Everybody went home for Christmas. Except me. A friend told the story of an incident in Leeds. She was smoking a cigarette in the street, thoughtfully dropping the ash in a convenient bin. An official-looking individual walked up to her and in a somewhat intimidating manner pushed a small box the size of a large matchbox into her hand, telling her that unless this object was used to collect butt and ash this miniature Stalin was entitled to pursue her – if necessary to a bank – to collect a fine of fifty pounds.
Kuwait isn’t culturally very self-aware, but there are compensations. I can ignore non-smoking signs if I really want to, carelessly forget to wear a seatbelt from time to time and I can very often get away with abandoning my car on the street – we don’t do meters. I remember once in a senior moment forgetting to turn off my car, leaving it running in the street all night and apart from a depleted fuel tank it was as I had left it the following morning. Can’t imagine that happening in downtown Croydon on a Saturday night. But, to sterner matters. The presence or not of street litter is unlikely to be at the top of the agenda for residents of Gaza this evening. If my neighbour’s children consistently threw garbage over my garden fence on an almost daily basis, despite being warned, threatened and told not to, I might be tolerant of childish antics for a time, but after a while, all remonstrance failing, I might then be sorely tempted to have a stern word with parents. If I subsequently discovered that it was at the parent’s instigation that the garbage was being hurled, I might further be tempted to have a friendly word, accompanied by a baseball bat. No matter how well-hidden the perpetrators might be, my determination to winkle them out and have a word would be almost overmastering and to hell with collateral damage. I can understand how the Israeli government is feeling.