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People Power

August 24, 2011

Following on from last week, I realise now that I’ve not tackled the problem from the other angle. An incident at my local newsagent’s told me why the screeds I wrote then were only half the story.

The shop was empty, save for myself and the shopkeeper. As I handed him a £10 note to pay, and waited for my change, a boy – 14 or so – entered, grabbed a drink from the display… ignored me totally and handed his money to the befuddled shopkeeper with the words “70p boss.” The boy then left us both standing there.

And this is the other half of the problem. Once he had gone, we both agreed it was easier to let him get on with it than do what both of our parents would have done decades ago when we were growing up.

Back then, it was not only accepted but expected that adults ruled children, and that all adults were responsible for behaviour of young people around them at all times. An unpleasant response from the child was highly unlikely, and if there were, police and courts could and would take instant and effective action.

Now, both myself and the shopkeeper knew we would have no back-up from society, and would find ourselves in trouble if we did anything at all – even though a “wait your turn” would have been a strong new stitch in future social fabric.

It isn’t just the clarity of what to expect from life that is important, but also what life expects from them – and that needs to be backed up by adults being allowed to re-claim their rightful place as instructors of the future  generation… with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

Still, Britishness is not entirely lost; it exists in small pockets still – like the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park last Thursday afternoon. As predicted by the Met Office, rain kicked in just as I got to the park, and got steadily heavier as my ticket was torn and I took shelter in the bar area under the auditorium.

Ten minutes to go, the rain got a little lighter, and a plastic mac clad British audience took its seats. The stage manager emerged and a dance captain could be seen skidding around on the wooden floor. Three stage hands (one with a ‘comedy’ broom that fell apart as he swept, to keep the audience entertained of course) started shifting water from the boards, and a hopeful sound person took the plastic covers off the speakers.

Then the rain really started to come down. And yet, and yet… despite knowing it was inevitable, almost a thousand British people sat quietly in a heavy downpour for nearly ten minutes until a tannoy voice suggested we took shelter again in the bar.

The show was called off, but it was one of those moments that reminded me how real Brits manage to survive, no matter what social engineering the Government try.

Kudos to the park box office too, my ticket exchange was efficient – further proof that we aren’t quite as hopeless as certain sectors of the media like to think.

Right, that’s me ranted out. I’m taking a week off to recover, so the next posting will be after the schools are back and the streets are peaceful once more.


P.S. I am no fan of the Notting Hill Carnival, but know it brings pleasure to hundreds of thousands of people each year. To those who organise it and enjoy it – have a great time. To those who might be thinking of doing anything disruptive to it – please don’t, and remember there will be a heavy police presence throughout London that weekend too. That is all.

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