It was late June when I was told I would be working in London for a couple of days. I was booked in to “The Charnel House”, in the Clapham area, a pub that had a few rooms to let above. After a two hour drive I rolled up at the front of the pub which was on the corner of Downs View Road and a cul-de-sac called Church Way because directly opposite stood the parish church of St. John the Baptist. A quite imposing building. It had a large black, wooden gate and a gravel path led up to the church door. Although the graveyard looked unkempt and unattended there was a board with a list of services so it was still a functioning church. I noticed there was a young black guy looking intently through the gate towards the church porch.
I went up to my room, dropped my case and went out to work. I noticed the guy still standing in the same position as before. He had a large parka draped over his arm on a warm, sunny morning. He looked about fourteen or fifteen, not moving, just standing, staring intently up the path.
After what felt like a long afternoon, dusk was closing in so I decided to take a leisurely walk back to my room. Turning the corner to the entrance I saw a figure outlined in the street-lights by the church gate. It was the same youth who had been there when I had left mid-morning. I turned the key and went in through reception. I watched the TV for a while then decided to retire.
Next morning I made do with just a cup of strong coffee for breakfast before setting off to work. It was eight thirty and imagine my surprise as, when I walked out onto the street, the same guy was in exactly the same place. Had he been there all night? Was he okay? It was time to get off to work.
I made my way back to the guest-house at about eight. Of course the guy was still by the church gate. On the third day, my last, as I left the reception there was a row of blue and white bollards closing the road off. A board was placed saying that there was to be a funeral at eleven o’ clock.
They were closing the street off now before any cars came in to park. The youth was no longer there, perhaps keeping out of the way of the funeral. I pulled into the motorway services on my way home. There was a large-screen TV. at the far end of the coffee house and the news was on. A youth of fifteen who had been involved in the Tottenham riots was to be buried that morning. The service was to be held in the church on the same road where I had stayed. The youth had been injured during the riots. and there was a strong belief that the police had been heavy-handed in their treatment of him. He had been struck a blow to the head and collapsed. He was taken to a hospital , Accident and Emergency department but he had remained in a coma without regaining consciousness until a week ago, when he had finally expired. Because of the potential risk of violence, there would be a police presence at the funeral as it could become the catalyst for further riots. I gave a start when they showed a photo of the young man. He was wearing a parka and a hat and looked just like the guy at the gate. I could only think that perhaps his lonely wait was over and he was finally invited to enter?