Diary - Andy Kershaw
As I write, I can hear banging from the lane behind the house. Back in a minute . . . This is absolu
We spent the weekend recently among terrifying, bearded men wielding swords. Peel, on the Isle of Man, where we have a bolt-hole, was holding its annual Viking festival. This is run concurrently with the Peel go-kart Grand Prix - the Manx will take any excuse to close the roads for some form of motorised madness. Our Sonny (seven), Dolly (six) and Daddy (45) were as thrilled by the karts brushing our front doorstep at almost 100mph as they were by men dressed as Vikings pretending to disembowel each other at Peel Castle.
There is, on the island, a spirit of community and neighbourliness that long ago evaporated in much of the UK, and totally in London. Towards the end of a boat fishing trip, I phoned Nicky, a friend in Peel, on the mobile. Would she like some fresh mackerel and herring? "Yes, please," came the reply. I told her I'd drop it round if she would be at home. But Nicky had to collect her toddler from the childminder. "Just leave it on the kitchen table," she said.
We have now returned to a London of constant sirens, traffic chaos, casual crime, cynical police, routine rudeness, tumbleweeds of litter, unchallenged yobbishness and - since the ghastly crimes against humanity on the Tube and bus - a breathtaking mood of smugness and self-congratulation.
So much hogwash has appeared since the bombings, even in serious newspapers, applauding the resolve, stoicism and sense of community among Londoners. If such a spirit was abroad I didn't detect it, and I was in central London the day after the atrocities.
In fact, defiant Londoners were, in a trice, back to their selfish old habits of not making eye contact (never mind talking to each other), flinging their litter around, barging to the fronts of queues, ignoring red lights (a new and growing phenomenon) and generally being contemptuous of good manners where and when they are shown.
Hundreds of column inches were devoted to how wonderfully we responded to the bombs, but none grasped the real reason behind what Time Out proclaimed pompously as "Our City - London Carries On". It was this: we went straight back on the Tube because we had to. If we hadn't, we would have lost our jobs. I was not a hero for going into town on 8 July. It was a necessity.
The true test of neighbourliness among Londoners comes not when the bombs are going off, but when they aren't. For example, in the debate about antisocial behaviour, no one ever points out that the louts, thugs, thieves and vandals get away with it because we, as citizens, allow them to do so. (Don't bother to drag the police into this. They gave up long ago.) Our local library has had its windows smashed three times in . . . Hang on a minute . . . as I write this on a hot Sunday afternoon, I can hear through the open window the sounds of banging and splintering wood from the lane that runs along the bottom of our garden. Back in a minute . . .
This is absolutely true: I have just got back from chasing two motorcycle thieves through Crouch End. In the back lane I found my friend Joe's garage door had been ripped off its hinges and two youths were running away with Joe's motorbike. I ran after them and they dropped the bike when they saw me coming. I chased them down into Crouch End, but lost them in the melee outside a pavement cafe. Two police cars were there, but not to intercept the motorcycle thieves: a man had just been stabbed in a dispute over a bicycle.
There must have been 20 customers sitting outside, all with a full and uninterrupted view of the knifing. A friend of the victim (whose wound was, mercifully, minor) told me that none of those sipping cappuccinos on the pavement had got up to help, still less given chase to the attackers. Some London community, Time Out.
As I trudged home, pushing the rescued motorcycle, a few neighbours whose houses back on to the lane emerged from their gardens. Yes, they too had heard the banging and tearing of wood. Yet none had bothered to investigate until they heard me running and yelling.
Andy Kershaw's Radio 3 programme is at 10.15pm every Sunday