Magazine article The Spectator

Saturday Night Fever

Magazine article The Spectator

Saturday Night Fever

Article excerpt

Low life

Here in the West Country, the short brown indigenous people live on the council estates, while the pretty thatched cottages and Georgian town houses are occupied exclusively by tall fair-skinned middle-class invaders. The division is as clear-cut as that.

The two communities don't mix socially. The main point of contact is at the supermarket checkout and the garage. But there is no smouldering hatred of the colonised for the coloniser, as far as I am aware. The locals tolerate the tall wealthy race dwelling among them with stoical good humour. Their culture is easily strong enough to withstand invasion by a people whose only beliefs are based on a kind of confused nostalgia. The wealthy cultureless incomers of course run the show. Except, that is, on Saturday nights. On Saturday nights they concede the town to the locals, who come swarming down from their hillside council estates, dressed to kill.

The town is built around a single steep street. The locals begin in the pubs at the top and work their way down. The young men swagger triumphantly down the middle of the high street shouting. By 11 o'clock a drunk, rackety crowd is milling around on the broad cobbled street at the bottom of the hill wondering what to do next.

At this point there is usually a fight or two. Last weekend's was terrific. I was there. Two married couples were going at it hammer and tongs. Not young married couples, either. The women began it, and then their men joined in. A punch thrown by one of the men was so wide of the mark it knocked down his own wife, plus an interfering peacemaker. Thrown off balance by the force of his own forward momentum, the man then fell down on top of his wife. Soon all the participants were struggling in an undignified melee on the cobbles, with the peacemaker, who was the only sober person for miles around by the look of him, trapped underneath.

Then I saw her. She was in the crowd gathered around to watch the fight. I hadn't seen that face of hers for eight weeks. I was dreading seeing it again. In last week's episode of Sex and the City, a character claimed that as a rule of thumb it takes the hurt party exactly half the duration of any given relationship to recover from the termination of it. …

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