I have been back in the UK for eight days and so far I have been unable to listen to any soundbite or speech by any politician all the way through. It is a sad state of affairs for a political junkie. Maybe I could blame the dulling effects of the jet lag, or maybe it is the vacuum where the moral authority should be that renders their words so jarring. It is difficult to stomach a bunch of people who got the taxpayer to fund their plasma TVs and duck-houses when they start blethering about zero tolerance for criminality. It is even harder to take from former members of a club with a reputation for smashing stuff up. Presumably the main error the rioters made was in not being able to pay for the damage at the end of the evening.
Eight days ago, Southern England looked so English from 20,000 feet up. The fields, houses and shopping centres were so resolutely un-Asian. Everything looked so big – people included – it all felt familiar and alien at the same time. We sat in the garden amongst wildflowers with wine and talked it all through, concluding that a complex mix of genuine grievance, political incompetence and the desire to get new stuff had driven the riots. That there would be no easy, knee-jerk solution seemed obvious.
So it is also difficult to believe, as Caitlin Moran wrote on Saturday in The Times about the decision to close public libraries, that my country has taken a decision to be more stupid. But that is what it feels like when any attempt to try to understand what has gone on is painted as a justification. The shrill hysteria of the nightly news leaves me bewildered. And I’m left to wonder, through a head foggy with tiredness and tea, if this will ever feel entirely like home again, this fractured, fractious country of mine.