glitzfrau: (lowry)
[personal profile] glitzfrau
From about 4.00, [livejournal.com profile] biascut was getting a bit agitated on Facebook worrying about the rumours on Twitter. This struck me as a little too much social media fussing, so when she came home at five, I told her to stop being silly and to go out to her pottery class in the leafy suburbs. Sure if she would be safe anywhere, it would be in posh Chorlton! I sent her on her way, and decided to finish up work in favour of going to Boots for medicine for a very minor complaint. It's ten minutes' walk into the city centre from the houseen, and once I had crossed the boundary into the shopping area, the streets were thrumming with riot police. Glitzy Cathedral Street was filled with nervy teenagers and shoppers; all the high-end shops were shut up, apart from that palace of classiness, the UGG shop, smashed in and looted. Walking on, M&S had a smashed window, JB Sports was boarding itself up, and Boots was shut. Everything was shut. Well, shite. Home for me, dinner and more work.

Except as I came in, [livejournal.com profile] biascut came in too. She'd gone to meet her pottery chum @maerk for their ritual burrito-before-pottery at Piccadilly Gardens, locked up her bike, come out to find it turned upside down and the frame dented. Also, the busses to the leafy suburbs were cancelled. So that was that, and she was a little rattled. My father's hotel was on Piccadilly, and I started ringing him to no avail; probably, I consoled myself, he was in a lecture theatre, blissfully unaware of events.

The rest of the night was mostly Twitter, really, and trying to ring my father. I rang my mother in Dublin, who was maddeningly unconcerned, and said, 'Maybe your father is holed up in the university with a gun poking out of the castellated turrets!' Twitter told me Miss Selfridge was up in flames; the Arndale was broken into; Affleck's, the alternative market, was being looted; the shops under Brideshead Revisited's flat being looted (he was fine, but holed up in some alarm); Oxfam was being trashed; the police were chasing gangs of gurriers. Around eleven, I finally got through to my father, who had been at dinner in town only a few metres from the BBC's live riot cam.

'Do you want to come here, Daddy?' I asked, worried. 'It's quiet here, and I know it's hairy in Piccadilly'. 'Oh no, not after the Arndale!' he said. 'It's safer here... erm... there's a crowd of rioters running down the street outside my window... I've never seen so many... they must be organised... oh, there's riot police chasing them down the street... and now they're being encircled against my hotel...'

'Eek, you stay put!' I said, 'we're safe here at least... erm... is that smoke I smell? Oh look, a huge plume of smoke outside my bedroom window... erm... maybe I'd best investigate that'.

Damage done: a rather handsome but derelict Victorian pub set on fire at the edge of our estate, all the streets filled with smoke. I'm about to walk down Piccadilly to get the train, so that will be a little heartbreaking. My mother was supposed to come to Manchester tonight till Saturday, but she's not going to come now; the plan was to shop, and what's the point in that now?

In London, marginalised black people turned on their own areas in a horrifying exhibition of rage and nihilism. Here in Manchester, white kids came in from the suburbs to loot Armani and Ugg. Teenagers testing boundaries, as teenagers do, and going that little bit further than underage drinking in underpasses and smash-and-grab raids on parked cars. It didn't take these riots to tell me that there's an enormous amount of social deprivation and exclusion in Greater Manchester, sure there always has been, since the industrial revolution. Yes, UK society needs changing, and my friend English Thomas optimistically hopes that these events will unmask the bankruptcy of aristocratic rule, but the riots tell us nothing other than that teenagers running riot can go way too far. Shite.

I had grown so proud of the handsome fabric of Manchester and the ambitious building projects that even now, in the thick of the recession, were springing up everywhere around my house. I can only hope that the vandalism acts as a catalyst for renewal, like the IRA bomb. And the worst of it was thinking of my elderly nervy father, alone in his glass tower in the heart of the violence, and me unable to help him one bit other than being on the other end of the phone. Awful. I wonder if my parents will ever come back.
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