Friday, May 20, 2005

You know how I've written a lot about encoded antisemitism (for a while, I was the only person on the internet who said it.)

Well, something happened the day after the election - a Friday - that had me thinking.

So I was sitting in Starbucks in Hampstead at 5pm, waiting to meet my cousin. (She is 17, and didn't want to be seen with me in Golders Green Starbuck. Let's face it: I'm not 17).

The place was heaving with kids. Really heaving: like two hundred young people aged twelve to fifteen or sixteen, I'd guess.

Why? Some famous North London B-lister (Cat Deely? They've all merged in my mind) was there, and they were all running around getting her to sign their exercise books while she drank her non-fat decaff coffee-free beverage. Because she is about two inches wide, I do not exaggerate. She clearly doesn't eat. Zaftig, she's not.

So the nice ozzie and kiwi women who work in Starbucks were tearing their hair about it, because the real customers were not having a nice time, and we pay like five earth pounds for a cup of coffee, so it should at least be calm, like the advertised third space.

The Starbucks people started moving the young people on, "time to go folks, nothing more to see here," and they were friendly and charming about it in the way that only antipodeans can be.

Eventually, there was one gaggle of three gangly boys, not drinking a Starbucks beverage. They looked to me like the kind of North London boys I see all the time: the kind of cocky swagger and radiccio that comes from a private school education. Some call it polish. I disagree.

She went up to them. "Time to go, boys," she smiled. "Why?" One of them retorted. "Cat Deeley's gone, and you're not drinking anything, so it's time to go."

One kid stands up, and shouts at her, "you're just being anti semitic."

I am open mouthed. The Starbucks worker is shocked and embarassed.

The kid continues: "it's because I'm Jewish," he says in no imitation at all of is-it-bicoz-I-is-black.

I'm not prepared to be a bystander, so I go up to this group, and say to the boy, "she didn't say anything anti semitic."

He thinks he can mess with me. "Yeah, she did. It's cos I'm Jewish."

I turn to the Starbucks worker and say I'm sorry, and that I didn't think she was being anti semitic.

Then I say to the kid: "people like you cause anti semitism. This woman hasn't said anything wrong and you should apologise to her."

He looks like he still wants to have a go.

"Look," I say to him, "you should learn to behave with more respect to people, and just leave before I ask you who you parents are."

He ran, with his mates.

And they looked to me like kids whose parents had never said to them, "you know, son, you might sometimes be wrong."

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