Oh, to be in England

Tuesday 6th September 2011

BLUE Mink doing Melting Pot on Top of the Pops; stood in the rain with anti-apartheid campaigners outside Barclays; laughing with West Indies’ supporters in the cheap seats at the Oval; nervously spluttering Spanish at my daughter’s wedding to a Venezuelan musician.

It’s been a long and winding road. Alas that the destination still seems a far distant horizon.

I wrote recently about working in a factory when a student. Putting the world to rights was compulsory. Workers supported views on politics or economics with examples and statistics. Current affairs were not reports of celebrities’ infidelities, which interested nobody.

Yesterday a friend from northern Europe, who’s lived here for two years and works in catering, expressed his disappointment at how few people he meets want to engage in dialectics.

“They wave me away, tell me to shut up or change the subject to last night’s television.”

Then there’s the local bus driver, a Polish guy who lets passengers off outside their homes. Doesn’t he realise we British don’t do that sort of thing?

As a father also bereft of a son, I wept for and with Tariq Jahan, whose dignity and bravery lit candles across the world following the hit-and-run murders in Winson Green.

Middle England is a myth. The planet is spherical. At any given moment, everywhere on it is the centre of a global neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, another friend has returned to Germany and now works in Hamburg, a city much cleaner than any on our soil. I think she’d had enough of low pay, long hours and the scornful treatment of employees.

It takes courage to move abroad. People migrate to better themselves, to work hard in pursuit of a decent standard of living. We should make them all feel welcome, for they are risk-taking adventurers, the movers and shakers of tomorrow. And they just might provide a vital kick up all those complacent, self-important, British backsides.

I want to be a Merry Englander, not a little one. The more immigrants the merrier, say I.






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