I went to visit Café Racer this afternoon. I felt a little self-disgust or self-doubt that I wanted to – prurience? Murder porn? What are you doing? – but that went away as soon as I got there, and I’m glad I went. I now think one should make a point of visiting murder scenes.
There were a lot of people there. There were a lot of flowers, and a lot of lit candles. There was a slightly goddy message painted on the window, but not too bad, and anyway, none of my biz. It was very, very, very quiet. It was a mourning ritual. Nothing prurient about it.
One woman knelt down on the sidewalk and put two wine glasses down in front of the flowers – in front of the small section of flowers in front of her; she was just one small segment of what was going on – and poured them full of red wine, then took a swig from the bottle. I didn’t look at her any more after that. People were carefully not looking at each other.
I got very chokey right away. It was good that I was wearing a sweatshirt, because the sleeves came in handy.
There were cop cars around, driving past slowly, circling the block slowly. I don’t know exactly what for, but it felt like part of the mourning ritual, and maybe it was. Maybe cops went there for coffee and knew the people. No reason they wouldn’t.
It was, as you can probably tell, overwhelmingly moving, and sad. That’s why I now think one should make a point of visiting murder scenes. Notice should be taken.
It’s desperately sad that it was a place like that, though. Good cafés are among my favorite institutions (along with libraries – long live Kensal Rise branch! and the one in Elephant and Castle that Anthony Grayling and Alom Shaha used to visit often, now also closed – and bookstores and parks). A further terrible detail in this particular tragedy is that the murderer liked the Café Racer too, but he couldn’t go on visiting it because his mental illness made him go off the rails at intervals.
I stood at one end for a bit, where the woman with the wine was, then I moved to the middle, then I moved toward the other end, then I crossed the street and stood there for a bit, then I left.