I'm on holiday at the moment and spent today visiting Bath with a friend. We went round the Roman Baths and had lunch in the Pump Rooms. Lunch in the Pump Rooms is a civilised affair in elegant surroundings with waiters in smart waistcoats and long starched white aprons, a pianist playing on a dais at one end of the huge room. A pot of English Breakfast tea with a light lunch there is the Best of British.
The Worst of British is the riots around the country. It's unbelievable that this could be happening in Britain, let alone in Croydon, a place I'd spend shopping in my youth. Demonstrations - yes, protests - yes but this level of thuggery, looting and violent mayhem - no! I know, intellectually, we're no different to other people but somehow I've always felt this wouldn't happen here. I don't know why this should be because I worked in London at the height of the IRA threat when bombs were going off. I've heard about the riots we've had over the centuries during times of social unrest and injustice but I don't relly believe there's anything in this society that warrants the level of violence we're seeing. Self-defeating if it is truly a reaction against the economic downturn because it's destroying businesses, livelihoods and homes. It's going to cost a fortune to rebuild. If the cause is truly in protest at the original shooting and trying to bring it to the attention of the public then also self-defeating because no-one is really thinking about it now, all news reports are focussed on the violence.
No, it's a sad reflection of how far we've fallen in standards in this country. Standards of decency and consideration for others; fair play and family cohesion. Parents should be keeping their children home yet I suspect some are out helping with the looting. Those who aren't looting are out there treating it as a spectator sport, getting in the way of the police, making it harder for them to know who are the troublemakers and easier for the troublemakers to melt into the crowds.
Talking about this over breakfast this morning we variously decided to heck with their 'yuman rights'; use teargas, use water cannons - and one suggestion I particularly liked - use a special dye in the watercanons so they are marked for all society to see and know they are looters and thugs. If spectators are also marked - tough, they shouldn't be there goggling and getting in the way - it's irresponsible.
This morning I was ashamed to be British, this evening things have come back into perspective a little and I can see again the good that balances the bad but this is a black episode in our history.