February 16, 2014
February 15, 2014
The sunny river is dotted and decked with yellow, and blue, and orange, and white, and red, and pink. All the inhabitants of Hampton and Mousley dress themselves up in boating costume, and come and mooch around the lock with their dogs, and flirt, and smoke, and watch the boats, and altogether, what with the caps and jackets of the men, the pretty coloured dresses of the women, the excited dogs, the moving boats, the white sails, the pleasant landscape, and the sparkling water, it is one of the gayest sites I know of near this dull old London town.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men In A Boat (1889).
This is the sight near old London town:
The dull brown river is dotted and decked with cars, and road signs, and one that says ‘Ferry’ even though it’s in the middle of the wide stretch of water not at the edge, and bins for scooped-up-and-bagged dog-pooh attached to poles you can’t see because that’s how high the water’s risen, with not a dog-walker in sight and not likely since there’s no walking to be done; only wading (downcast eyes) or messing about in boats (half-smile if you’re in the boat, serious expression if you’re pushing or pulling the occupants to a place of safety).
All the inhabitants are dressed down in wellies and woolly jumpers and the occasional bib-and-tucker like the ones trawler men wear for gutting fish. No landscape: the streets awash with floodwater and abject politicians, and the military moving sandbags (in foreign news ‘military’ means coup and governments overthrown, but here in the waterlogged Home Counties the undertow is upbeat – expect to see Wills and Harry mucking in), and everyone’s gutted and the guts of Middle England are spilling into blocked drains and backing up.
Enough Prog Rock imagery – STOP!
Surrey’s inhabitants were high and dry and laughing when others were sinking into poverty 30 years ago. Half-of-me – the bitter half – doesn’t mind them getting wet. But there’s no question of them drowning. Worn down, yes, since Three Men In A Boat in Victorian high summer; nonetheless the mark of prosperous respectability remains far above flood-level.
You couldn’t make it up.
The name of the killer dog is ‘Killer’. The 11-month old baby which it killed, was ‘like a china doll’, according to her paternal grandmother.
Infant Beauty murdered by Chavs’ Beast of Choice, geddit?
There’s more: father and mother are no longer together; the dog, which was put down after the attack, belonged to the mum’s current boyfriend. Mum-and-Baby-Photo, as released to the press, has both of them doe-eyed and Bambified; while the current boyfriend – seen in another photo – boasts high cheekbones, cupid bow lips and a hard look.
The attack took place on a redbrick housing estate in Blackburn, 20 miles north of Manchester. The litany of those involved sounds like the cast list from a nearby episode of Shameless: Bernadette, Chloe, Lee, Dean and ‘china doll’ Ava-Jayne.
What were the parents thinking of, mashing-up Ava (Gardner) with Jayne (Mansfield)? Just the one film star wasn’t enough?
Shame on you, Mr News Compositor! Their moment of grief is not the time to inflict your cultural snobbery on Ava-Jayne’s parents. You’ve reduced their lives – and the sad death of an innocent child – to the level of a cartoon show, The Chavs.
Agreed, it can never be right to write anyone off like this (see Shane Meadows’ movies: he takes the lives of working class people and writes them up properly). But please note that if I have caricatured the baby’s family members, it was only to draw out the way their lives have been cartooned in mainstream media coverage.
More reductionist than mainstream media coverage, amounts to a critique of it – really?
Conceded, this is not sufficient justification. But there is something more – and more important – which my piece is meant to draw attention to.
Perhaps the cartoon character of the death of Ava-Jayne was not only introduced after the tragic event (in the subsequent depiction rather than the event itself). To some extent, it may have been there all along. Not because these really are the creatures of a mythical underclass; more that in this part of the world acting the part might have become part of a general attempt to get real.