the new Star Wars movie and the forthcoming Ghostbusters reboot.”
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark came fifth, followed by Nineties favourite Titanic, which catapulted stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio into the limelight. Jurassic Park, the classic UK-made song and dance ditty Mary Poppins and children’s film series Toy Story completed the top ten of most adored films in UK cinemas.
Other popular films to feature in the top 50 include The Shawshank Redemption (11), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (17), Jaws (21) and The Lion King (25). Finding Nemo (27), Avatar (35) and Mean Girls (48) also made the list.The most popular film among men is Back to the Future, followed by Steven Spielberg’s classic swashbuckling tale, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Jurassic Park movies and their latest released sequel, Jurassic World, about a prehistoric theme park off the coast of central America, and which were also directed by Spielberg, came third among male cinema fans, with the Star Wars series coming off a respectable seventh.
Grease is solidly first place for women while Dirty Dancing is second. Third place belongs to Richard Curtis’ Christmas romance, Love Actually.
Action and adventure was found to be the most popular genre, followed by comedy and sci-fi. Romance only came sixth.
Despite recent box office misfires Johnny Depp, most famous for starring as the titular character of Edward Scissorhands, and the affable rogue Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, is Britain’s most favourite actor followed by Tom Hanks and western movie legend and archetypal gunslinger, Clint Eastwood.
Dames Helen Mirren and Judy Dench are the most popular actresses among those polled, with multi Oscar winner Meryl Streep in third place.
When Iyad Al-Baghdadi, an author and Arab democracy activist, recently tweeted about leaders of Daesh (so-called Islamic State) putting out an audio release calling for more fighters to join them in Iraq and Syria, as you would probably would not expect, the response from the Twittersphere was quite hilarious and served to ridicule the very nature of that organisation. Daesh, which has taken over large parts of the two Middle Eastern states have become notorious for their violence, sadism and religious and racial discrimination. This fightback by ordinary tweeters of the Muslim faith is especially relevant considering the strong presence of Daesh and other terrorist groups of all persuasions on Twitter, where accounts are used to disseminate propaganda and appeal for finances and fighters. The actions of Daesh and their supporters have led to a backlash against the everyday Muslim, many whom are resolutely against IS. A small victory against both Islamic State and Islamophobes by the wits of Twitter.
The following are the original comment from Al-Baghdadi and the amusing responses that followed:
Iyad Al-Baghdadi – ISIS leaders: We urgently call upon every Muslim to join the fight, especially those in the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia), rise.
Saladin Ahmed – Sorry, busy eating pie and playing video games with my kids.
Mohamed Djingo – Sorry, I am busy watching Netflix.
Idris – Sorry bruh it’s leg day tomorrow and I’ll be sore.
Tayyib ‘T’ Nawaz – Is ISIS going to help me with my assignments due in next week ?
Subhi – I’m behind in college credits as it is and I would rather drink bleach tbh (to be honest)
Ismail – Sorry lads, got a decent Football Manager save going atm (at the moment)
Saadat Ali Zia – I’ve got Star Wars on Sunday. Maybe later.
Sychlops – Sorry gotta see Twitter react to LVG (Louis van Gaal – Manchester United FC manager’s) sacking and Mourinho’s appointment.
RasheedAB – gotta do the dishes bruv
Mohamed Martell – Mate Chelsea are currently 3 pts above relegation and I have grad school applications due soon. Maybe next time?
In between the colourful pages of comics or the viewing recommendations on Netflix, there are many fictional towns plagued by baddies, criminals and no-gooders of all sorts, terrorising the inhabitants and making everyone’s life a sodding misery. Crime is rampant, evil prevails and no-one is foolish enough to walk the streets at night.
But, where there is bad, there must be good to put it in its place. A vigilante to right wrongs, put baddies behind bars and fight evil while living for another day. Gotham City has Batman, Smallville has Superman, and New York has Spiderman. Although these are fictional examples, does having a vigilante who takes it upon his or her self to protect decent and upstanding citizens make the difference to a huge, bustling and crowded city like our London?
