On Sunday I got chatting with a lady who has lived in this inner-city area for 73 years. She’s seriously contemplating moving into the country, but finding it a very difficult decision.

Some of her reasons are to do with her age. She’s a large lady and finds it difficult to walk these days. Her stairs are becoming a hazard and she’s decided she would be better off in a bungalow.

The rest of her reasons are to do with her environment. She’s fed up, she told me, of the constant stream of people renting around her. She never knows who her neighbours are going to be. And will they be good neighbours, or will they be rowdy, or into drugs, which are common round here?

Even when there are good neighbours, they never stay long. They are mostly economic migrants who are looking for somewhere to shelter until they find work.

She blames this flux of tenants for the mess on the streets. Earlier in her life people round her owned their houses and took a pride in their environment. Now, although it has long been illegal in Britain, people drop litter everywhere. I sympathise with her: a bus stop is against our garden fence and although we requested the litter bin that is now there, a lot of litter simply comes over the fence into our garden. Many people drop their food and packaging on the ground.


And also, she said, she’s fed up with people walking past her house, talking a language she doesn’t understand. She’s now part of the white minority in our neighbourhood.

I pondered this, especially in the light of recent comments from the government about ghettoisation and the fact that ‘multiculturalism’ hasn’t worked (maybe somebody should have worked out what that meant, first). What this lady is really saying is that she misses her own culture, which has moved away from her. She is going elsewhere to find it again.

But why should we blame immigrants and economic migrants? We have an open democracy and people come here, in many cases, to find work and political safety. These are good things we don’t want to lose. But as the news uncovered last night, our democracy also shelters extremists who are fomenting unrest and sending young men to Afghanistan to train as terrorists. That isn’t just about having a democracy – that’s also about our Foreign Office apparently being slow on the uptake when fed intelligence that this is happening.

How did we get to this point? And what can be done about it? Our own racism has created a situation where people from other cultures prefer to live with those of their own language, rather than tolerate the abuse of their neighbours. But equally, many immigrants have not made the effort necessary to learn English and integrate better into our native culture.

I am influenced by my own living in other countries, where each time we learned the language and sufficient of the culture not to give offence. If we are guests in someone else’s nation then the onus is on us to adapt. Or so it seems to me. Consequently, when I lived in a Muslim state I was careful to cover myself up when I went out, which included my head.

This brings me on to the whole subject of the burka, niqab etc. France has ruled in draconian fashion that women should not use the face veil. Britain, say our leaders, is more tolerant and will not follow suit.


But I wonder. If I cover up in a Muslim state, in order not to offend, then should not Muslim women uncover at least their face, in order to fit in with a more open democracy?

Who makes the decisions? And how do they make them? What are the criteria, and who decides?

These are pressing questions.



  1. Regarding wearing the veil, when you were in a Muslim country and covered up, that was the right thing to do as in those cultures women are expected to do that.

    In the culture of the UK there is no rule other than that public nudity is not allowed, so wearing the veil is acceptable. Here, we may wear what we like, and this includes veils.

    We must not start telling women what they can and can not wear as that is against our culture.


    1. Thanks for this, Tom. I think it’s a vexed subject. If we do feel uneasy with it, then why, and is that justifiable? And if we don’t, then how do we cope with the fact that instead of becoming an integrated society we have large areas in the cities that are monocultural?


      1. There are lots of things that make me feel uneasy, and I suspect most of us are the same. Each of use has to deal with these things ourselves, and on a case by case basis. Our societal principle of laissez faire is a good one and I do not think it should be abandoned.

        I don’t have a problem with monocultural areas, but in the long term I think it makes sense to encourage integration in children by having uniform education for all children regardless of background. One step towards this would be to reintroduce the policy that existed when I was a child which was that children went to the nearest school. No parental choice, your kids go to the nearest school. This would have further advantages too.


