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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jumpin' up ... with the police

Well, yesterday my beloved and I went for a wander round the Carnival, which Metro told her is the largest street festival in Europe.

It certainly seems to create the largest collection of empty bottles and assorted rubbish in this country outside the Houses of Parliament.

The first carnival I attended was in Trinidad in 1970. From what I can recall the floats were as good and the bands better than the one I saw yesterday.

But I never enjoyed it as much as I should have done. Overcome by a painful attack of English shyness I never joined in as much as I should have. I think I spoilt it for the girl I was with, the lovely Janina, toast of Gdynia.

I often wince to think what a sad, gauche, yet at the same time arrogant twit I was when younger. Come to think of it, I wince a fair bit nowadays, too.

Besides chicken with noodles and Thai chilli sauce for £2.50 (typically Caribbean) the most interesting thing to me yesterday was the police. It is damned hard to manage half a million people, many under the influence of one thing or another and maybe both in such a relatively small area over so many hours.

On the other hand, the only time I really saw them "in action" was quite frightening. Not because of what they did, but because of how they did it.

What they did was necessary. They were trying to sort out two streams of "traffic" which with the incredible crush was a good idea. But they did it in a very menacing way. It felt just like the "kettling" tactics they've been criticised for.

Suddenly this double row of police blocked off our progress. There was no reason given. Just a row of hard faces just an arm's length ahead. All they had to say was, "Sorry folks. Wait here for a couple of minutes." But not a word. Just those bad-tempered faces.

This was just lousy communication. Just a couple of words here and there missing. How hard would it be to tell them to say them? And easy for them to say, too.

The more I think, the more I believe that a couple of words here and there often makes all the difference. I would, wouldn't I? Scribbler's arrogance.

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