Interesting times last night - not just at Millbank, but here at Chez McMenamin. Now, time was when Mrs. McM and I would have happily sat watching a few broken windows at Tory HQ on TV, chugged away at the Merlot and gleefully quoted Jim to each other ('If there's a lesson in life we should all learn is that students must never break windows unless they're members of the Bullingdon Club.').
We are both behind the students, both recall that sometimes - but only sometimes - riots do work and, lets be frank, we are both perfectly aware that there seemed to be almost as many camera operatives in Millbank as there were occupiers so the world was getting a rather skewed view of the demonstration. The violence was all a bit small scale to be truthful - not a Poll Tax Riot in miniature at all. We both have memories of being caught up in .....well, lets call them 'spots of disorder' in our youth and early adulthood: she still dines out on the Greenham fence she pulled down and we both have various memories of seeing bottles, bricks and fireworks being tossed around on various demos - and of running away, frightened, from police charges. So our reaction to the events was perhaps entirely predictable.
But what was different last night was the presence on the sofa of a young master McMenamin who is fourteen tomorrow. Now he is a well behaved boy with a lifetime's training in doing the decent thing and a default assumption that violence only really happens in video games, despite living in a not entirely salubrious part of South London. He knew the students were marching - and indeed rioting - for him. He was wide eyed with excitement as the glass window broke, cheering on the students as if they were his football team, just high on the apparent disorder.
His mother and I shifted in our seats uncomfortably, and started murmuring things like,
'...that lad with the wedge haircut has made a mistake not to have a scarf over his face, he'll be nicked before the end of the evening and probably chucked off his course as well...';
'...have we ever explained what kettling is?' ;
'..of course its important to have a spare battery for the mobile if you do get into a sticky situation, just so you can ring someone.."and
'...actually, it's really frightening when things kick off like that and you don't know how to get away from it..."
He calmed down and asked us what we really thought of the TV news pictures. I looked at his Mum and she looked at me. I cleared my throat to launch into some lengthy dull diatribe from half remembered EP Thompson on the long English tradition of 'negotiation by riot' when Mrs.McM quietly spoke up,
" I wouldn't want to smash windows, and I wouldn't want any of my family to do it...but I'm glad it has happened".
We went to our beds a family united on that thought.