  2. Many commentators have discussed the larger social issue you raise.

    The lady in question is emoting a lot of personal misery. Excluding possible medical conditions, her outlook won’t change wherever she moves to. She has a number of unresolved matters which reside in herself which she externalises by placing blame on anything and everything that is news bite topical. Sadly it is a common behavioural trait.

    The reasons given for changing her environment are insufficient in themselves to create a different lifestyle. The lady does not indicate what she would put into it, only what she would like to take. These are all symptoms of the expectations we see around us, a selfish culture that was nurtured in the indigenous people of the UK since the 1980’s.

    Multiculturalism today may not be politically seen as a successful enterprise, yet it can offer and has offered us a richness of understanding. Historically in Britain, this has always been so. I don’t think in recent decades integration has been handled all that well and this fact alone has given meat to the anti debate.

    Add to that the present precarious economic decline, in which you see workers from elsewhere being more flexible, working to high standards in what were seen as the menial jobs, which were badly executed by UK workers, the behaviours associated with the green-eyed monster grow, fuelled by social neglect and anarchy.

    Taking a pride in whatever we do, having respect for people around us are often missing ingredients in life today and this is demonstrated in many destructive ways. Sad to say, this is not exclusive to the UK.


    1. thanks for this considered comment. The lady in question is very aware that it will be a huge change for her and one in which she will need to invest time and take initiatives.

      It’s a complex situation and I would like to feel more assured that the government actually knows what the main causes are and has some kind of sense as to how best to tackle them, given that nothing can ever be ideal.


  3. Fascinating and worrying post gillyk. All of the replies are also interesting and so much of it is true. In fact it is quite worrying when you think about it. Where we live there are hardly any foreigners but my daughter who lives in London is sometimes the only white girl on the street.!!


    1. Yes, we are very much the minority here too, Barmac, although that doesn’t worry us and in fact it was part of the reason we wanted to come. We do like the multicultural feel to this place, and most of the time it works well – but there are these problems which the government should attend to.


  4. GillyK & All

    Some very true points here….from all Bloggers, it is subject that needs addressing but in not such a way as to take a sledge hammer to crush a pee which is all to frequently the approach taken by this or that group. Estabishing rules that can be applied a sort of carrot and stick approach.

    If i lived in another country then I would respect their lanugage and codes..I’m often interest in the week when churches once a year team up and show how this or that group worships…as such if I was expected to cover my head I would do so!

    I think there is some call to force anyone to be able to speak a nation’s lanugage which after a period of time say five years if you are not fluient you can expect to see your visa retracted and as a person given a one way ticket to where you came from.In short if you know this is to be acted on whoever you are will then make an effort.

    Simularly, I think the American three strike rule to law and order should be applied knowing that get to No. THREE you know life will become very unpleasant.This system also then applies to type of work you are allow’d to do post crime, which you then earn your place back to once it was.

    In short the state will look after you but within that there is social responcibility from the inderviual, towards the state in the first place! A part of this is to make voting complusory because you can plea I don’t understand it…but the emphisis is on you to make an effort because otherwise YOU should know it’ll cost YOU!



    1. Thanks for these reflections, Kerry. It’s interesting to ask how our criteria compare with those of other countries. Canada and Australia have a points system, and people can’t emigrate there unless they have sufficient ‘points’. The States insist that people wanting to live and work there must pass an English exam in their country of origin before their case is considered. These are good things which help to keep society healthy because they have a definite purpose.

      I sometimes wonder whether we are too busy telling people what we don’t want, instead of providing a clear code of conduct and expectation.


  5. When we go abroad we do try to be like the people there, when in rome do as the romans do. I really dont feel the veil is apropriate in this country we like to see peoples faces and know who we are dealing with.xx


    1. It’s an interesting question, Aven. My family is divided about it – the feminists insist that it should be banned, but those working amongst a Muslim people group think that it should be allowed!


