This photo looted from the Hartlepool Mail online. Taken by Paul Duxfield.
So we are home... or at least back in our adopted home of Scotland (we've lived here since 2002 and we have a fair amount of Scottish links in our family too). And though it has rained almost continually since we returned we are still glad to be back, to see our friends, to be in our own house again, to walk our own dog. For now anyway.
And yet our other home, the country where we were both born and brought up, is in big trouble this week (if you haven't seen coverage of what's been happening in London and a few other English cities then you must have been having a no-news week or something). We don't really call England home much any more but it still is that, of course, in many ways. We still have family and many friends there, we still sound English, we still can't help but be interested in it. And London... big, crazy London... I lived there for a few years some quarter of a century ago (eek!) so I know a bit about London too.
Here are a few observations re the current English situation:
No-one ever really expected David Cameron to be any kind of good leader (even other Tories, I think) and indeed it seems he is keeping to his target. And I know the leader isn't everything... but it is meant to be something.
I suspect people who found Boris Johnson 'charming' and 'wacky' are feeling a bit different about that now.
The banks really ballsed up and people are still mad about that and they will be for a long time. We don't mind getting ripped off a bit (in fact we expect that) but we don't really want our faces rubbing in it over and over again. They did, as it were, write a blank cheque for daylight robbery.
Anyone who writes anything about all this explosion of violence and theft and uses the word 'surprise' has been avoiding some very obvious truths, it seems to me. Haven't they been in an English inner city area in the past, I dunno, fifty years? Haven't they been sworn at by a lawless (and loveless...) ten year old out there somewhere for heaven's sake? Haven't they seen all the gritty movies about alienation, poverty and feral youth and realised that our film makers are maybe taking those stories from real life..? But I guess some people don't ever see films like that... they can be really depressing (though not as depressing as getting your house burned down I'm guessing).
Also, for me, the London police cannot enjoy a good season of student-bashing and baiting and then expect too much sympathy when they get opponents with a bit more attitude and application (and that's without starting on the News International business). And yet I still feel sympathy, of course, for some of the police officers - for the ones who do do a good job and have to take the crap and the burning bottles anyway. It's never the worst arseholes who pay the price, unfortunately.
After a year when we have been bored to tears about the bloody royal family (and there was no escape from them overseas – there was possibly even more coverage of the stupid wedding in Canada and the US than here I think) the special ones have been conspicuously quiet during the recent riot season. Feel a bit embarrassed about all that wealth and all those lovely parties this week? Ever think you're part of the problem, princess? What nothing from you? Nothing?
(Added later, 19.8.11, there have since been a couple of royal visits to riot sites - Princes Charles and Harry, that I'm aware of so far. For balance I thought I should add this. Not that it makes me any less keen on the the end of our monarchy. Not at all).
And the great unsaid... London is just too big – too many people, too many poor areas contrasting so starkly with some of the most obscene wealth (all cities have that but London is kind of a leader in the field). When I lived there (so long ago) it was just after the '80s riots and the scars were deep and throbbing. This time there are so many young people with so much to prove that I don't see this clearing up any time soon. Some of them are genuinely angry and some are already fairly hardened criminals and more than happy for a chance to take a bonus or two. Some are too damaged to care, others are bored stupid and another bunch are, no doubt, just going along for the ride – but whatever their reasons or drives most of the hooded young out there will be having the time of their lives in some way or other this week (it may seem horrible to think that but if we ignore the pleasure element I think we will not understand what is happening). I've read a few times this week that it feels like war in parts of England just now (class war... sort of)... and it is a kind of war for sure. It seems that we cannot stop ourselves from making and getting into these war situations (both at home and away) because a lot of people knew this was coming and yet England, as a country, did nothing to stop it – in fact they brought, as the saying goes, it on (more for the rich, less for the poor, ra, ra, ra!). So, now it's here and right in our faces. And it's not pretty. Welcome home.