Britain can be a miserable place to live for many reasons. Prominent among them is the fact that civilisation here tends to shut down no later than 5pm.
After the normal working day finishes, much of Britain becomes a ghostly wilderness pocked with grey, modernist warehouses and gridlocked roads. Business is restricted to convenience stores, pubs and 24hr supermarkets. Town centres begin to swirl with drunken youths and hooded ‘chavs’. Walls (and war memorials) are urinated on. Vomit thickens rainwater in city gutters.
During these hours, Britain is the worst place on earth.
Things are vastly different elsewhere. I knew a fellow from Ghana who was studying here and couldn’t wait to leave. He proudly told me that over in Accra, the cafes, libraries and street markets stay open to 3am most days, and people go to bed later and wake earlier. I’ve witnessed the same kind of life in France, Italy and Spain.
Why is so much money spent on government studies to find the root cause of binge-drinking? The answers are painfully obvious. After the hours most clock off from employment the only places with light and company are outlets selling liquor.
In Paris I remember seeing wonderful bars selling coffee, wine and light food to crowds of people – children and adults – long past the sunset. A mini-orchestra busked in a town square nearby and was applauded after every piece.
People are rightly told that we should work to live, rather than live to work. But this requires the existence of a social apparatus which survives the close of the normal office day.
So many of Britain’s problems are not, as the media portrays them, due to capitalist excess, but rather the opposite – to a slovenly attitude to commerce rooted in an outdated past.
The ‘Chav’ phenomenon which so blights town centres is due to a lack of things for young people to do. If the only places open after dark are off licenses, then sure enough the youths will get drunk, and if there is nowhere pleasant they can drink, they will take that booze to children’s playgrounds, street corners and residential areas.
The solution would be for the government to encourage extended hours of trading. This would provide work for the unemployed, overtime for the underemployed, and a boost to the economy.
Britain used to be famed for ‘common sense’. It’s a shame it seems so thin on the ground with addressing these matters.