Sunday 14 September 2014

The News Where You Are Catherine Johnson

I think a book came out with that title recently I think by Catherine Flynn, but that's not what this blog is about. It is, like a lot of books, about identity and local TV news and is more than a little muddled.

Deedee Cuddihy's Glaswegian Yes Egg

This goes out on the 14th, a few days before the momentous Scottish referendum. There as been so much said about this and I am in no way Scots, although there is a good chance that one of the plantation owners in the hills of Jamaica who gave his name (and no doubt his genes) to my family was.  And I have no say in the vote and when all is said and done if I did, I  certainly see the optimism and hope that comes with the power to vote in a high taxing, high spending socialist/green government along Icelandic lines.

There have been a lot of posts from English people who want the status quo, who feel Scotland shouldn't go, there's talk of family break ups... This does not resonate with me at all. I don't think Scots will be foreign, they'll still be British, there are not building a wall or using the Trident missiles to disengage Scotland from England and sail their new country down to the more salubrious Med.

So while it has been fascinating to see the excitement of the debate, I still feel that it is fundamentally nothing to do with me. What has got to do with me is being English. I have never - I don't think - typed I am English anywhere ever before. I don't go around saying 'I am English'. I think at the age of 52 I probably ought to start. I have always been happy with British, but English? It's not got the excitement of the Celtic fringe, we're not the downtrodden we're the ones (usually) doing the treading.

My previous get out was that I was a Londoner, and if I still lived there would see all kinds of advantages in (so long as we lost Boris) cutting loose from the rest of the UKIP addled country, slashing house prices and letting out the Shard and every other half empty ball swinging 'look at me' tower block as utterly affordable housing.

 One of the worries that have been raised about Scottish nationhood is the possible rise in English Nationalism. English Nationalism for any of our overseas readers, unlike the Celtic sort has always been problematic. This is to do with history of course. In the UK family England has always been the bossy one, the one who ate all the pies and told the others what and how to do.
Jim Murphy talks to Nos. From the BBC

Scots Nats have had in the past, a reputation for anti Englishness, Welsh Nats too. Those pesky Welsh - they are just like the French and the Spanish - they will insist on speaking their own language in pubs and shops even when English people walk in....

English nationalism is probably best  illustrated by the hearty lads and lasses of UKIP or  the EDL or the now almost defunct BNP. These parties stated aims include an end to immigration and an end to 'Politically Correct Culture'.

I believe the difference in the two forms of nationalism is that the Scots and the Welsh sort are not - these days anyway - driven by fear in a way that English Nationalism seems to be. I am well aware I may be wrong, this is just my viewpoint.

I was always terrified of moving away from London. London is  a bubble of comparative safety and normalcy for the brown skinned. In the past year and a half out of London enjoying fresh air and sea views, I have only experienced friendly enquiries about my provenance, in fact the most recent was from a woman who introduced herself as a Tanning Consultant. She informed me that my skin shade was the one her white clients aspired to most.

God I have got completely off the topic. Excuse me.

Right, so I love local news. In Hackney I loved the Gazette, and here in Hastings we have our precious Observer. There's also that bit on the end of the BBC News at Ten - The News Where You Are.
So the first spring I was here the one big  thing I noticed was how often they referenced Calais. Calais with it's desperate hordes, just across the water, all waiting to jump on lorries, cars, trains, little boats, maybe soon, with global warming they will be walking across and taking our jobs. I am being facetious but the fear level was high. The way they have told this story must engender fear.  Fear among these Kent and Sussex residents that they are suddenly going to be swamped.  Fear among those of us whose melanin levels are higher than most.

And then this summer there has been the explosion in anger and desperation among the (mostly) men camped out desperate to find work and help their families back wherever they came from. Can we imagine (perhaps with the help of Gillian Cross's excellent book After Tomorrow) what these people have gone through to get here?

What am I saying here?  You're thinking, does this woman want the floodgates open? She should go back to where she came from if she's going to mouth off? What exactly is her argument?

I suppose it is this. We all want safety, we all want hope, and we all want fairness. Please lets not talk up fear, and please lets emphasise similarities not differences. In whatever country we happen to be in,



Sue Purkiss said...

Yes, let's!

Unknown said...

I've started wondering about the whole British/English thing. If the Scots separate, can I still identify myself to Americans as British? (I live in the States, and if you think brown-skinned women have trouble in the UK, just try being one there.)

And...I just wrote 'UK'. Will the UK still be the UK? Many Americans who've heard of the Scottish vote seem to support it because, independence and all that, but I wonder how they'd feel if they had to get a different currency to visit Scotland?

I suppose I should be grateful that America has managed to keep itself border-free, internally. My one experience of traveling back into the States from Canada has taught me just how bad the alternative might be:

Border guard: "MRS Steen?'
Me: "Yes..."
BG: "Where's your husband?'
Me: "At home. I'm traveling by myself.'
BG: "But why aren't you traveling with your husband?"
[Interrogation continues in the same vein for five minutes as I try to convince the border guard that my husband and I often travel by ourselves...]
BG: "OK, hand me your keys. I'm searching your car."

Was he looking for my husband?

Catherine Johnson said...

British is the term for the islands of England Scotland Wales, Ireland, and the smaller islands, Man, Channels Isles, Hebrides, Shetlands, orkneys etc. the British Isles, from the Welsh Prydain - Britain. So we'll all still be British whatever happens. xc