Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Walk On By



Shoppers ignored a dying man as he lay slumped on the pavement in broad daylight in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. It took nearly two hours before someone came to the aid of the man, in his 50s, lying outside a row of busy shops with a shopping bag, containing milk, by his side.

Alarmed passer-by Tony Poll, 33, dialled 999 when he saw the man. "Even as I stopped to help, people were saying 'leave him, he's just drunk'," he said.

"I knew he was dead when I stopped and I honestly believe if someone had rung earlier it would have been a different story."

The report mentions 'Britain's walk-on-by' society which I consider unfair to Scotland and the majority of Scots. When I was a teenager I went to work in various parts of England and the biggest cultural difference was the lack of interest people have in each other. It shocked me then and I can still feel tremors of insecurity writing about it.

Of course that was in the 60s and some will say society was different then. Of course it was. But in the large cities of England there was something missing even then; something the Scots had and still have. That was their interest in their fellow man. Many cities in England are much larger than Dundee where I grew up but even today I never feel insular in the busy streets of Glasgow or Edinburgh in the same way as I do in London or Birmingham.

Perhaps I'm beginning to look at my homeland through rose-tinted glasses but I can't imagine any person lying for two hours on the pavement of a busy Scottish city.

Not so long ago I was speaking with a couple who had moved to Scotland from the south east. Both had spent many holidays here and always intended to retire somewhere north of the border. The conversation turned to neighbours and how they had not really known their previous neighbours at all well. My contribution was along the lines of: "If your curtains are closed all day in this area, someone will be sure to notice and ask if you're ok,"- only to be met with the retort, "I've forgotten how nosy the Scots were."

Therein lies the difference. What one person translates as concern for others can be translated as nosiness by another. It's a fine line, but I'd much prefer to be called nosy that disinterested in my fellow man. It could save a life and it's well worth the insult.


22 comments:

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

I used to go to the aid of people lying in the street, but stopped because it got too dangerous.

Memo to drunkards: it is unwise to attempt to thump the person whose support you need to stand up.

Kryten 2X4B 523P said...

A sad state of affairs indeed. On you point re the apparent indifference to others comparing the Scots and the English - possible correllation / side effect of mass immigration? If you look at the BBC map here (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/born_abroad/html/overview.stm) you can see that by far the bulk of mass immigration has been into England.

subrosa said...

I can understand why you consider it dangerous Brian, but surely, in a busy shopping thoroughfare, there were enough people who could act together to see if the man needed help.

The first thing I would have done would have been to stop a man and ask him to check out the chap with me.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link Kryten. That could be but back in the 60s there wasn't that problem and still I found the attitude 'nothing to do with me' everywhere.

One woman I worked with in London took great pleasure in telling us she'd lived in a flat for some years, yet the neighbours never had any conversation in that time.

When I then lived in Surrey it was a similar situation. Few could bring themselves to even acknowledge my existence if we met on the stairs and if I said anything other than hello, I was looked at as if I was barking mad.

I learned quickly that the culture was completely different to that of the 'closes' in Dundee where everyone took an interest in each other to varying degrees.

tris said...

True SR:

We are warmer and more caring I think than in the big cities in England, where people mind their own business, for exactly the reason that Brian suggests.

I remember when I went to work in France how much more concerned and friendly people were there. You couldn't have a converstaion with anyone walking along the street because of all the "Bonsoir Monsieur"s that interrupted you. Of course that wasn't in Paris or Lyons

I hope Scotland stays friendly and warm, but I wonder if sometimes I'm not guilty of the same sort of thing. It has certainly made me think.... and re-evalutate how I behave to people in the street.

subrosa said...

Maybe it's because I live in a rural area Tris, but a wee smile goes a long way here and when I'm in Dundee or Perth.

The least friendly I find at the checkout operators in supermarkets. Mind you, I can understand they don't want to interact because they've a job to do. Also it could be a bad hair day when I visit.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

I love the anonymity of London. I've never more than smiled at neighbours though I have lived in the country and a smaller city both in England and abroad. Kryten has an interesting point but I think it's mainly about the rural/urban thing. If I ever move to the country, it'll be to a house surrounded by fields as the rural English are scarcely less nosy/interested (delete to taste) than those elsewhere.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

never smiled at neighbours here in London, I mean...

subrosa said...

I can understand that IPP because I've witnessed it so often. It's certainly a cultural thing I think. Glasgow is a massive city and, in the most part, there is little anonymity, although it is creeping in there and in other areas of Scotland.

Living in a rural area myself I would say the English people are less nosy/interested than the Scots. Then again, maybe we just scare them!

