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Floods of Tears November 24, 2009

Posted by markswill in Navel Gazing.

As befits a burgh voted by Country Life as the eighth most desirable small town in Britain, here in Presteigne we’ve become quite alarmed by a recent outbreak of street crime which threatens house prices that have remained more resilient than elsewhere in the county. So last week the local cops were invited to attend a town council meeting to explain what they’d be doing about a posse of ne’erdowells who have been threatening elderly residents, damaging private property and physically attacking anyone who tries to stop them.

The gist of their response at a meeting also attended by several irate members of the public, including one recent immigrant from leafy Sussex who’d obviously bought into Country Life’s bucolic spin, was that there wasn’t much they could do because the perpetrators are essentially children. Banging them up overnight only to be released after a full-English (or perhaps Welsh) to return emboldened by their lack of punishment didn’t cool anyone’s indignation, and the imminent enforced absence from the family council house of a known drug dealer who is the father of one of the ruffians will probably do little to quell his son’s malfeasance.

The police, whose part-time presence in the town has inevitably been further diminished by funding cuts, could only rather sheepishly beg public spirited residents to consider becoming special constables and hope that locals will “report incidents and present themselves as witnesses”… despite the risk of being beaten up for their troubles.

Indeed it occurred to me as the 17-stone, 6’ 4” landlord of my local blithely suggested getting together a few mates to resolve the matter in a decidely extra-curricular manner that all of this was a consequence of the recession. There are no jobs and precious few recreational facilities here for any teenagers who don’t do sports and those responsible for what is an unusually vibrant arts and music scene in such a small community are all over forty – and then some  – fundamentally lack appeal to the drum’n’bass brigade. So come Friday night it’s now a rite of teenage passage, if not a badge of honour, for them to hang round the town centre, quaffing Red Bull, smoking roll-ups and throwing garbage all over the place, aping the attitude if not the antics of the four or five hard-core troublemakers who’ll be along later to show ‘em how it’s done.

As indicated by someone getting thrown through the chemist’s window after a fight outside the aforementioned pub last Saturday night, this isn’t going to end prettily. Bored kids excited by the lazy violence of dead-enders who’ve got little to lose but are losing it with impunity can only lead to copycat thuggery, and if vigilantism is the seen as the only practical response then we’ll all be the poorer for it. But whilst arguably a sociologically sound solution, approaching those concerned without getting a smack in the face, let along winning their confidence and channeling their angry energies elsewhere would be a hard call in a town where most of us are busy enough maintaining the area’s creative culture and/or earning an increasingly elusive crust as the economy drifts towards double-dip.

And talking of dips, I nearly took one of the watery variety as I drove, or rather surfed towards Shrewsbury for a weird evening of druid chanting, finger cymballing and other new-age nonsense (I may be obliged to blog about this in a few days). An ill-advised shortcut meant crossing a bridge over the swollen River Lugg, which was in fact technically not a bridge but a platform a few feet below a raging torrent. And once I was halfway across with water spurting from the edges of the bonnet, there was obviously no going back. Fortunately, being a diesel, i.e. bereft of spark plugs, the Citruin made it without conking out and I like to think that was partly due to the alloy patches I’d just riveted over its rotten front bulkheads in a desperate effort to make the bugger saleable in this week’s local press so’s to part-finance its successor. But it was probably merely luck.

I mention this to remind my city-dwelling readers that the sorry residents of Cockermouth are not the only ones suffering a hammering from the heavens. The Lugg, which skirts Presteigne, has already burst its banks at a couple of points and like several other rivers hereabouts threatens to disrupt day-to-day life in the Welsh Marches, albeit with less fanfare and hopefully less damage than in Cumbria… and there’s more heavy rain forecast tomorrow. So some of us, well me anyway, are beginning to wonder which would be worst, losing our living room carpets and the heaving shelves of books and vinyl which sit on them to the flood waters, or our noble middle-class features to some spotty teenager who, having been drunkenly challenged to stop littering the street with his post-chipshop debris decides to show exactly what he thinks of civic responsibility.

But for now I think I’ll trot down to the pub for a consoling gin-o-cide and ponder exactly how immune we who’ve fled the cities for a rural life of Riley really are from what ails society in general in these wretched, globally warmed times.

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1. Tom Stewart - November 24, 2009

Seems to me that these wretched, globally-warmed times aren’t so very different from the mid ’70s. Yes, we now have mobile phones, speed bumps, CCTV and FaceTwit, but we again have recession, rising unemployment, inept self-serving government and disaffected yoof. Substitute ‘flooding’ for ‘drought’ and ‘X Factor’ for ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and where’s the difference? I’ll tell you; the Yamaha FS1-E. I expect there was a modicum of chip wrapper littering and the cutting rasp of de-baffled spannies would have proved irritating, but I’d wager that when Fizzies roamed Presteigne’s streets there was much less mindless thuggery.

markswill - November 24, 2009

At last, a man who understand the emptiness of yoof. And is old enough to point the finger at Yamaha’s socially divisive R&D department.

2. WTK - November 24, 2009

You see, this is precisely why citenzenry should be armed. If you’re strapped you won’t be frapped. I suggest a nice grouse gun to warn them off. A .900 H & H Nitro double rifle is simply overkill. Now, go out and get strapped and then cap…simple solution.

3. markswill - November 24, 2009

Problem is Tezza that we can’t get guns in the UK. Unless we happen to Hells Angels or undercover cops (often one and the same of course).

4. Helga Colquhoun - November 24, 2009

Andy’s mum lives in Ambleside but fortunately their house is on a Knoll so now she lives on an island. See, it’s not all bad 🙂

5. Richard Simpson - November 26, 2009

Back in the ’70s, disaffected teens had already learned that if they did bad things, bad things were done to them in return (usually a well-aimed trainer across the arse).

Now children are brought up in a world where their actions have no consequences and the borderline between reality and virtuality is very blurred (you can kick someone in the balls while your mate films it on hismobile then post it on YouTube and hey, it’s just like real life, or is it Grand Theft Auto? Your average teen struggles to tell the difference.)

Why is it that children are allowed to beleive that their actions have no consequences: not even for them?

6. baz o'connor - November 28, 2009

Ever since the late 70’s when my father had a very poor placement in the All Yorkshire Disco Dancing Finals he’s been living in a complex of tunnells and burrows he dug for himself just outside Bridlington.
These are now so extensive that if he goes down in Bridlington he can come up through a trapdoor in the floor of the Gents in the Bucket and Spade pub by Cleethorpes Pier, easily passing himself off as just another day tripper.
Ay, It’s grim up North.

markswill - November 28, 2009

As I always suspected: Bridlington is home of the brave. And Baz’s account of his father’s derring-do confirms the existence of genes that I long suspected as being responsible for his survivalist bravery, living as he does in a bender in the dense forests of British Vancouver with only a bow and arrow and several pounds of Semtex to feed him and his family of three wives and nineteen children. What a hero, and an inspiration to us all as the world disintegrates.

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