London reflects – the view from France on the riots

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 9th August 2011

When I wrote in my last blog how our pretty sunlit café in the south of France seemed “the best place in the world” I had no idea how prescient those words would turn out to be.

While we were happily sipping coffee, worrying whether the mysterious scratching sounds in the roof were coming from a loir or a fouine (both rodents and both equally alarming) and planning a housewarming party, London had turned into a war zone overnight.

The French rarely take much notice of UK news but even here, in the middle of nowhere, everyone’s talking about the riots. The story features on page four of today’s Le Figaro under the headline Londres s’interroge après une nouvelle nuit de violences (London reflects after another night of violence) and the man in the local boulangerie asked my husband for an update when he popped in to buy croissants this morning.

The best piece I’ve read so far is by Mary Riddell in today’s Daily Telegraph. “London’s riots are not the Tupperware troubles of Greece or Spain, where the middle classes lash against their day of reckoning,” she says. “They are the proof that a selection of young Britain – the stabbers, shooters, looters, chancers and their frightened acolytes – has fallen off the cliff-edge of a crumbling nation.”

She’s so right. I can’t remember a time when the divide between haves and the have-nots has been so terrifyingly wide.  A whole generation of teenagers in our most disadvantaged areas have next to no hope in their lives.  They may possess the latest smart phones and coolest trainers on the block but a large proportion of them don’t have caring families, skills, qualifications or any passions in life.

PS: On a lighter note, the first party at the House with No Name went with a swing. As the sun went down over the Roche Colombe we drank Clairette de Die, the local sparkling white wine, and toasted everyone who has helped bring the house back to life. When one of my dearest friends first spotted the tumbledown house six years ago she emailed me to say it was “a very old farm, with heaps of charm.” And do you know what? It is.

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