A blonde little girl with blue eyes is defencelessly looking at us from hundreds of walls: standing at the tube station, at the bus stop or just walking in the street without feeling sorry for her, is impossible. Every corner in town is plastered with posters of the book of Kate McCann, mother of Madeleine, the three years old who disappeared on May 2007 while she was on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, and hasn’t been found yet. Despite the Portuguese police archiving her search three years ago, her parents has never stopped shouting their pain to the world.
Around 140.000 children go missing every year in the UK, including ‘runaway’, parental abductions and ‘stranger’ abductions – as happened to Madeleine. In 2009, 64% of the 356.000 incidents reported to the Home Office’s Missing People Bureau were under age. Although the majority of the disappearance is solved within the first 48 hours, there are still a lot of lonely children out there and a lot of families are fighting to bring them home.
I look fascinated around me and all I can see is paper. Thousands of yellowy pages from all over the world are bound in enormous dusty old books, stored in some tall wood shelves behind me. The Athletic record, weekly journal of 1886; Good news, the amusing journal of 1893; the Daily Mirror of 1907. Walking among the narrow corridors, I feel that modern history hides in the irregular outline of those rare and smelly volumes.
Everything that has been published in the United Kingdom, in the former colonies and Commonwealth from the early 17th century until now, is classified by year or title in 45 km of shelves distributed on the six floors of this large brick building in North London.
Stored in the national archives collections, over 693,000 bound volumes and more than 400,000 reels of microfilms of British and overseas publications are ready to be consulted.
Gemma ran away from home at only 15, having too many troubles with her parents. After she had been rejected from school because she was found smoking cannabis, she started to steal money to her violent father to fund her addiction and was too scared to admit it. A friend’s sofa was better than lies and argues, she thought. But later on, she was led to face her problems and unexpectedly things turned better.
Hundreds of youths like her are welcomed every day in the centres of Depaul, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless people aged between 16 and 24.
Mr Paul Benson, fundraiser of the charity, has seen a lot of these stories and is more determined than ever to find as much money as he can to support the volunteers’ activity.
Hundreds of coloured balloons, cartoons decorations, extravagant make-up, odd sunglasses and fancy dresses are all around. Outside the shop, the panel says: “Party-Party”. Inside, a waitress wearing Irish-fairy-wings instructs me: “The manager is upstairs.”
In a tiny room surrounded by fulfilled shelves, a man with a white sailor-hat is sorting out some muffin tins. He smiles at me and said, “Just a minute, we’re very busy in these days,” and turns to give a woman an 18inch-serving dish for a birthday dessert.
Francois is a party-man from the North-east of France, who came to London for a two-weeks holiday in 1997, and never moved back.
He wants me to guess his age and his peppy face lights up as he confirms, “I’ll be 30 in May.” He is planning a smashing night, I bet.
Manager of the “Party-Party” shop in Kilburn since 2007, Francois has been working for ten years in the other branch of Dorsten, before the promotion.
Although overseas students bring into UK economy up to £10 billion every year and the majority don’t stay in the country permanently, young Britons feel threatened by migration, said a new poll by Ipsos Mori.
“The government sets the number for home students,” said Right2education on the Guardian online, adding “by lowering target numbers for abroad students there’s a possibility of increasing the numbers for us British. The financial side is a whole separate issue”
And Geoff1963 followed him: “Who cares about foreign students?? I care about English.”