Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Gallery: Like a duck to water

Growing up in England, water was everywhere - even where we didn't want it.

It was also at the heart of much of our childhood joy, the basic element of much of our play - and our occasional downfall when a puddle proved deeper than we thought or a lakeside footpath more slippery than it looked.

No sunny day in June was complete without an inpromptu water fight with the garden hose when you're supposed to be saving Dad's hydraengas and snapdragons from dehydration (the best part was putting your thumb over the end of the hose to produce and fine but powerful spray, then aim it skywards and delight in your own man-made shower surrounded by a million mini-rainbows).

Exploring the woods felt so much closer to a Famous Five adventure (Gawd bless dear old Enid Blyton - she hasn't aged well, as I found out when I started reading her to my young son) when there was a stream to ford, bridge or flop about in.

The 'drought' of 1976 was made more exciting (for us kids anyway) by the necessity of trundling down the street to fill up canisters, kettles and bowls with water from the stand-pipe manned by the neighbourhood jobs-worth.

And then there was the thrill of feeding the ducks.

Even on the rawest of winter days, we would gather together all those rock-hard discarded bread crusts and nag Mum or Dad until they agreed to take us to The Priory in Reigate or Tilgate Park near Crawley.

Once there, we would flap our arms like mad and make deranged noises at the local wildlife until they came waddling across the lake so we could chuck our dough-based missiles at them.

We'd been thoroughly briefed on how aggressive swans could be, thanks to Nannie's dire warnings ("They can put your eye out, or beat you to death with their wings"), so we tried our best not to aim the crusts at their stately noggins.

The same couldn't be said for the poor old coots and moorhens.

They didn't seem to mind, though. So long as they got their fair share of Mother's pride drenched in pondwater.

It was cheap, simple, outdoors and we loved it.
I wonder if today's youngsters get the joy from it that we did?

I hope so.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Dear So and So: The London's Burning edition

Dear Looters,

I took the weekend off from this ole Interwebby thing so it's only been in the past day or two that I realised what you have been up to.

Yesterday, I shook my head sadly, but hoped that it would all blow over soon.

Today, I realised I was over-optimistic.

You will note that I am not calling you rioters, and certainly not protestors. That is intentional.
What we've seen over the past three days is not rioting - it is pure and simple smash, grab and burn mob rule.
It's not driven by political outrage or social decay (though I'm not denying such things exist - they're just not the cause of your moronic behaviour).
We have seen our share of rioting here in Greece, especially this year, but the driving force has never been the urge to go on an anarchic, free spending spree.

When I see you running rampage, faces covered to fool the CCTV, destroying your own communities, attacking fire crews, journalists and innocent by-standers, smashing family businesses, burning cars, buses, shops and homes, and raiding big brand name stores for designer sports wear, high tech plasma TV screens and the latest must-have Smart Phones and apps, I'm sure the cause is nothing more than good old fashioned greed and an utter lack of respect for the society you live in.

There is so much in the world worth protesting about, and so many ways you can make your voices heard. If you're going to take to the streets, make it worthwhile, not just another example that perpetuates the negative stereotypes others have of you.

Do something positive - prove the nay-sayers wrong, for heaven's sake.

Don't give me the old "there is nothing for us" chestnut. There's plenty to keep you occupied. It's not my fault that you prefer mindless destruction and theft to joining in with a local arts group, sports team, community project or voluntary organisation. If you did, you might even realise that your worth much more in your own right than the latest must-have-at-any-price piece of designer tat.

You have betrayed yourselves, your families, your communities - any rightful grievance you may have is automatically wiped out by your behaviour. I hope that anyone who sees you parading around with your newly ill-gotten gains, will see you for the scum-sucker you really are and not the Big Man or Woman you so clearly are desperate to be.

Today, you have achieved something that's never be done before. You have made me ashamed to be English.

Just stop it, grow up and get real.

Yours, in sadness and disgust,
former Croydon Reporter.

Dear Riot Clean-uppers,

Thank goodness for you. You have restored my faith in humanity and made me proud to be English again. Your positive community-minded response to the horrors of the past few days is an inspiration to all and a true reflection of what really is the Best of Britain.

If I was in the UK, I'd join you in your efforts.
But as I'm not, all I can do is encourage others to follow you on , @riotcleanup and

Yours, in utmost admiration,
Transplanted in Athens.

Dear Davey-boy,

Such a shame you had to cut your hols short. Bloody typical, eh?
But at least we know that you found time to make your peace with the waitress who made your carry your own cappuccino to the table is that Italian cafe. That's alright then, eh? Man of the people and all that.

Oh well, never mind, after you've had your COBRA meetings (sounds like a plot for an action movie, doesn't it?), you might just have time to send the help down to Waitrose to stock up on the essentials before you leave on your next holiday later this month.

Yours, in sympathy,

Dear Boris,

Oh, I do love you for your unruly mop of butter-hued hair, your erudite wit and classical references, your claims that the English invented ping-pong, and those priceless shots of you in a helmet wobbling away on a Boris Bike, but we've missed you lately.

Where have you been?
Didn't you know that these past few days, more than ever, London has been absolutely "where it's at"?

Come home - there's much to be forgiven.

Yours, in bewilderment,

Dear Theresa,

Still think that cutting police numbers and slashing budgets is a good idea?
(Nice shoes, by the way).

Just wondering,
Your Girl Power sistah.

Dear So and So...