When I was a volunteer at a home for the blind a couple of years back (I quit when my lameness became so obvious that one day Betty, a lady in her eighties, said very sweetly "Julie, love, are you leading us or are we leading you?"), I became aware for the first time what a jungle it is out there. I had always ambled through life, never suffering from agoraphobia, panic attacks or any of the ills the urban mind is prey to, short-sighted and somewhat blissed out, convinced that the streets were not mean at all but rather concrete canyons of fun where adventure awaited at every avenue. It helped that I could take taxis everywhere, of course, and that I live in Brighton, and that I haven't had to leave my lair to work since I was 19 years old.
Then I started walking my old ladies to the bank, and my eyes were well and truly opened. We're hearing a lot now about how the old are treated as sub-human in care homes and hospitals, but that attitude starts on the street. Cyclists who considered themselves to be decent human beings because they pounded at pedestrians on two wheels rather than four – ignoring the bicycle lanes which are everywhere in right-on Brighton! – would come at us from one side. While from the other direction bore down (and having heard the mindless crap these broads come out with, bore is the operative word) the monstrous legions of yummy mummies with their double buggies side by side, boasting about little India and Jasper's latest dismal finger-paintings and how they intended to keep breastfeeding the dreary little bastards until they could open cans of Special Brew with their teeth.
You hear so much scaremongering about chavs and hoodies, but to my mind the sense of bourgeois entitlement the middle class display out there on the pavements has contributed massively to the decline of public spaces. There was a survey some years back which claimed that people who supported Green politics were actually slightly nastier and stingier than others in their everyday life – feeling that they had ticked the nice box and had therefore somehow won the right to be nasty – and my year of leading the blind made me concur with this finding.
So when I read about pavement rage, I figured that at long last those who use the sidewalk to do just that – walk – rather than show off at speed and terrorise others were fighting back. But no; on the age-old principle of divide and rule, it's merely walkers losing their rag with other walkers. Shrinks at the University of Hawaii have named Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome and identified its symptoms as glaring at fellow peds, getting up in their faces, yelling and shoving.
I don't get this, myself, but that might be because I'm so old now. One of the best things about hitting fifty is accepting that this is about as far as you're going to get, and that any sort of hurrying starts to look like rushing towards the grave. Now I make a habit of standing back in queues and ushering people before me to the till; "You decide when, because you've got loads to do and I don't", I tell my young friends when they want to come and visit. But even I, in all my laid-back, lard-arsed complacency, would willingly take a pickaxe handle to anything bigger than a tricycle that insists on staying on the pavement.
Over the past few years both London and Birmingham have mooted ways to make the pavements more pleasant. In Birmingham there was an abandoned plan to make pedestrians in the main shopping precinct use different sides of the street to go either way. Then a group of businessmen in Oxford Street thought up the idea of a pedestrian fast lane, with a minimum three miles per hour speed limit, and no eating, map-reading or photo-taking allowed. Speed cameras were even suggested, with on-the-spot fines for loiterers.
Nothing came of it, probably because walkers have more in common than they do to divide them. But is it really not possible to enlarge existing bicycle lanes, and have all large-wheeled vehicles – bikes, mobility scooters, double buggies; not wheel chairs or push-chairs – confined to it? Let us old ladies dawdle on the sunny side of the street, while the boy racers and yummy mummies fight it out amongst their neurotic, competitive selves.
'Anti-Israel' tourists should be ashamed
Ever since the (re)birth of the state of Israel, it has been fashionable to blame this tiny country for all the ills that afflict the Middle East. Poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, unemployment – the Jews did it! The age-old accusation took on a new twist, but was still the same ignorant lie.
Now we can see, as dictators of all political complexions mow down their people and flee with vast sums of money, that – surprise surprise! – it wasn't the Israelis who kept this massively rich region back in the Dark Ages – they've done that all by themselves. With, it must be said, the assistance of cretinous Western dupes such as British governments which pour billions of pounds of aid into a part of the world which, uniquely, has not become any more democratic than it was 50 years ago.
It IS sickening to see politicians still sucking up to these rotten regimes. But that's what politicians tend to do. To me, it's equally sickening to think about all the "travellers" (rarely tourists – in their own preening opinions, at least) who have gone on holiday in recent years to Morocco, Egypt, Dubai (I'll hold my hand up, I went there on a travel job years back – never again, WHAT a dump!), Libya, Jordan and the like because they WEREN'T Israel, and so were in some way deeply trendy and edgy. PATHETIC!
The dictatorship of Syria is the latest beneficiary of this scummy sun-seeking, with a 486 per cent year-on-year increase in internet searches, according to Hotels.com. Talk about a cheap holiday in other people's misery, as that brilliant buster of the bogus boycott of Israel, John Lydon, once sang.
Is everyone in the UK now a toff?
Guy Ritchie – a toff who has made a living from pretending to be a Cockney gangster – has had a Grade I-listed £6m property squatted by a variety of fellow toffs, many of whom are living on hand-outs from Mummy and Daddy. Meanwhile Charlie Gilmour, stepson of the billionaire rock star Dave, has become the gold-standard of student protesters. And the charts are dominated by public school spawn.
When did the entire country become toffs? And is that why political and cultural discourse in this country has become so limp, so Toytown? Can't the half-witted chumps just get back to tormenting animals and shagging brother officers' wives and stop pretending to be REAL PEOPLE?Reuse content