Posted by: lucylastic | September 24, 2007

Lights, camera, ACTION!!!

Supposedly, the older you get, the faster time appears to pass.  For me, if it goes much faster, I will be in danger of falling off!  This sentence brings me firmly back to a Friday night in my mid-teens – 14/15 years old, something like that, when I went to the funfair with two friends – Ange, (my bestest friend in all the world) and Moey, an expat American who added a touch of glamour and hitherto unseen cynicism to our dull, British lives. Moey remains resolutely cynical to this day, but is now back in the great USA and sadly, I don’t get to see her nearly as often as I would like. Anyway.  On this evening, we went to the fair and went on the ‘Speedway’ – basically, a load of plastic motorcycles going round and round very fast. If you were daring enough, you could sit on the rail of the ride, instead of actually on a motorcycle, (which was considered rather sedate).  Now, I always wanted to show how daring I could be, so on the rail I was – in a pair of very high platform shoes which offered little in the way of grip or stability!  Unfortunately, I managed to lose both my grip and my stability and ended up slipping between the rail and the rushing edge of the ride and the feet of a large crowd of spectators.  Despite the shouts of my friends to alert the ride operator that I may actually be in danger of being decapitated, he chose to respond to their pleas by speeding up the ride while I clung on for dear life!!!!  I emerged somewhat shaken, but intact and a little later, we headed for home.  To add insult to injury, (or in fact, the other way around), I somehow tripped on the way home, fell right in front of Moey, who’s momentum was just too much to prevent her standing squarely on my head in the gutter!  It was hilarious.  Apparently.  I recall being distinctly miffed! 

These teenage reminisces come directly after our last stage of Street Pastor training – when we were actually allowed out onto the streets of Swindon, albeit in plain clothes and in the care of the local police.  What a revelation!  Somehow, my expectations had all been around us being able to have quiet dialogue with small groups of people.  But it seems unlikely, the youth of the town like to swarm, going everywhere in very large groups and drawing (Dutch) courage from one another as they do so.  There is no visible respect for the Police presence – with fights, swearing, drunken behaviour and other nonsense taking place right under their noses – I mean RIGHT UNDER – two feet away!  What do the Police do?  Nothing.  Why don’t they do anything?  Because they don’t have the resources.  To quote our Police guide…………”if we arrested everyone who should be arrested, we’d need hundreds of coppers and a fleet load of vehicles”.  In fact, they have a (literal) handful of bodies on the street and no permanently allocated van to transport ‘arrestees’ to the local (central) processing station.  It’s unbelievable – and of great concern – no wonder house break-ins and assaults go unattended – there’s no one to even answer the phone!  Given all that one hears about ‘the Government’ spending more and more on policing, I had expected many more ‘feet on the street’.  But as one cynical sergeant told me, “hey – there are loads of policemen – you just can’t see them – for every one of us on the beat, there are 20 filling in the paperwork”.  That’s not good, surely?  It also explains why, when many would-be Street Pastors were concerned about how we’d be received by the Police we were actually welcomed with open arms.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the presence alone of Street Pastors seems to reduce the level of crime, but it now appears that the Police see us as a group who can pick up many of the ‘cases’ they’d like to deal with, but can’t. 

My initial story about the fairground got me thinking about how much has changed.  I was a teenager in the mid-late 70’s, and the funfair then was one of the highlights of the year!  It visited two sites that were within an hour’s walking distance, (no cars, no bikes, no parents running us around) and walk we did.  We all did.  The fair attracted young people aged from about 10–25 – with the youngest in the care of older siblings and the older ones showing off a bit, but never violent or making serious trouble.  How things have changed.  The funfair was in Swindon last week and children of 8/9 seemed to be not only unaccompanied but with enough money in their pockets to smoke (openly) and go on the rides.  There was no one there who looked to be over 18, (except for a few intrepid parents who obviously cared enough about their young children to look after them) – they were all in town, drinking and messing about in the streets.  I have absolutely nothing against drinking and having a good time, lest anyone start to think that I am some crusading do-gooder who would ban alcohol and fun forever, but I do struggle to comprehend the mentality (and means) of the very large group of youngsters whose only goal on a Friday or Saturday night is to get so completely hammered that they can’t remember how they got home, (or even getting home, on occasion).  The more hammered, the better, it seems. 

The local press and TV station will be out on Friday night this week to record the arrival of Street Pastors in Swindon – so keep an eye out for us – or feel free to come into town and see us in action!

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Responses

  1. I’ve never heard of the Street Pastors Lucy so you’ll have to tell me more! And yes the funfair’s visit was a huge highlight where I was brought up in Plymouth…sometimes it was only two rides. If we were very daring we would share a tin of Colt 45, but that was as far as binge drinking went back in the 70s (or a Babycham if you were at a party!).


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