Such extraordinary goings on in the green and normally pleasant land. Hoodies on extreme shopping expeditions. Kids turning into thugs and taking to the streets to wreck stuff and start fires. Fed-up residents forming anti-looter patrols.
Roads that my English friends walk down every day are strewn with broken glass and debris, with boarded-up shops on either side. Masked yobs even ransacked a Michelin-starred restaurant in Notting Hill and ripped wedding rings from terrified diners – the attack only ending when the cooks stormed from the kitchen with knives and rolling pins.
My best friend in Colliers Wood spent an intimidating night afraid to leave her flat as she listened to the sound of youths on the rampage. They’d raided the JD Sports around the corner and were selling trainers on the streets. Our much anticipated reunion in town had to be cancelled thanks to rumours it was all going to kick off again that night. Sigh.
Their motives are mindless: “We’re protesting because we’re angry with the government. The conservatives, inn’it?” And, my favourite thoughtless message, sent on a BlackBerry: “We are not broke but who doesn’t want free stuff.”
Having been pretty close to the Arab uprisings this Spring, it’s hard to believe that here we are in England seeing pictures of blackened buildings and teenagers forming queues to pillage clothes shops. DH found himself at Clapham Junction twice while he was here, the first time surrounded by overexcited rugby fans and the second time just as the hoodies were congregating. Wisely, he’s fled to America to “take care of a few things”!
We’re still here, hanging out in leafy and so far riot-free Surrey. And, on the home front, my very own youths are causing chaos in their own sweet way. Bringing two small boys home to my parents’ house is, I’ve realised, a little like setting a tornado off inside and watching it whirl round every room whipping up everything in its path.
With treasures and family china at every turn, our visits involve staying alert to the vortex’s ever-changing position while diving for flying ornaments. Youngest son even toppled the water feature outside the other day. Oldest son is, thankfully, not as destructive as he was when he was two and seems to have forgotten the game he invented last time: rolling the living room pouffe around the house pretending it was a boulder.
Novel uses for various household items are still dreamt up, however, and so when it’s not raining we go outside into mum’s beautiful garden, which I wanted to picture here. It’s such great green-grass therapy and makes the desert look like another planet.
We also go to the park next door where the boys can run free, feed the ducks (quite greedy they are), and play on the swings and slides. There are a few clues that, despite this being the town I grew up in, we don’t quite belong here – like not knowing a soul at the mother-and-child hang outs. And the other day BB revealed his expat colours by asking if the grandchildren next door had arrived on the same plane as us.
At the park, I marvel at seeing mums running after their own children rather than maids and nannies, as is so often the case in Dubai. And don’t let anyone tell you that England doesn’t get hot – it does, every time I come back. It’s like I bring a mini heatwave with me. This time, the temperature leapt 10 degrees as we landed, reaching the giddy heights of 27˚C. It’s all relative, of course; in Dubai, we’d call it a nice day and plan an outdoor activity, but in England, with no air conditioning, you feel it and people who aren’t used to dressing for hot weather have no choice but to rummage around for their summer wardrobe (think wobbly boob tubes, bum cheeks peeking out of hot pants). You gotta love the way Brits get their kit off as soon as the sun comes out, revealing body parts you only see on the beach in Dubai.
But the beauty of the UK is it doesn’t last: after a few days, the most glorious rain set in, the boys donned their wellies and off we went to find some good puddles. The novelty will last all month, I reckon.