The Drury Diaries: Police, Posh Plays and Perspective
Looking for beauty in the face of terror
It has been hard to miss the vastly increased police presence around Cambridge in the days since the Manchester attack. Patrols have been near-constantly up and down King’s Parade, and vehicles have been stationed on Market Square. I don’t think I am alone in saying that my instinctive reaction is that I don’t really like this.
I don’t like living in what’s easy to imagine as a ‘Police State’; and, although I didn’t see any, soldiers being on the streets makes me feel a little uneasy. But is slight unease really such a high price to pay for the privilege of protection from hate? Attacks such as that on Manchester draw our attention to the world we really do live in, rather than the one we wish or think we do: this is a world where a certain group hate and wish to hurt us.
It isn’t often I agree with Corbyn, but I’m with him on needing to look deeper at terrorism than passing it off as random brutality. It isn’t making any excuse for terror to recognise that these attacks are not just senseless barbarism, but deliberate expressions of hatred of us and our way of life. We need look no further than ISIS’ own explanations for this reality: their magazine Dabiq (I won’t do them the favour of publicising it, but it’s Google-able) tells us that they hate us for disbelieving, hate us for a liberalism that brings about perversion, and for being atheist.
ISIS also tell us that they’d carry on waging war no matter what our foreign policy is, something I hope Corbyn reads. Their hate should give us a better sense of what we are defending: while they hate tolerance of religious, political, sexual and ethical freedom and diversity, we should stand firm and say ‘that’s us’. It is precisely what ISIS calls ‘perversion’ that we need to say we recognise as joyful and are proud of. Feeling uneasy or disturbed about police presence in ‘cosy Cambridge’ is not unreasonable, but war is disturbing. We can’t afford to be under any illusion here; we are not in peacetime and it seems there is good reason to be uneasy. But also to carry on being joyful.
In a move that led a friend to describe me as a ‘tit’, I took a day off on Wednesday to go to Glyndebourne, home of an annual opera festival. Think crisp white wine, pleasant gardens, and picnics. I am sure, reader, the ‘wanker’ alarm currently going off in your head is also going off in my other reader’s head too.
This is because there is a deep sense that opera is for the old and the posh, that it’s only really enjoyed by people who went to schools where the Masters (AKA teachers) wore gowns, and that they’re probably pretending anyway. I am none of those things, and yet enjoy it. There is always going to be some playful pretension to opera, but it is a (usually) beautiful culmination of music, art and theatre: a complete immersion in dramatic story telling. And under 30s can get tickets to Glyndebourne for £30.
A man in a red beret floats around Cambridge: he does laps of Market Square and pops in and out of Porters’ Lodges. This is my friend Keith. Keith will go into Porters’ Lodges, and will say that he has discovered the cure to all disease, or the equation behind all science, or – last week – the way to do all of Jesus’ miracles.
He will explain this by some markings on paper and then depart. Although his science may be questionable, Keith has an astonishing ability to be positive. Every time I bump into him, he’ll tell me what little thing has made him happy that day, and it really can be anything. A few days ago, when I explained that exam stress was getting to me, he asked, in complete seriousness and with great enthusiasm, if I had seen how the Sun glitters on the river.