Trip Start May 27, 2010
97Trip End Aug 31, 2011
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Having returned from York on Sunday to the news that rioters had taken over London and caused havoc and carnage in various boroughs of the city, we learned that Birmingham too had been affected by the mayhem. I woke in the early hours of Tuesday morning to a text message from my cousin back home asking if we were ok, as he'd heard that the riots had spread to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. I knew little about this news, but concluded that if there was anything to be worried about, I would hear about it when I got up later in the morning.
I went in to work without a worry after taking a squiz at the news on the morning shows while I was getting ready. I was met with vision of people taking TV's and electrical equipment, shoes, tracksuits and more or less anything that was to hand once the shop windows were smashed. It was a scene of looting, people with nothing better to do than to come into the city and cause trouble. It was desperate. But for the good people that remain in society, it was a little bit confronting, and made for an anxious afternoon as we waited to hear whether we would be able to go home from work early so as to get home safely. Police sirens could be heard all over the city, and even plumes of smoke in the distance got people worried. Was the world burning down around us? We weren't sure. But we were sure the looters would return for a second night running, trying their luck against the depleted force of police.
We did get sent home from work early, and I was particularly nervous given that my phone battery had gone flat and I had no means of contacting Philo should I run into trouble on my way home. The most frustrating part of having a flat battery meant that I couldn't listen to my iPod, and was therefore subjected to the ranting and raving of the young mum on the bus who had zero control over her toddler. Once I eventually got home, I collapsed into the chair and cried. I'd worked myself up so much in the afternoon and experienced such an uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that I was feeling very homesick. I just wanted to get away from that feeling of not knowing what was going on, and not knowing how bad it was going to get.
By Thursday the rioting had subsided, but the worry turned to fear of a race riot, when news broke of three muslim men who had been killed by black men in a hit run on one of the nights that the rioters took over the streets. People feared a backlash was imminent, but it all seemed to be kept at bay with the help of the father of one of the deceased, mourning privately but publicly encouraging the youth to stop the madness, go home and stop causing trouble. His words must have sunk in, because things went quiet, and the city once again saw calm.
Then of course the media turned to asking questions as to why this all happened in the first place. There were many arguments, but they all stemmed back to one thing: the government. I drew my own conclusion from my own observations and got quite angry when I thought about just how screwed up some people in this country are. The government has done nothing to change this endless cycle of people living in council flats, receiving benefits and who expect to be taken care of. They have this deep-seeded dependency on handouts and feel that they deserve to be financially supported. There was even a woman in the paper over the weekend who had 11 kids to four different fathers, receives government benefits, spends £300 a week on groceries, and who is still asking for more handouts. Is she for real? Get off your fat arse and get a job instead of expecting other people to do the hard work for you. Instill some responsibility and accountability into the lives of the 11 children you've brought into the world. Let them grow up and be hopeful of a brighter future. Be the one to break the mould and strive for a better life.
Some say youth were out in the streets rioting and looting because they had nothing better to do. My response to that? Get a f*cking job! Sure, there might be an unemployment problem in this country as well, but there's no motivation for these kids to go and do anything with themselves other than cause trouble and get sucked into the vortex of crime and negativity. If there are no jobs, go and do something for the community. Join the army. Do some volunteer work that just might lead to a permanent job. These kids were looting from convenience stores. Stealing lollies. Really?! Apparently it all kicked off in London after the peaceful protest a young guy shot by police. But then it just got out of hand, and people forgot what they were rioting for in the first place. Flogging lollies. Tut tut tut.
The good news came when the courts worked through the nights to hear the cases of the 1500+ people who had been arrested over those few days of rioting. People as young as 11. What a disgrace. And a guy who works as a youth mentor at a school! Wow, what a great message he's sending to the kids he "mentors".
My neck is sore from shaking my head so much this week in absolute disgust at the way this all panned out, and upset that such losers could disrupt so many people's lives and make them feel unsafe in their own environment. Shame on you.
But while there was plenty to be annoyed about this week there was also something to celebrate. It was Philo's birthday on Wednesday, and we went out for dinner with his family to mark the occasion. We went out to a country pub and then to the Hare & Hounds to slam down a couple of mid-week pints of Addlestones. Waking on Thursday morning was tough, but I got through the day with a few cans of Coke and food at regular intervals!
Phil had a night out on the tiles with the boys on Friday night, so I stayed in and watched a movie with a bottle of wine. When Phil got home at midnight he was absolutely wasted, clutching a bottle of water and telling me in nonsensical terms that he'd been sick and that he'd got a taxi back with "some girls they met". I decided I'd get the rest of that story out of him in the morning when he'd slept it off, and watched as he staggered up the stairs and ran into every conceivable object when he reached the top. I just had to laugh.
Having had a quiet night on Friday night, I wanted to go and stretch my arms. So we decided to go to the pub for a few to watch the football. We got on the bus and neither of us could make a decision as to which pub to go to, and as we went along the bus route and passed the pubs that we would normally go to said "looks like we're not going there", until we ended up in the city and comitted to going to the icy cider pub. We found a table out in the beer garden with a perfect view of the tv screen and ordered some food. When it was my shout, I went inside to the bar and ordered the drinks, turning around to notice the familiar looking white-haired man on the seat near the bar. I went over and said hi and asked him how he was going, and when he started talking I realised that I had once again mistaken him for the old dude that goes in there on Friday nights with his mate. The difference between these two old fellas is that one has had a stroke, and the other (the one I just said hello to) has not. The difference is pretty obvious to the eye, and after only having had two ciders, I was completely shocked at my ignorance.
Later into the evening we got a seat in the bar but didn't realise until we sat down that the dude we were talking to absolutely STUNK. Everyone in the bar was cringing and knew how bad the smell was, some even saying he was putting them off their food, and so we had to find somewhere else to sit. Phil felt guilty and agreed to mind the guy's plastic shopping bags while he went and had his "two smokes", and when he failed to return, we decided that it was our cue to move. Ew, how disgusting.
When it was time to leave, we got the bus back into town and walked through the city, taking in the damage to some of the buildings and the broken windows along the way. There was even a van of workers boarding up windows as we walked by. It was strange that there were so few people in the city on a Saturday night, quite eerie really. Boarding another bus we went to Kings Heath and stopped at the Hare & Hounds (again!) for a couple of pints before getting a kebab burger and getting another bus home. Apparently it's people like me (who smear the remainder of their kebabs on bus shelter windows) that are the downfall of this country. Right Phil, right!