Happy New Year to all of you and I hope it will bring unity and peace to the world.
With so much strife in the world and the resulting overwhelming number of refugees and economic migrants forced to flee and find a more peaceful place where they can live, my thoughts have been very much on my own place in the world. My Dad came to England in 1932 to seek a better life, well not strictly speaking to seek it in the UK but in the good old US of A. Having got sidetracked he ended up staying in England; he didn’t come as a refugee and he wasn’t fleeing conflict happily. He had a British passport as Cyprus was under sovereign rule at that time; regardless, I am the daughter of an immigrant. I have never thought of myself as anything but British with maybe an added foreign element; when I visit Cyprus I increasingly feel myself to be part of that country as well. People have asked me in the past whether I feel British or Cypriot, in my eyes a strange question as I feel like me which is to say I am a mixture. I have always been proud to be both and I love the land of my birth, Britain. With so much talk in Parliament and on the news about immigrants, mostly about how to keep them out, I have felt more and more of the foreigner and yes a little bit alienated.
The British Isles has a history of invasion by many cultures and countries, before them all were the original Britons of Celtic origins; my mother was of Scottish decent; her maiden name was Anderson which in turn is also of course Scandinavian in origin. First came the: Romans; Normans who were themselves originally Vikings; Saxons and Angles both from parts of Germany and the Danes. More recently we have had settlers from every country under the sun and it has made for a rich and varied culture. For a country with so many cultures and religions on such a small island we all rub along surprisingly peaceably on the whole. But with the ever prominent Islamic fundamentalists causing mayhem around the globe it has caused tensions.
I have always been proud of my surname and whenever the need arose to give my name on the phone the response has always been one of interest and amiable conversation.Recently however it had a very different effect, one of suspicion. This was a conversation with employees within the Work and Pensions department; in this instance it instigated a batch of questions asking me to prove my British nationality. Although I understand perfectly why this occurred it didn’t alter the feeling it created in me of us and them. I somehow felt myself to be on different ‘side’ to the person on the other end of the phone instead of feeling part of the British Isles, I felt for the first time in my life a foreigner in my homeland. It was slightly unnerving. I have had a taste in a very very small degree of how it must feel for say a British Asian or a British born Jamaican or African. Our present government has a lot to answer for not least for giving the general impression that ‘we’ are pulling up the drawbridge and going into siege mode. Maybe the next step might be to throw a few of us overboard…who knows?