There’ll be dancing in the street

In these summer months, it’s great to visit new places. I particularly like big cities at this time as they tend to be denuded of the office workers and others who fill the streets and a holiday mood descends on the sparsely populated towns. I distinctly remember driving through, an almost entirely and eerily empty, Paris one 15th August (Feast of the Assumption).It was weird to motor along without any competition for the lanes or turnings. Similarly, I also recall another time in Paris when I was astonished to find that sandy beaches had been constructed down the centre of the main thoroughfares and there they all were, as traffic zoomed along and horns were sounded, with their bikinis on playing volley ball or just sun-bathing as if on the plage at St Tropez. On other occasions, driving down the market lined La Ramblas in Barcelona or walking through the centre of Berlin whilst people roller skated past, I became aware that people populate the streets in big cities: they play, work, cry, laugh, shout, drink, eat, kiss and generally live life out in the open air. Last week, on a routine visit to London, I found myself with a few moments to spare so I went to the British Library. The sun was beating down, so I grabbed a latte at the street cafe on the piazza in front and sat down. I was then treated to an excellent game of table tennis: someone had just set up a table, provided the bats and balls and anyone could play. I thought it was a remarkable statement of hope and enjoyment in an age when we could say ‘someone will steal the balls and bats and then vandalise the table’. In many of the less salubrious areas of our country, there is a general fear of walking out in the streets-certainly alone and certainly at night. I have been the priest of churches where our whole timetable would have to be geared around when people felt it safe to come outdoors. There are many freedoms at stake at the moment, but the freedom to walk safely around one’s home is surely the most precious. As the country contemplates 25% cuts across the board, one can only hope that one of the factors that is taken into account when judging where axes might fall is the effect a cut would have on quality of life. Sadly, the evidence of history suggests that it is the poorer and more deprived areas of our land which will feel the cuts most keenly and therefore will have quality of life affected most. Cuts in policing, social provision, entertainment, library service, education, road and street maintenance and of course jobs for the young and unemployed will all add to the impression in some areas that the environment we live in is threatening and dangerous.Perhaps the question should not be ‘should we make cuts’  but rather ‘where should we make cuts and who will be most affected by them?’

Have a good holiday.

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~ by Tim Ellis on August 12, 2010.

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