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Enjoying the mix in classy Bury

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Michael Apichella ANL-151123-125029001
Michael Apichella ANL-151123-125029001

Believe the news, and today’s youngsters are inactive, self-absorbed consumers, moving about merely to reach the nearest plate of nachos and cheese or a greasy burger at some fast-food franchise.

Unable to hold a proper conversation unless it’s done with hopping thumbs and an expensive electronic aid, their horizons are limited to themselves and their own self-interests. Believe it, but you’d be wrong.

There’s too much evidence proving today’s kids are every bit as involved in the wider community as previous generations. Take the thugs that recently mugged a 17-year-old boy in Bury St Edmunds. According to this paper, the punks stole his mobile phone.

But before the thieves could escape, a teenage girl confronted the attackers who then ran away before being arrested on suspicion of robbery.

This isn’t the first I’ve read about local people being attacked by so-called ‘tough’ hoods stealing a phone, wallet or purse. In numerous cases, concerned bystanders noticed the crime unfolding and stepped in to help the victim. And in many instances, the heroes were – wait for it – teens.

I think it’s cool young folks willingly aid vulnerable fellow citizens. Also, I love the fact that the rescuers are very often boys and girls acting together, demonstrating that it’s like stirring up silt debating which sex is superior. Biology proves it’s always better when genders work together, whether it’s raising a family, running a business, or, as in this case, upholding law and order. Full marks for the anonymous girl who rushed in and saved the day. I hope our town council sees this and rewards her for her courage.

Someone once said democracy is an experiment still on trial. In that case, the experiment seems to be working pretty well in Bury St. Edmunds. Not long ago, I had dinner with my son at Côte Brasserie here in Bury.

While waiting to be served, I noticed a workman with hands the size of buckets. Opposite were a high-powered business woman and a friend in power suits. Meantime during a walk to the loo, I spotted a local clergyman and his wife and friends enjoying their wine. Pretty unremarkable observation you say? Sure. Unless you just flew in from Europe. Only in wonderful towns like ours do you find high-flying professionals mixing with clock-punchers in places like Côte Brasserie, Café Rouge, Zen Noodle Bar, Bill’s, Pea Porridge, Voujon Indian Cuisine, and half-a-dozen other superb local eateries. I noticed this classless mix in the local churches during Easter as well. Nice.

Long ago, the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville applauded equality, something that’s highly praised amongst European thinkers but nowhere practised so genuinely as here in Bury St Edmunds.

Rather like our teens, Bury’s unfairly branded as despairingly posh, hopelessly elitist, and crassly greedy.

In my experience, places similar to Côte Brasserie exist in Europe, of course, but they’re homogenised. By that I mean you’d never find such a marked cross-section of people in them. Even when working-class people can pay for a night out in up-market establishments in France, Germany or Belgium, the staff make it clear that the hoi palloi aren’t welcome through smug shrugs, shrewd eye-rolling and plain terrible service.

And the snobbery cuts both ways: an aristocratic European can expect the old fish-eye if he or she should dare to wander into a working man’s bistro and attempt to fit in, let alone order a meal. Such egregious class-consciousness simply doesn’t exist in Bury St Edmunds.

So hooray for Bury! May it always be so.

-- Visit award-winning writer Michael Apichella’s website at www.michaelapichella.com. You can also follow him on Twitter via @MApichellaPhD