Last week, Mr. Crab's mate Blushing Whale arrived in London for a nearly three-month European vacation. Mr. Crab and Blushing Whale go way WAY back, to late deadline nights at the Broadside, the student newspaper of George Mason University.
What better way to introduce a visitor to London than to attend the Mayor's Thames Festival, one of the largest of London's many public street festival? The party on Sunday stretched for early two miles along the South Bank of the River Thames from Tower Bridge to the London Eye, featuring tens of thousands of revelers, hundreds of food and shop vendors and about a dozen live music stages. Of the three Thames Festivals the Two Crabs have attended, this was the best by far.
It was a perfect day for a festival, partly sunny and 70 degrees. The Two Crabs and Blushing Whale were joined by friends "Miss San Fran" and "Miss Sri Lanka." We spent all day at the festival, eating lots of junk food like burritos, chicken satay and Argentinean steak. Blushing Whale also shelled out some pocket shrapnel on finger puppets. We made it about three quarters of the way around the festival path before we decided to grab a bench and wait for the evening fireworks.
Here's where things got ugly.
Shortly before the fireworks, Mr. Crab and Blushing Whale were momentarily distracted by a passing Hare Krishna parade. We left the bench to join the dancing circle, leaving Mrs. Crab and Miss San Fran on the bench. In our absence, a couple and their two children aged about 5 and 10 sat on the bench, practically pushing Mrs. Crab off the bench. The man and woman, each holding a can of cheap bere, were total CHAVS.
CHAV (From Wikipedia): Chav is a derogatory slang term in popular usage throughout the UK. It refers to a subculture stereotype of a person who is uneducated, uncultured and prone to antisocial or immoral behaviour. The label is typically, though not exclusively, applied to teenagers and young adults of white working-class or lower-middle class origin.
Mrs. Crab politely told the couple that the seat was taken. Out of nowhere, Mrs. Chav launched a nasty, racist, unprovked diatribe. The conversation, paraphrased:
Mrs. CHAV: "We're British. We can sit where we want to. You're not British. You don't even speak fucking English."
Mrs. Crab: "I speak English. And I live here."
Mrs. CHAV: "You don't speak proper English. You're some fucking immigrant..."
At this point, me (Mr. Crab) and Blushing Whale returned to the bench, momentarily phased by this dialogue.
Mr. CHAV to me: "You got a fucking problem mate?"
Me: "Huh? We're just here to enjoy the festival."
Mrs. CHAV, continuing spewing her venom in slurred speech: "That's what's fucking wrong with this fucking country. Too many fucking immigrants. We don't want you here. Go back to your own country. We don't want any fucking Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Pakis, Irish..." (Note that she never said American).
Mr. CHAV, standing up and facing me: "I'll kick your fucking teeth in."
That's when Mr. Chav threw his ENTIRE CAN OF BEER on my chest, spilling beer all over me. At this point I was ready to rumble but the guy was clearly drunk, probably on drugs and was a good foot taller than me. I just stood my ground while his Chav woman kept yelling something indistinguishable.
Me: "That's it. I'm calling the police." I whipped out my cellphone, half expecting the guy to take a swing at me. Instead, like a proper chav, he began to walk away.
The Chavs kept yelling various choice profanities at us as they left. We sat back down on the bench and suddenly, THUMP. The Chavs THREW ANOTHER CAN OF BEER ON MY HEAD. I must say, the guy had pretty good aim for a drunk as he was a good 20 feet away!
During this whole incident, the couple's older boy was pleading for his chav parents/guardians to walk away and leave us alone. I actually felt sorry for the kid, who, ironically, appeared to be of mixed racial background.
In hindsight, I must say that I was especially disappointed that nobody came to our aid. There were at least three dozen people within our immediate vicinity, including about six paramedics manning the first aid booth next to our bench! Everybody just stared like they were watching an episode of Binge Britain, the BBC reality show that follows drunk idiots like our Chavs.
The whole incident left us a bit shaken. In two years of living in London, we've never faced such unprovoked hatred and threats of violence. I felt sad and embarrassed that this incident was one of Blushing Whale's first impressions of London. I certainly hope this was a "one-off" (Brit slang for 'one-time') London experience. Miss Sri Lanka put us at ease by saying that we would laugh off the incident later, and she was right.
What's really sad is that those Chavs probably woke up this morning with a killer hangover and no recollection of their actions and, worse, no remorse.