Riots in England; a view from The Alps

The riots have been greeted with shock by those Britons who live year round in the mountains. One of our PlanetSKI reporters lives in Verbier, Switzerland. She used to live in London and she watched events unfold on her TV with disbelief and then disgust.


I live in one of the most respectful countries in Europe and in an area where crime is something that occurs in the cities and rarely in the provinces or up in the mountains, so when I first heard the news about the riots in the UK I just assumed it was yet another disturbance in London.

I lived in London for 10 years and I was used to the odd bit of violence being reported now and then.

In 1999 I was working in Soho when the nail bomb hit the Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton Street, just a few inches from my office, I was unable to leave and utterly transfixed to Sky news. It was a frightening time for everyone.

When I realised on Sunday and Monday nights, when the uprising worsened, that this really was a big deal in London I was shocked.

There has always been a bit of animosity between various Londoners and the police and that has presented itself at the Notting Hill Carnival and in other suburbs on occasion but this outright hatred from the public is just inconceivable to us out in the mountains.

I watched Sky news as the events unfolded before my eyes. I have worked at BSkyB and have admiration for the journalists and camera crews that put their safety on the line to bring us the news.

A reporter who must have stepped off the train at Clapham Junction , an area I lived in  for 5 years, was making his way home on foot when he came across a bunch of kids breaking into the shops. The kids he reported were between the ages of 13 and 16 and were wearing clothing around their faces to disguise themselves.

They began to smash up all the shop front windows and looting the premises. It was almost unbelievable to see. There were no policemen in sight and the reporter commented that the police were unable to attend this particular incident as they were busy elsewhere with riots in London. The reporter approached the kids to ask them if they thought it was a fun thing to do?

They either shrugged him off or threatened to take his phone and his wallet. He kept his distance for fear of being attacked.

My reaction was one of disgust.

If these people had attempted this kind of atrocity in another European countries they would probably have been taken down with extreme force. I don’t blame the UK police for their lack of input at the start of this fiasco, nor do I blame the Prime Minister, although I think a faster reaction would have facilitated a more proactive outcome.

A large proportion of society must take responsibility for the actions that have occurred in the UK, the children who were out at night unsupervised, committing crimes of a highly serious nature.

Why were they not at home with their parents?

What parents allow the next generation to cause anarchy in our society?

Not so long ago, the government introduced fines to parents whose children were truant from school. What are the penalties for allowing your child to commit arson or burglary?

In Switzerland there is a feeling of relief that as a Brit abroad we can disassociate ourselves from these animals and be grateful that we live in a more civilised society.

One happy Brit wrote on Facebook “Sun’s out. And the Swiss appear to be keeping a strong grip of public order by making it too nice and sunny to be worth rioting. Clever bunch.”

It may appear tongue in cheek but in truth the Swiss would never contemplate such actions of contempt for their own people.

The Brits that I have spoken to out here in The Alps are all furious with the state of the UK and the actions of these people.

Who is supposed to pay for the damage?

How can people rebuild their lives and businesses?

I overheard some Swiss people talking about the riots and how shocked they were to see such disrespect from a nation.

I felt embarrassed to be British.

For news of how other nations in Europe deal with riots and looting see this article from the BBC’s Europe Editor, Gavin Hewitt.

Here is an interesting feature on the Austrian perspective from The Austrian Times.

If you are in The Alps, or elsewhere for that matter, and have a view from abroad do let us know by filing in the comment box below.

For the spirit of the mountains