I must admit I do take a faintly perverse pride in the old-fashioned archetypal British character. It's not something that anyone should be proud of but the reserved, foppish, whoopsadaisy, 'don't make a scene' approach to life that is fully embodied in every Hugh Grant screen character (and half the Shadow Cabinet) is so discerningly engaging that I can't help but doff my cap to it from time to time.
However, this attitude carries an awful curse and masks deep, deep concerns at the core of our nation's collective psyche. We Brits don't seem to have as much fun as our Continental neighbours. There's no joie de vivre, no carpe diem and no Viva Britannia. Breaking free from the stranglehold of regulation, of everything in moderation, of the slow Union Jack strangulation is perhaps long, long overdue. Perhaps I say, naturally.
Such regular caveating is part of this very problem is it not? In this war against our own national cognisance of what Britishness actually is, pavement licenses can be the first thing against the wall. Well, not structurally of course. Pavements being against the wall will generally always be the case. I mean in terms of it being the first to go as we embrace a new wilder, carefree country.
Maybe explaining things in too much detail can be next on the list.
Anyway, there I was a few weeks ago on a balmy Thursday evening under Edinburgh's star-lit sky enjoying a late night beer with some co-workers during the height of the Fringe when we were abruptly told to move inside. The Peroni had apparently dulled my British instincts and I was only too happy to make a scene at such a disgraceful request.
Well, I say "scene" but I merely politely asked why in a hushed tone. A calm, civilised but rather dull conversation ensued during which the bar staff generously explained pavement licenses to me. I didn't even manage an Italian gesticulation plumping shamefully for an 'ooh, really' here and there before reverting to type and obediently doing as I was told, a misplaced apology unthinkingly tumbling free as I stepped indoors.
I wouldn't say the evening was ruined but now squashed indoors, club music inxplicably bouncing off the walls (on a Tuesday?) and that slight hint of late-night al-fresco magic well and truly extinguished, the edge had been taken off what, just 5 minutes earlier, was shaping up to be a very good night indeed.
And for what? For an obscure pavement license, the need for which I couldn't fathom a few Peronis down and still eludes me in my more sober current state.
Sadly the needless rule of the pavement license is not an isolated case: A £120 license to ride a 50cc scooter required every 2 years? Not being able to buy booze before 10am? Not being allowed to hang up paintings in a school? You can't eat food cooked at a food fair? Parking restrictions on every last segment of street within a 3 mile radius of the city centre? No food or drink on buses? No beers on the tube? No international football on terrestrial TV? And now, incredibly, no more General Election night!?
I'm sorry, that's the last straw.
Boring, boring Britain is in a deep malaise. We thought something as fun and ridiculous as voting in Boris Johnson as London mayor would alleviate the ennui and spark a new culture but alas it hasn't proved to be.
So let us rise up against this madness where political anoraks can't get their quadrennial jollies by sitting up till 4 in the morning watching Dimbleby cos they need to find out the swing in Liverpool West. We nerds need our fun wherever we can snatch it and if enough of us want to have election parties culminating in a full set of results on that same night that the voting took place, then we should damn well have them.
And we want them on the pavement too, if nobody minds that is. I wouldn't want to put anyone out...
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