Friday, 12 August 2011

Let it rain

Among those who have looked for reasons for the (temporary?) cessation of riots in England, some commentators have pointed to the ever-reliable British weather: it rained. Downpours herald the end to the violence in Colin MacInnes's 1959 novel, Absolute Beginners; as his hero waits for an escape flight to Oslo, down comes the rain: 'I held up my arms in it, and opened my mouth and cried, "More! More! More! That'll stop it… That'll do what the ruling orders can't do! That's the only thing to keep the whites and blacks and yellows and blues… indoors!"'

Reaction to the riots is all too familiar: 'in the leader sections… they were still on about unrestricted immigration… They said Welfare was an urgent consideration, and what was needed was a lot more experienced welfare officers to iron out awkward misunderstandings… the magistrate had advised people to stay indoors at night… Best news of all - really heartening - was that the cabinet minister in charge of home security had received reports of all these happenings at his country house, and was studying them closely, and said the utmost strictness will be observed in the impartial enforcement of the law.'

Ultimately, though, 'so far as the government and top cats who control things were concerned, these riots might just not have happened at all, or have been in some other country.' In MacInnes's west London there are Teds, Hoorays, the new immigrants and even newer teenagers (the 'absolute beginners' of the title): 'And what a time it's been in England, what a period of fun and hope and foolishness and sad stupidity!'

A friend also highlighted this lovely extract from Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage.

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