I try my best to be positive about this place. I really do. But the UK continues to surprise me in how it under-delivers. Right now I am furious.
When I first moved here I had my bike stolen. I placed it outside a coffee shop where I went to buy a coffee, for no less than 2,5 minutes. It took that long for someone to steal it. Somehow I can deal with that. Down in their luck, said erstwhile-bobcat driver saw the opportunity to make a few bob for the family, and took my bike to sell to some complicit Cambridge undergrad. Or at least that’s the story I comfort myself with.
But tonight’s events leave me gobsmacked. My (newish) bike was locked up safely in a well-lit area of Oxford this time. In the pouring rain. As I approached it to cycle home I noticed something was wrong. Perhaps it was the fact that it was upside down. And that the wheel was visibly buckled… I’m not entirely sure. But sure enough, some wretched English youth (or possibly a 20-something parent of 3 kids under the age of 7, who knows…) had deemed it fit to exact their global inadequacy complex on my dear mule. “They” had literally kicked the shit out of it.
As I squeaked, rattled and bounced my way home, after 20 minutes in the pouring rain of re-kicking my bent wheels back into a semblance of “roundness”, I couldn’t help but gloat at the UK’s fall from grace, while also appreciating the exact reason. It seems that when things are given to you very easily (council housing, the NHS, and an over-whelming sense of undeserved superiority), it becomes easy to forget the link between basic human decency and quality of life. Under these ridiculous social conditions, you are entitled to your hearts desires, without the slightest need for giving a damn about the welfare of others. Hell, other people pay their taxes, so leech away. Needing a scape-goat for their deep insecurities about losing their global empire a century ago, the obvious channel for self-expression becomes A) your politicians – goodbye Labour B) anyone else besides your politicians that isn’t you and C) other people’s bikes, as a token of their impingement of your basic English aristocratic arrogance.
The service culture in the UK provides a long-standing monument to this entitlement. I have yet to meet a waiter or bartender that doesn’t consider his attention (at my table or the bar) to be a personal favour to me.
I realise it’s unfair to paint everyone with the same brush. There are, of course, incredibly decent English people I have met over the past 2 years. But these things keep happening to me in a country that condescendingly chortles down it’s nose at my little developing country for it’s “barbarisms”. At least in South Africa someone would have the decency to steal my bike for the cash, rather than destroy it for the “fun”.
I can’t wait to leave the UK: The most depressing and self-loathing place on earth.