Of London: Ripper

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A little boy hidden in a parker coat clutches silver balloons as the rain taunts commuters flitting for umbrella space. Like spooked cattle, those without shelter stampede in to Hammersmith station as though water from the skies may melt them, or at least stain white Converse trainers.

The only life to be found at Aldgate tube is a shadow figure pasted to the entrance wall in false hope of warmth in the very first, certain, day of Autumn. Detached hollers of teenage boys cry out the name of the take away on the corner as though it will bring salvation. There is confusion amongst road works and bland offices. Texts are exchanged and misspelt from droplets on the screen; another beheading, isn’t it scary and a brief remark of location in case of disappearance. Somewhere around a corner will be a side street. They say Jack the Ripper wrote on a wall here and left a scrap of bloodied apron and terrible grammar. Centuries later it seems a pointless crack in the map.


Graffiti is still on every wall and pulled down shutter, possibly the only thing requiring eyesight in the street. Do the tourists walks come this way? Despite the gloom of modernity every side alley and gated recess has the imaginary potential as a place to kill. He must have been swift for not even a minute can pass without someone taking the same needless route. Asian women and daughters appear in bold silk dresses of gold and pinks from nowhere, trinkets against the grey.

Did Jack really have that cape and topper of so many depictions in this place that generations on is nothing but tight bricks and litter. The age, the debris and grim faced men evoke the ghosts of East End poverty; the precious last backstreets that haven’t succumbed to another glass box of executive homes.

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The poorest street in London became a desolate car park of black slits between metal. The dwellings of another victim are hard to picture under the echoing foul language of a man on his phone as he struts, determined, with his tracksuit trousers tucked in to puddle stamped white socks.

Go on to the colourful huddle of Spitalfields craft sellers and designer honey makers, or retreat beneath the grey and silence of an alley that has lost its place in time? A little glimpse of ‘Neverwhere’ in a slit opposite a car park. Is there nowhere old and ghostly that a person of the present can’t invade?

East of Hanbury street. The peeling adverts of pop up bars and street art, skinny youths with skinnier jeans and androgyny terminate at the last falafel bar on the left.

Squeezed between lamppost and screeching sun a man leaps into a shop with large hanks of unwrapped raw meat on his back. The fleshy smell mixes with curry spices in the air and all glares its way into the dismal places of Jacks London rebuilt for the latest poor. Victorian, Prostitute, Postmodern, Dancer; female apprehension never changes. Who knows exactly where Eddowes was slain here, don’t stop. Just get fast out of being lost in Whitechapel housing blocks. Jack wouldn’t have worn a cape any more than the residents here in their black militant looking sportswear will mug you in a Versace tie.

Isn’t it whimsical how garish painted shutters, brass doorknobs and the mystery of old dwellings can entice. The slums of yesterday become stories, fascinations. Murder of prostitutes in bustles and calico scanties become legends of the metropolis; dark, unsolved Victoriana. And yet layer on layer of years and mortar the immigrant low earners still reside here with suspicious faces in a tricking evening sunlight of unrest.

They are saying Jack was really an Aaron. Did he alone kill seven prostitutes, seven women? The only women out on these streets in those nights would have been prostitutes.

Gaggling girls talk rapidly, one over the over, all at once in some private joke by the station. Their numerous paper shopping bags tangle around their legs. Only a cut through wet trees of Devonshire Square and like poking a finger through a cobweb on railings the streets judder with life and rustling laughter of smokers outside the pub. It is only London on a Saturday evening again.


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