Thursday, 18 August 2011

Shiny Happy People

Today is a bad day. Not as bad as yesterday, but it still sucks. It sucks because it is raining. And two days ago I was in Turkey, swimming in the bluest sea I have ever seen, sitting in the warmest sun I have ever experienced, and having a jolly old time. Post Holiday Blues doesn’t even come close.
But it isn’t just the weather I miss, or the free bar, abundant fresh Turkish food and rocket fuel coffee. I miss the people. Cheesy as it may sound, but wherever I visited, I was greeted with warm hospitality, good service and a bit of friendly banter thrown in to boot. Okay, so a lot of that was down to proprietors trying to woo me into spending a little bit more money in their establishments, but there was no pressure to part with my cash. A bit of reverse psychology maybe, but certainly preferable to the hard sell.
Every night, without fail, I would end up in the all-night bar at our hotel for a cocktail and a bit of a chinwag with the bar man. Aided by his broken English we chatted about everything and anything; what we had been up to, the global economy, and, of course, the riots back home. He asked us what we did for a living, where we lived. We asked him where he went on holiday, about his job. With difficulty he calculated that the last time he had a holiday was seven years ago, in his home country With a shrug he cheerfully shared that he worked through the night, seven days a week. And no, he had to work over the winter too. But he was still posing for photos and taking delight in adding sparklers to our drinks. And, without fail, smiling.
Coming back to London was a bit of the shock to the system. Not only have I reluctantly had to accept that I can’t expect service with a smile anymore, but I’ve had to catch up on the news. The riots started over a week ago now, but the fallout has only just begun. We will no doubt be hearing about the reality those who chose to loot businesses, burn cars and terrorise their neighbours are now facing for some time, and the political debate about what should be done to stop this from happening again for even longer.
I have my opinions about how the people who took to the streets last week should be punished, and even more about what the authorities need to do to prevent future unrest. I have my theories about why it happened, why the young (and some supposedly mature) people of London felt that it was acceptable to behave in that manner. But as I hypothesise with my friends, my partner and to myself, I think about the bar man in Turkey, working every day for no doubt not a lot. Is he rioting? Looting shops? Setting fire to police stations? No, he isn’t. He might not have a lot, but he is content with it. He is grateful to have a job, to live in a free country and be able to walk down the street without fear. He counts his blessings.
Okay, so unemployment has reached a new peak, the economy is still decidedly shaky and the weather is crap. But, you know what London, maybe we need to start appreciating what we have too. Because it is a hell of a lot more than some people have. Rather than trying to destroy our already fractured society, why aren’t we celebrating it, helping each other through these difficult times and be thankful of the support the state offers while we still have it? Maybe we’ve had it good for so long we've forgotten what it’s like to live with uncertainty and how to help others and ourselves when the going gets tough. Instead we have had a societal temper tantrum.
Maybe we need a lesson in gratitude from some of our poorer neighbours. And, Mr Cameron, if you want someone to teach the nation how to look on the bright side of life, I know just the man.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, just swung through London for the first time in two years, to be greeted by hoards of idiots crashing into people, making public transport a misery - what a place!