Handswoth Riots in September 1985

A warm and occasionally sunny day visiting Ely for an auction and then planning my speech to the Financial Times conference before an evening gardening and cutting back shrubs as claims of police brutality vie with tales of hooliganism in the Handsworth Sheffield riots

Awake after a good night’s sleep and awoken fairly early for this morning’s arrangements. Down to breakfast of boiled duck egg, but unfortunately Diana had not cooked them properly and the children wouldn’t eat them. This started an argument as a poor commencement of the day. I had time to scan the FT headlines in the quiet of my room and then, getting late, I showered, shaved and dressed and went out at 8.00am. A brisk drive to Ely and the Comins antique auction. An hour to view the lots prior to the start, but little of interest. Virtually no silver and only one folding chair – of a low-slung, reed-backed type that I do not collect. I stayed for coffee and then waited for this lot to come up and put in some low bids, but let up when it rose to £30. Another coffee and biscuit in the Old Boathouse café and then into Ely town centre to buy a new pictorial map of the Cam and Lower Ouse. Away and to stop on the way home – first at Wyton Garden Centre to buy 4 gorse shrubs that I had been searching for, and then at Brampton, but no yew varieties in sight. I am still undecided over our hedges; between the existing Leylandii, Hawthorn, Holly, Box and Yew. I would prefer Box, but it would take 15 years to grow back, or the Yew, but retain doubts about the stories of the poisonous seed and leaves. This was all part of The Master Plan for The Hayling View as seen below.

Such a problem! I had also picked up 2lb of nice ripe Victoria Plums when in Ely and had eaten half of them by now and so just had some ice cream and tea on the lawn when I arrived home. This afternoon to the office, returning phone calls and starting to plan my speech for the FT conference in late October. Phone calls to the organiser as I cannot quite see the subject blending in with the other speakers at the moment. Then to my architect to chase the start to the house alterations and he is surprised that the builders had not been in contact with us. At 5.00pm away and out to the gardens where I find another mole along the bank, but all else quiet on the mole front. Tea of grilled trout and then out again to smoke the mole. An evening gardening – cutting back more of the shrubs outside our new garages and transplanting one from a plant tub at the same time. In at dark after feeding the birds. Diana did them this morning, but the ducks only managed 5 for her. Some time on my journal and then the TV. News flashes of more trouble in the Handsworth district of Sheffield. The riot last night was heightened when two bodies were found this morning and when the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, was visiting today with the local Chief Constable. They were attacked with stones and bottles and had to withdraw. There are 40% of men unemployed in the area and a large racial minority of Asians. It seems youths are attacking and looting shops and then causing wide scale damage by setting fire to them. Barricades and missile attacks prevented the police and firemen getting to the scene last night and scores of buildings were burned and the damage wide spread and costing millions. At least 20 cars were set on fire and many people are missing in the skeletal remains of Lozells Road. The 400 youths involved are claiming police harassment. Today the Home Secretary had to flee from the stones and jostling and more vehicles were set on fire. The SDP conference took up the theme today and attributed the alienation of youth to the government’s economic policies. News from the NCB today of the surprise reprieve of the Scottish Polmaise mine, but Yorkshire Main is now under threat. Michael Eaton, McGregor’s henchman during the strike and media head, first announced news of his resignation today because of personal reasons and disagreements with McGregor, and was then admitted to hospital with a perforated ulcer. EEC foreign ministers agreed some limited sanctions, but the UK alone held out on some issues and were isolated. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s wife is worried about his health after he is admitted to hospital with kidney problems. After today’s warm and occasionally sunny weather, it is forecast to last for a day or two, but will not last until the end of the week.