  6. I was attacked on a footpath by the river one morning about 9.20am.This wasas 30 years ago.i described my attacker a tall,good looking with blonde hair and blue eyes.The policeman then asked if he was black.Have you ever seen a BLACK MAN WITH BLONDE HAIR AND BLUE EYES? I replied.i’ve been atacked 3 times.Two white men and one mad white woman.{I mean really mad.There was crime before the migrants came.In faxt many do work in Care Homes etc
    The bhurka i do not like because people can hide in them.I like to seee a face.
    This government has just cut back on money to teach English to adults eg wives of immigrants from Bangla Desh etc.

    Maaybre some of us should try to get involved in that if it’s possible.
    Some very worrying questions.I was talking to a white lady of about 80 last week and saying how unfriendly this street was for us when we came here in 1977 [we are Northerners]She immediately said “It’s the foreigners” but in our street. even now, there are no immigrants or foreigners at allI know one Israeli lady round the corner but she is relly friendly!.The people next door but one took 12 years to say HELLO and they are both Londoners.WE were foreigners to them,just as Irish people used to be.
    I suppose I’m lucky because I taught students from all over the world so I’m not afraid of foreiners,Black English or anybody else.And I give my race as MIXED even though i’m white.I’m more afraid of white men than black after my experience.
    A very thorny issue.


    1. Yes, a thorny issue indeed, full of people’s prejudices, and with no easy answers. Our own racism has a lot to answer for in all of this. I am sorry you were attacked – that must have been AWFUL.


  7. A very good post gilly :yes: but with a lot of truth too I feel for this old lady times have definitely changed with lots of immigrants who do not speak English yes we do need immigrants not not be overloaded as it causes disharmony to the people here already myself I am not sure if Muslim women really agree to always covering up ? I get angry when councils say dont play carols and such like at Christmas in case people get offended this makes my blood boil because I believe most Muslim will not be offended everybody is entitled to their own religious beliefs so why shouldnt we 🙄 this lady should move because she cannot manage stairs anymore … sorry this is turning into an essay gilly but I also get angry when people drop litter and glass just anywhere even when there are loads of bins around its pure laziness and no respect for their own surroundings 🙄


    1. City Councils don’t take any notice of the opinions of the people who actually live in their cities. At least, they don’t here. Muslims were offended when certain city councils tried to ‘ban’ Christmas. They pointed out that they believe in Jesus too – they think he was a prophet, not the son of God, but they do believe he was born of a virgin, and that he will return. So they have no objection to our celebrating Christmas, just as they have the freedom to celebrate Eid etc.

      I think it should be reciprocal: if our government allows people from certain other countries to practise their religion freely here, then those other countries should agree to Christians practising their faith freely there. Sadly, this is very far from the case. But it’s about time local and national governments stopped being woolly, and PC, and just plain ignorant about both our own culture and other people’s!

      Thanks for your comment, Lilian.


  8. A super post Gilly. The big did we get to this point? What point? A point where litter is just ignored in our streets, (something that would not have happened years ago) the point where people push in front of one another to get on buses….this would not have happened before. The point where many British people feel like outsiders within their own community. When teachers are dealing with 40 different languages in a school…I could of course go on and on…………..
    The ‘burka’ I have total respect for people wearing burkas in their own country, and like you if I were visiting their country, I would cover my own head out of respect. However, I don’t like seeing it here. For me, it is an afront against women as much as anything.

    As for those in our midst who want nothing more than to destroy everything we stand for. I blame liberal, politicians who got so caught up with being politically correct that they lost sight of good old common sense. I don’t know about you but I certainly sensed that there was something very wrong with the way we were embracing certain individuals within our country!

    Recently I have spent quite a lot of time in hospitals and care homes for our old people, and if we treated them with as much reverence and respect as has been given to a lot of people who simply don’t deserve it, things might be different!


    1. A heartfelt agreement with you, Janet. And unless someone does some careful, unemotional analysis of why we find ourselves as a collection of discrete cultures rather than an integrated nation, then I fear we are heaping up trouble for ourselves. Until we know how we got here, we won’t know what to do about it.


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