Being stuck in the countryside is never more frustrating than when there is something big happening, and it’s impossible to get a grip on it. And the more I read, the more blogs, tweets, facebook updates, I devour, the less I can seem to understand what the hell is going on. God knows the BBC has nothing useful to say on the subject.
Are these riots? Disturbances? Violence? Looting? Is there a cause, or more than one? In the summertime, when the weather was sultry, my granny used to listen to the smashing glass, the raised voices through her window and talk calmly, wisely, of ‘rioting weather’ – is this nothing more than that? Summertime violence? Bored drunken destructiveness, with a chance of a new set of trainers? Christ, I don’t know and no-one else seems to either. Anyone claiming to speak for the ‘rioters’ – if this is a riot, if there really is anger, a common cause – well, I wouldn’t trust them.
But I want there to be a story. We all do. We want to explain it, give what seems mindless and pointless, a sense of meaning, a sense of purpose, a narrative. In the 80s, the riots seemed to make sense. They seemed predictable, understandable. Today, as far as I can see, there’s no purpose, no story. In Croydon, in Birmingham, it isn’t about Duggan. But what is it about? Government cuts? Racial tension? Nothing seems convincing to me.
And maybe that explains why no-one seems able to respond effectively, or at all. I don’t mean to be dismissive. It must be strong, this reason to get out, on the streets, and put yourself in danger.
And here in the country, it all seems so incredibly far away as to be almost unreal. Tonight they rang the bells, like every other Monday here in Preston in Dorset. It’s a tricky business, change ringing. It takes concentration and commitment. Setting fire to buses in Peckham; ringing the bells in Dorset. This is England, and it’s never felt so little like home.