Seething Resentment

Going home time after Reading Festival and the traffic here and there was heavy so that helped decide today’s route. Crime at the festival this year was well down. It made me laugh – albeit mirthlessly – to see one of the local ‘New’ Labour councillors tweeting about it, congratulating the police and the organisers for the fall in incidents. Um, how about the fans? If the people there hadn’t been good natured and well-behaved despite the atrocious conditions caused by the rain, then crime would have been up. If a crowd that size had wanted to get out-of-hand, no amount of policing or organisation could have contained them. That kind of public sucking-up by low- and high-level politicians alike manages to be both vacuous and nauseating.

(Is Labour still ‘New’ or have they ditched that now? Does anyone care? What would a post-new-Labour party be? Where do you go after mutating from socialism to conservative-lite and betraying everyone along the way? Perhaps that should be ‘conservative-by-stealth’. To my mind, betrayal is unforgivable.)

So, a Bank Holiday Monday with weather that’s not bad but not good – and lots of folks with time on their hands. The British can seem very bad at making good use of free time. I rode through Henley today and the people in the crowd milling about by the river side rarely looked happy or pleased to be there.

And as for shopping: if the high street is dying then by-and-large the retailers have only themselves to blame. The punters in Henley could have been wandering around pretty well any similar sized town in England and they’d be seeing the same shops with the same stock, the same bored minimum-wage staff and the same poor sods trying to sell the Big Issue on a street corner somewhere nearby. There’s nothing to inspire anyone to spend any money and now that the mood is to question expenditure, the ‘big name’ shops are all struggling. Add to that the miserable experience the average town provides when it comes to the real basics: driving, cycling, walking, parking, even having a pee … and shopping online seems a much better bet.

I came in to Henley from Remenham. The queue to get over the bridge started well before the top of Remenham Hill. If that’s not a miserable way to spend of a significant chunk of a precious free day then I don’t know what is. I just went down the outside then took a right into the lane to Remenham Church and from there joined the main road again at the bottom of the hill. When I do that kind of thing I swear I can feel the seething resentment of the cooped-up drivers somehow permeating the air. Of course, that’s more than likely just my imagination. Of course, if they’re inclined to be thinking anything, what they should be concluding is that queuing to get into Henley for no good reason is a dismal waste of time, waste of life.

The queue went by the entrance to Park Place, a huge great pile of a house just sold for £140 million quid, which makes it Britain’s most expensive private residence. I did rather like the fact that whatever the expense, they’d still have been struggling to get in or out of their drive today. I did also think that’s perhaps a fairly petty, grotty sort of thought to have. And perhaps it is, but I struggle with the degree of income inequality in the UK today, and property like Park Place seems to symbolise it all too well.