PITY the poor residents of South Park Crescent in Hither Green, who have spent the past week or so with a nasty little circus unfolding on their doorstep.

The flowers laid in memory of burglar Henry Vincent are at best a tacky shrine and at worst a sinister calling card.

It didn’t take long, after Vincent was stabbed to death during a botched raid on a pensioner’s home, for members of the dead man’s family to appear at the property, armed with floral tributes. And this week around 20 people turned up with flowers, balloons, cards and a banner to mark Vincent’s birthday.

The items were tied to garden walls and a lamp post near to where the 37-year-old fell after being fatally injured in the home of 78-year-old Richard Osborn-Brooks. The pensioner was arrested on suspicion of murder following Vincent's death on April 4 but was later told he would face no further action.

The flowers and cards laid outside the home of Mr Osborn-Brooks and his wife in this quiet south London neighbourhood have repeatedly been torn down by angry neighbours, only to spring up again within days.

One of the women who left tributes on Sunday said: “We just want to lay flowers.” Really? In such sensitive circumstances, could the family's grieving not be done behind closed doors?

Aside from the unsettling nature of these tributes - defiant-looking women turning up en masse to publicly commemorate a criminal, practically sticking two fingers up at the people living on this street - this whole charade highlights an unsavoury aspect of the public grief now commonplace in modern life.

From the candle-lit shrine outside George Michael’s Highgate home to the supermarket flowers pinned to lamp posts at the scene of road accidents, it seems we must be seen to be mourning the dead and paying respects. Thus it has been since the death of Princess Diana, and the public wallowing of the week that followed.

I recently saw an American therapist on TV claiming that public displays of emotion are a welcome outlet for British people who have "traditionally struggled to deal with grief". She said the outpouring after Diana's death was good for us, and for the Royal Family too - but I remember two bewildered young boys being paraded, days after their mother's death, through a sea of flowers with strangers gawping and wailing at them. Princes William and Harry have since said, in interviews, that such public grief baffled them. It baffled me too.

I do, though, understand why people hold public vigils. I was in Barcelona when the 2004 Madrid station bombing took place and I watched a procession of people quietly walk through the city, holding candles and roses in memory of the dead and in defiance of the terrorists. It was dignified, peaceful and lasted just 24 hours. If people must unite and pay their respects in public, that is the way to do it. It's when the tearful vigils go on far too long that it all smacks of self-indulgent wallowing.

Eventually, someone has to clear up the bedraggled flowers piling up on street corner shrines. And by the time they do, the plastic wrapping and accompanying balloons and trinkets will have been carried off in the wind - yet another environmental hazard the world could do without.

What happened to grieving in private? And why do we feel the need to mourn people we never met? Of course it's sad when a much-loved public figure dies, but that doesn't mean we should lay tea lights and teddy bears outside their home.

Like everything else now, grief is over-shared. And in the case of the Hither Green tributes, it is brazen, ugly and undignified.

* Raise private sector rent standards for millennials

A THIRD of millennials could still be renting by the time they retire, according to a report by think tank the Resolution Foundation. It says the number of millennials renting privately aged 30 is double the rate at that age of Generation X, now in their forties, and four times that of baby boomers, born after the Second World War.

Is renting such a bad thing? The UK is obsessed with home ownership, unlike other European countries where renting is the norm. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing for young people to be saddled with a mortgage. Renting offers far more freedom.

If renting is the future for a generation, the focus should be on raising standards and tenancies in the private rent sector.

* End-of-the-pier laughs on a Vegas stage

I'M loving ITV's Last Laugh in Vegas, following old-school entertainers attempting to stage a one-off show in the showbiz capital.

Acts including Cannon and Ball, Su Pollard and Bernie Clifton are rehearsing under the guidance of Vegas producer Frank Marino - whose hair has so much volume it should have its own show - and reflecting on their careers. Particularly poignant was tearful Bobby Crush, watching footage of himself as a young performer. Coiffured Jess Conrad speaks in the third person and is the diva of the group. Celeb Big Brother producers take note: He's TV gold.