Tuesday, 9 August 2011


It's impossible to get a clear picture of who is rioting and why.  It does seem as though a lot of what's gone on in the past few nights, around London and in other places, has indeed been "mindless" - or at least pointless.  And even if there has been some kind of point, that's been undermined by opportunistic looting and misdirected vandalism.  BUT I don't believe the trouble was initially mindless, and I think we ought to remember that in many parts of the country, young people and their families are consistently let down by "the system": schools, social services, housing services, the police, our judicial and penal institutions, and at the heart of it all central government.  In Haringey, the council has not managed to protect front-line services from the budget cuts enforced by Westminster, and of course the most vulnerable people are the worst affected.  I've seen first-hand how the police often treat people (particularly, but not only, young black men) in this part of London, and I've no doubt that many of the expressed grievances are legitimate, even if the mode of expression is questionable.  This is not a defence of looting or arson or violence against people - just a suggestion that the media ought to be looking into causes rather than indulging in the all-too-easy pursuit of demonising young people and sensationalising the story.  Thinking people need to ask questions and talk about how our society can better support young people and address their concerns so that they don't feel the need to start riots.

Here are some links that seem pertinent:

(informed youths vs uninformed politician)

(teenagers organising themselves peacefully and engaging in the political process - to no avail)

(note the first comment, which typifies the kind of dismissive attitude that leads to young people becoming enraged)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Holiday inspiration: look, no planes! (ii)

Following on from this post, may I recommend a trip to...
Aldeburgh, Suffolk
The Moot Hall, Aldeburgh - February
I failed to persuade my uncle to go there when I told him that the attractions of Aldeburgh include a bleak shingle beach and more than one bookshop.  Maybe I should have mentioned the salt marshes, the fish and chip shop that attracts long queues daily for lunch and dinner (the one at the southern end of the High Street), Benjamin Britten's grave, the ancient Moot Hall, and the nearby Snape Maltings concert hall - home of the world-famous Aldeburgh Festival as well as other concerts throughout the year...  The only downside I can think of is the distant view of Sizewell nuclear plant, along the coast beyond Thorpeness. 
A sailing boat seen from the salt marshes - February
There are pretty fisherman's cottages, an ice-cream parlour, an interesting lifeboat station, miles upon miles of quiet beach, and not a single fairground ride or "amusement" arcade.  Even the gulls are relatively pleasant, or at least far more polite than their cousins in Cornwall: they will sidle up hopefully while you're enjoying your chips on the beach, but they're unlikely to actually dive in and snatch them out of your hand.
Polite gulls
Small fishing boats on the beach. I'm a vegetarian, but fish-eaters
 can buy the freshest fish from the huts on the beach.
These are not the kind of boats that deafen dolphins.
 There are tons of holiday houses and flats to rent in Aldeburgh and plenty of shops (and restaurants) along the High Street to make for an easy self-catering break.  Although I haven't been inside it, I think this house looks like a good bet for a larger gathering, and it's recommended on Alastair Sawday's site.  There are plenty of B&Bs and hotels too.
Apparently you can stay here!
Getting to Aldeburgh without a car is easy enough, although it's another place that was cut off by Beeching.  From London Liverpool Street there are fast trains to Ipswich, and there you change onto a small local train for Saxmundham.  The last nine miles have to be traveled by bus or taxi.
The walls of the ladies toilet at the Bell Hotel
are completely papered in old song sheets
I think the 64 bus is hourly and the taxi service advertised at the station seems to be a one-car firm, so you might need to sit in the Bell Hotel and have a drink/cup of tea/piece of cake while you wait.  Good preparation for a quiet week of books, concerts, and beautiful windy walks.
Salt marshes - yes, FEBRUARY!
You don't have to fly anywhere for "winter sun"