While the UK was, to its surprise, having its shop-windows kicked i I was in Brittany. The only UK daily paper I could get my hands on was the Telegraph which I grabbed as soon as the campsite shop opened.
You get an interesting line of sight from the the country you're visiting. A few years ago, following his election, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, had to deal with a load of rioting in the outer 'banlieux' of Paris, home mainly to Arab and African people. Calling the rioters 'scum', Sarkozy sent in the riot police in full-on gear to, essentially, beat the crap out of anyone stepping out of line. This is, basically, how the police operate in virtually any other country to our own, in these situations. They are, quite deliberately, scary-as-fuck.
Of course, for anyone who remembers the Miners Strike or indeed the inner city riots of the 80s, our police, for a time, were as racist and brutal as any to be found in Europe. But that has changed and these days the big idea is that the police is no longer a 'force', it is a service, reliant on consent, relationships and all of that.
Which was working out quite nicely until last week when all of the work of the last 30 years appeared to count for bugger-all. Indeed, the absence of a fear-factor for the police - which has always had an effect on me - even as a law-abider I shit myself if I get stopped by a blue-light - seemed to somehow give heart to the looters. Nobody, as they queue-ed up for trainers seemed at all worried that a six foot-six helmeted rozzer with a night-stick mightcome and club them over the head or spray CS gas all over them. Because, of course, that isn't how the police work these days. So people, well, had a laugh. As we all saw.
My biggest laughs this week came when the Telegraph were reporting all these middle-class types being caught nicking from PC World or Argus. One was a female A * student at Exeter Uni whose parents were millionaires. Others were teaching assistants, estate agents, all manner of things. For these people, as with all of them, I am not sure the motivation was actually acquisition, or that purely. I think it was excitement. Action. Being in the middle of it all. Secretly, most of us crave this. We find it, if we're lucky, in our work and, occasionally, in our relationships. But we mostly do without it. Unless it's served up to us on a plate, that is.
The remaining laughs I had were, and this sounds a bit cynical, at the latte-liberals of Clapham and places such-like, brushes-aloft wearing 'Looters are Scum' T-shirts. In my view, you can't live cheek-by-jowl with the underclass (who you spend most of your life carefully avoiding) without expecting at least some collatoral damage from time-to-time. All of these people claim to love the 'edginess' of London. Well, darlings, the edges occasionally get rough and smash a few windows. Get used to it. And if you really can't live with it, well move up here to Bury St Edmunds.