London is a cool place to live. It is brimming with culture, history, trends, fun, entertainment, and the everyday trappings of life. With a population of eight million, it is a hard city to police. The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London Police do a fantastic job keeping our streets safe and managing Londoners’ welfare, but even before the current wave of Tory cutbacks and tougher rules for recruitment of new police officers, it is an obvious fact that the days of the ‘bobby on the beat’ are long dead, and logistically it would be impossible to have a cop patrolling each and every street, road, avenue, drive, cul-de-sac and alleyway. London has more than 60,000 streets. It’s a tall order and an impossible one at that.
As much as London is a fun and vibrant place to live, let’s not kid ourselves. Like in any big city or town even, crime is a fact. People do get robbed, murdered, assaulted and conned. According to the latest crime figures published by the Met Police and other sources, crimes number in their tens of thousands. Since 1990, an average of 171 homicides takes place across the 32 London boroughs every year. In 2008–09 alone, there were 70,962 assault with injury offences. London is also home to many gangs involved with everything from guns and drugs to prostitution and illegal immigration. Gang members have no qualms about wandering the streets tooled and ready to main and kill. In 2009 alone, 3,295 gun-related offences were reported to crime-fighting authorities. At about the same time, 12,611 offences were reported where a knife was involved. Even teenagers are not safe, with around 13-15 fatally stabbed or shot every year in our city. Add to that, 35,857 robberies, and thousands of other crimes such as assaults, muggings, vandalism, shoplifting. Figures reported by London newspaper The Evening Standard in January this year suggest the violent crime has increased by 22 per cent, with Haringey borough alone seeing a 38 per cent jump.
Now don’t get me wrong, London isn’t some crim-infested hellhole where you are fleeced (or as we say, rinsed) of your worldly possessions the moment you step out of your front door. I am a born and bred Londoner who has lived here all of his thirty-one years of life. I have been mugged only twice, saw one opportunistic attempt at a burglary (someone had opened the back door of my houseshare while us housemates were out) and once had someone point a knife at me years ago in school. I live in one of the roughest and poorest parts of London.
Back to our main question, does London need a vigilante?. There are a lot of criminals in this city and having a vigilante around to mop up crime would be a huge help to the police with their stretched and shrinking resources. The British media have been awash lately with stories of ordinary people who have taken on superhero-like personas and even got themselves kitted out in costumes to boot. In March 2015, the Mirror reported on the appearance of 200 ‘superheroes’ in cities across America, all ordinary people with day jobs and family responsibilities who don masks and capes (and maybe underpants over Spandex bottoms) and protect their communities. In Seattle, Phoenix Jones dresses in a superhero outfit of his own design and tackles car theft, street fights and change the car wheels of distressed motorists five days a week. The American capital, Washington, DC, has its ‘Guardian’ who wears a full-body stars-and-stripes outfit and wanders the troubled areas behind the Capitol building. Then there’s RazorHawk, from Minneapolis, who was a professional wrestler for fifteen years before joining the Real Life Super Hero movement. Some even come equipped with a sense of witty humour that would make the Fantastic Four beam with pride. New York, home of the fictional Spiderman and Superman/Clark Kent, does actually have a real-life superhero fighting against its troublesome trade in narcotics. The Big Apple’s ‘Dark Guardian‘ approaches drug dealers making sales in cannabis in the city’s Washington Square Park at night, shines a light in their faces, and sends the pot merchants scurrying with the firm words “This is a drug-free park!”. American real-life superheroes and city vigilantes also carry out community services such as helping the homeless and elderly people and giving advice to schoolkids.
