Monday, 5 February 2007

Tatty Old Carpet Bag

How very sad. We’re a full month into 2007 and it seems we’re still stuck in the dark ages. Foolish young women mutter in low voices on reality TV shows, only to find their grumbles inflated and exploded across the front pages of the newspapers, as Britain self-flagellates our racist, bullying nature. A descendant of King William IV called David Cameron, raised and educated in the cloistered cultural ghetto of Eton and resident of the cloistered cultural ghetto of Westminster, declares multiculturalism a failure.

Push a button on the remote, and hidden cameras reveal leaders of one faith urging that homosexuals be thrown over cliffs, while on News 24 figureheads of other faiths gather outside Parliament demanding that gay people be kept away from the children, as if they were some kind of parasitic disease.

Meanwhile the latest so called ‘terror raids’ in Birmingham are accompanied by lurid (and so far utterly unverified) media allegations of bloodthirsty savages plotting to abduct and behead their victim.

It almost makes you pine for the good old days of 2006, when the most vexing question facing the nation was not, apparently, how to save the planet from catastrophic climate change or how to find peace and stability in a war-torn world, but rather whether or not a few thousand British Muslim women should be allowed to wear a little strip of fabric over their mouths in the presence of their political masters.

It’s hardly surprising that many people think Britain is coming apart at the seams. For those who aren’t actually living in multicultural Britain, who merely observe it through the columns of the tabloids or drive through it in their 4x4s en route between the City and suburbia, it would seem to be a mess. The funny thing is though, that for those of us on the inside, it’s actually going OK. Really, it is. We can all stop worrying. Perhaps we’re like a tatty old carpet bag. From the outside it may look frayed, battered and one shake away from disintegration, but on the inside it is actually quite comfortable, warm and surprisingly secure.

Our current crop of volunteers at Old Trafford News include people whose ethnic origin is (off the top of my head) Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, West African, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Polish, Irish and of course indigenous Traffordian. The ages range from teenagers to pensioners. We have Christians, Muslims, Hindus, spiritualists and atheists, and political views range from the radical left to the conservative right. We work together well, laugh together often, argue occasionally but rarely with spite. It’s not even difficult.

It’s not just our group either. The centre where we are based is not so much a melting pot as a cultural buffet. Attached to an Anglican church, we are frequented daily by Roman Catholic nuns in habits and devout Muslim women in veils, while every Wednesday West Indian pensioners gather to play bingo and dominos to a reggae accompaniment. Our current magazine cover star is a Brazilian keep-fit instructor, who twice a week leads a class for all women of all races, ages and creeds.

Of course Old Trafford is not some paradise of progressiveness and tolerance. There are racist attitudes here, as everywhere. There are occasional tensions between members of different religions or ethnicities. And there are gangs and crimes and serious social deprivation. But considering there are more than 30 different languages spoken within a couple of square miles, we don’t seem to have too much of a problem understanding each other. By and large we all just get on with our lives and let others get on with theirs.

What a tragedy that the tabloids and politicians seem determined to spoil it for us.


Clare said...

Ooh, this is great. You'll be hooked before you know it.

Rob said...

And so will the rest of us. Great post, Ally: welcome to the blogosphere.

(This is where I congratulate you on your maiden speech and everyone goes "Rah rah rah" or soemthing.)

Sudden flashback to university, and going to the Durham Union Society (debating union) where a young lady who would later become my girlfriend made her maiden speech and was highly miffed that nobody congratulated her on it, as they had loads of other people before her. The thing is, despite being tiny and squeaky-voiced, she was feisty enough to stand up again in a roomful of (mostkly) right-wing males and complain about it, and indeed shame someone into congratulating her. Now she works for Qinetiq designing head-up displays for fighter jets. I draw no moral conclusion; I simply observe....

Lest I give the wrong impression, she was (and AFAIK is) a lovely person.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Hear, hear, hear (scattered applause and muted harrumphs of approval)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Welcome! And a great post - its all too easy to be sucked into believing media observations. Most tellingly is how often (recently at least) I've noticed people being interviewed saying "you're here now that there's been some arrests, but will you be back to pay attention to us when it all blows over?" I'm glad the media is at least broadcasting these comments, but they're right: we only ever see the commentary when something is perceived to be wrong and very little on the aftermath, impact or correction of impressions given...

Morgan said...

Fantastic post - everyone loves a talented husband/wife writing team!

You have effortlessly managed to capture in friendly words everything I think and feel about Britain at present. When pressed to relay these opinions in literary terms, I can only dribble on unimpressively in non-sequitors, but obviously that's because you're better than me.

Your publication sounds fantastic; the kind of place I'd actually enjoy going to every day.

Dan Flynn said...

Huzzah! And thrice huzzah again! Huge thumps on back and sqeezing of biceps.

On a more sober note. Well done that man.

On an even more sober note. Welcome. Clare's right, it's addictive, this blogging lark.


Ally said...

thanks everyone. You're all very sweet. And dare I say it, damned sexy.

Now I just need to write some more of these bloody blog things!

Dave Hill said...

Bloody left-wing, self-hating, trendy liberal, big city-living, middle-class Guardianista apologist for terrorists blah-de-blah-de-blah-de-blah....(I've always wanted to know how that would feel.)

Rob said...

Presumably, Dave, it feels Like A Rolling Stone

Anonymous said...

t's such a tickety-boo site. fanciful, quite stimulating!!!




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