Sandy said...

I dont get this at all.

Even if you are unwilling to stop for fear of your safety, how hard is it to call emergency services ?

Immigration has no relevance , unless you just dont stop to help immigrants ?

Am I missing something here ?

subrosa said...

I think Kryten's point is that society in some parts of the UK has become more insular since immigration Sandy but you're quite right.

Surely, in this day and age of almost everyone carrying a mobile phone, someone could have phoned 999. It took 2 hours for someone to bother. Such a sad reflection on our interest in others isn't it.

Indyanhat said...

I would rather risk personal harm/injury whilst being a Good Samaritan than join the pharasee's on the other side of the road
There but for the ...

Oldrightie said...

I'm with my pal, Indyanhat. For every bad deed there are many good.

wildgoose said...

That's probably a "Big City" thing rather than anything England/Scotland.

Having said that, I live in Sheffield, the third largest city in England and a little while back the local scouts found a drug addict collapsed near the Scout Hut. They put him in the recovery position and went and informed my wife (the Beaver Scout Leader). One mother (helper) went and checked his airways were clear and an ambulance was called for him.

So it's not even a big city thing, more likely a question of how much a sense of community there is.

As for Scotland (and Ireland) being "safer", I can't say as I have felt that way when visiting with my very English accent. I feel much safer as a minority "white" in a Afro-Carribean club in Sheffield than I have done as a minority "Englishman" in either Scotland or Ireland.

Your mileage may vary of course.

subrosa said...

Me too Indyan. We're in the minority these days though I think.

subrosa said...

It seems as if Peterborough has more than it's fair share of bad deeds though OR.

subrosa said...

I would disagree wildgoose although I'm speaking generally.

Glasgow is the second largest city in the UK and I'm more or less sure than nobody would be able to lie on the pavement, in any of the shopping streets, for more than a few minutes without someone making the effort to find out if they were all right.

All my years out of Scotland I never felt my Scots accent was a problem for me. On the contrary people were quite amused to know I was Scottish (at times I felt they expected me to dance the Highland fling).

I've never been in an Afro-Carribean club so I can't really comment, although I'm sure I'd be comfortable in such an environment.

Maybe there are just more English people who prefer anonymity like Idle Pen Pusher. That could be the reason.

Apogee said...

Wildgoose makes an interesting point.
My own experience with a half Scottish and half Australian accent has been that most people, after they have worked out what I am, after the initial amusement,(there have been some strange guesses,) People are quite friendly. This is certainly not always the case with an English accent as I have observed,it may have something to do with the "British" Empire history,seen by most people round the world as English Empire. The Scots tended to be regarded as press-ganged by the English oppressors and tended to mix as equals with the native peoples, with the English being the rulers,
it's history and has never been forgotten.
One Scot, newly arrived in Australia was getting a bit of hassle, being called a pomy b*****d and it was getting to him a bit.
So I said , next time just tell them, I'm not a bl**dy Pomy, I'm Scottish.He did, pause in conversation, and then the reply, Jeez, sorry mate, listen, come and have a beer!
No more problem,the Aussie just had not conciously realised the difference between Scot and English. Point is that he met them on the same level.No offence given or taken. Many English dont seem to have the ability to do this, and I dont know why! Could be personality,upbringing, but there is something different!

subrosa said...

Gawd Apogee, half Australian and half Scots? The mind boggles, although I'm sure your accent can be handy at times.

As I say I've never had a problem ever - except with the odd Englishman (very odd I may say because he's a dear friend's husband) saying 'ack eye the noo' every time he sees me. I've learned to ignore him over the years.

Indeed, there is something different and we do have a different attitude to our fellow man. Perhaps it is nosiness but it's not malicious.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Apogee - I was 'bullied' a bit at school for a while for being a 'pome bastard'. Except it was mainly by a kiwi kid. I pushed him into a hedge once and that was the end of it, more or less. I was mainly friends with a Scot and a Welsh kid, though we all had aussie accents and pretty much thought of ourselves as Aussies.

Did that count as meeting him on the same level? I couldn't really say "I'm not a bloody Pome"...

tris said...

A similar experience to Apogee .... In Tangier (I think it was) I was speaking English to a mate, and a guy stuck a knife in my back and said "Anglais?"... I said "Non, Ecossais", and he took the knife away and smiled at us.

Sorry to say (because one of my best ever pals is English) but the English are not popular the world over. The Scots, on the other hand, appear to be loved.

subrosa said...

I don't really know why that is Tris, because I have lovely English friends, but certainly I've found being Scots an advantage.

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