London, too, has its guardian of the streets and protector of the innocent. Step forward The Shadow. Wearing a bandana and keeping his identity well-hidden as a superhero should, he has been credited with saving a woman from a pervert who attempted to assault her in Greenwich. The crook had tried to grope her, The Shadow appeared from the shadows, and put the octopus fingered creep in a hold lock, while telling the woman to flee to safety. “If anyone thinks they can get away with this sort of thing then they are mistaken,” the Shadow told the Evening Standard. “I live in hope that one day people who cause fear through crime to others will fear me enough to think twice about their actions,” he added. The unknown hero was previously called the Bromley Batman, after an area of south Greater London near to Kent and he has been fighting crime for three years. Some people however had dismissed the existence of The Shadow as a mere urban legend.
It’s not just London, mind you. The UK’s other big metropolises also have their iconic crime-fighting legends. Head to Salford, near Manchester and you may have a chance encounter with Knight Warrior, a youngish lad in blue and black with some tough biking gloves. His real name is Roger Hayhurst, a 19-year-old gardener by day, who possesses the superpower of a “supernatural desire to make the world a better place.”. He mainly tackles the drunk hooligans that regularly pour out of Salford’s pubs, kicking off ‘cos someone looked at their ‘bird’. He also distributes food to the city’s street dwellers. Yeovil, a charming seaside resort in Somerset, southern England, can lay claim to having its very own ninja, 33-year-old Ken Andre, whose alter-ego is Shadow. Wearing the mysterious black suit of a true master of the dark ninja arts, Andre’s approach to vigilante justice includes stopping drug dealers and muggers. He is well-versed in the sacred martial art of ninjutsu to which he was inducted as a child and once caught a carjacker in his tracks by hurling nunchuks at him. In his own words, “I tied him to the lamppost using his own legs and called the police.”
Does London need a superhero dispensing vigilante justice? In many ways yes. Vigilantes can help the police with tackling crime, assisting them and reaching out to the community, a badly needed thing in a city notorious for its individualistic mentality, where people mind their own business and not everyone is helpful or considerate. Vigilantes can be the best option in places where the police are simply not there, due to their falling numbers and strained resources, such as on housing estates or tourist areas late at night, when most police patrols end. They are more personable and relatable, particularly as many people feel uncomfortable or downright dismissive of the police, and let’s face it, superheroes are pretty cool, right? Vigilantes can be tolerated by the police and community, even encouraged, provided they stick by the rules of the law and don’t take things too far, for example by shooting dead a rapist. Having a vigilante around your area can also do wonders for people’s perception of crime and their safety too. Knowing that there is someone around making crims feel tetchy and always looking over their shoulder means you don’t have to worry about constantly looking over yours. Having a vigilante around means we can feel safe, knowing there is a good guy out there, selflessly giving up their time to make our homes safer and more secure. Being such a massive sprawl of a city, London has more than enough room for different kinds of vigilantes, and with common goals, they could easily form a Justice League of their own.
There are some cons to having vigilantes that should be mentioned. London is a massive city, with hundreds of communities and peculiarities. Unless he or she had real superpowers, it would be nigh on impossible to tackle every crime and stop every crook. Even the police can’t be everywhere at once. Vigilantes can put their lives at risk should criminals be armed. Use your imagination as much as you like, but it is highly unlikely that your rented Superman costume can actually stop a bullet or a jab from a flick-knife. Vigilantes, with or without the superhero costume, are only human. There is always the risk of a vigilante getting too ‘drunk’ on their power, and taking things into their own hands. There are also moral implications of vigilante justice, not to mention legal ones.
Everyone loves superheroes and superheroines, whether real or imagined. They are larger-than-life personifications of the best bits of humanity, putting their own lives at risk to help others. But while we can salute one-man crime fighters and their special brand of vigilante justice, we shouldn’t forget the many unsung heroes who make London a better and safer place – neighbours looking out for each other, people who give to charities, ambulance staff, police officers, doctors, nurses, social workers, foster parents, and many others who may not wear capes or tie up criminals with webs, but are just as valuable for our London.