Of Birmingham and the Crazies

From Richard Lutz

It’s an eerie feeling to walk up to your high street to see if it stills exists.

With Birmingham city centre being trashed, 130 arrests (and rising), clashes in Brindley Place and Soho Road under siege , would my own local shops be destroyed? Would I be walking over glass and remains of burning cars?

What is equally eerie after waking up to the radio reports of Birmingham and, of course, London going up, it is was all quiet. Sunday morning type of quiet. No trouble laid a demonic hand on my shops. I went in to buy my coffee and cereal. It was double-eerily empty after the maelstrom of what I heard and saw the night before.

I spent Riot Night at the tv. It was a communal event when everyone tucks into bad food, something to drink and watches open jawed as something Big happens. It could be Happy Big such as the empty-headed Royal Wedding or Awesome Big such as Murray taking Wimbledon or Blues winning the Cup. But this was Bad Big. The London chopper shots gave it a Hollywood apocalyptic feel. The close-ups of rioters bashing something (or someone) in gave it a prurient texture that I was watching something that was close to obscene.
And..unfortunately but honestly…it was gripping tv for all the wrong reasons.

My son works in London and I texted him as I flicked between the Beeb and Sky to tell him I was seeing his house in Hackney. His street was rammed full of police and the cretins.

He was busy. ‘How bad is it?’ he texted me.

I responded: ‘Don’t go home tonight.’

It is a freakish nature of our world that with twitter, text, mobile and Facebook, I can sit in my Birmingham front room with the tv on, and tell him in London about his own neighbourhood. ‘Ooops, there goes the Argos shop’ or ‘There’s the police charging up Clarence Road. I think I see the roof of your house.’
The last I heard his mobile was running low as he left work. He wasn’t going home that night. If he had a home to go back to.

Today Chris Sims, the West Midlands Chief Constable, said in a press conference that he was astonished how young the Birmingham looters were. And he asked that parents take ahold of them and keep them in. It makes sense and he, as a cop with decades of experience, was honest enough to say: ‘We learned a lot last night.’ He sounded as shocked as we all are.

We’ll find out tonight if things will die down or flare up again. So, it’s back to the tv and the texting and twittermaniacs unless I‘m interrupted by a knock at the door from a 12 year old trying to sell me a cheap flatscreen.