Monday, 13 September 2010

Bloody Brighton

There are 15 people in the bus queue, including a man wearing ridiculous trousers. No one is surprised. Welcome to Brighton.

I have worn some ridiculous trousers in my time, sometimes more by accident than by design; other times, as with these jeans, I have no excuse.

This guy’s are a harlequin check. Combined with his tight black hoodie it might be the uniform of some go-ahead bakers. It might not be his fault.

I live on a council estate at the edge of what we are now supposed to call a city. Around the time of the world cup the local boys hung the flag of St George from every lamppost. The self-styled City council took them down again. Shinning up lampposts is a health and safety risk. I’m past surprise at this sort of red-rag-to-a-bull approach to public safety. The next day more flags are bought, more lampposts shinned or stepladdered.

I return from holiday to find every local lamppost – except ours – braying for England. I hope I’m not suspected of taking England’s glory down. Julie next door tells me it blew down and there are plans to replace it.

Christine wants to know my feelings about the flags and I express my approval. “Spoken like a true born Englishman,” she grins and pumps my hand. She’s pissed. Christine has never had a job. Her front door is open all summer long.

She is “not being funny”, but apparently its all down to the fact that some “Paki” family complained, although “they’re allowed to celebrate whatever they want.”

I try to tell her she’s got the wrong end of the stick, but it’s futile. This stick has two wrong ends.

 The council then become rather lax on health and safety and leave the flags alone, at least until the Germans knock us out the tournament and they begin the slow decline into tattered hopes.

 Christine is right about one thing, though – it’s not funny. Earlier this year a Bengali family had their window smashed by young men. Their children go to school with mine, play with mine. They have to live in a street where other people smash their windows.

I have taken to wearing an England t-shirt. It’s not the flag of St George or the 3 lions of national disappointment. It shows a red rose: the flower of Lancaster or New Labour – English history or more hopes dashed? I prefer to think of it as Blake’s rose, an invisible worm gnawing its heart out.

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