I went to my first ever Christmas Lights switch on last night, which given that I’ll be 54 tomorrow, came as a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve never been a great proponent of Christmas, I can take or leave the whole present thing, but it’s always been a good time for Family, meals, booze and a good laugh.
More of the lights later.
Let’s talk about me for a bit.
For the first ten years of my life, my family lived in the East End of London, a place that was undergoing rapid changes in demographics and culture. Which, to be fair, is what the East End has always done, with generations of immigrants moving out to make a place for the next batch.
It was a harsh and hard place, I learned to fight and fight hard at a very early age, the first time that another boy pulled a knife on me was when I was nine years old. I’d just had a trial with the England Judo team, he didn’t stand a chance.
By the age of ten, I was fighting fifteen year olds and sometimes winning.For my parents, it was time to move out, we were becoming a minority in the area anyway and the promised land of Essex was calling.
However;before you start thinking that this is about race, my first curries came from a neighbour named Mrs Hewitt, whose family had come from the West Indies, she made huge bowls and brought them to our house, because she could and because we loved them.
I still think of her occasionally and hope that her life remained as sunny and pleasant as she made other people’s.
My parents had lived through the war and the ‘Germans’ were still the enemy in the abstract, although one of my godfathers had been a Luftwaffe fighter pilot who’d done enough to earn the Iron Cross.
Television was only three channels and the press gave you your opinions – unless you had a massive curiosity about the world and read book after book after book, as I did through my teens.
Still, attitudes become ingrained and the Germans would be ‘teutonically efficient’ and ‘humourless’ in my mind for many years to come.
The North of England would remain a wasteland in my jaundiced view for even longer. This view not being changed after visits to hellholes such as Hull, Doncaster, Rochdale, the list goes on.
Mind you Luton is hideous, as is Basildon and London is now almost a lost city, the Tower Hamlets of my youth when I delivered milk with my Dad to the sink estates is now a foreign land.
I learned both French and German at school and with a few days immersion, can navigate my way around both menu and conversations (particularly in German) well enough that German colleagues no longer speak German in front of me, just in case.
And after many years of avoiding the place, I went to Germany, Specifically Hamburg on a work related trip and fell in love with the country, everything that I thought I knew was disproved on an hourly basis, Berlin is now one of my favourite places in the world.
In the past five years, I’ve worked a lot in the North of England (as well as India, Germany, Malaysia and Australia) and slowly but surely, my attitudes have changed. Rochdale is still a hellhole, as are many of the surrounding towns and the less said about places like Rotherham the better.
I was wrong about the North too.
I now live in Nantwich, I moved here for work, but plan to stay. My current job means that I have to work in London now, but I have no plans to move back to the beautiful South.
The pace of life here suits me, the town is reminiscent of 1960s towns everywhere but has ensured that all of the good things about traditional English market towns have been retained.
People are friendly, nearly all of the (many) pubs positively encourage dogs and I confess that I now find London a bit too much for me and can’t wait to get back home.
And last night I went to the turning on of the Christmas Lights and it was fantastic.
People of all ages attended, I was surprised to see so many teens and young couples alongside the families and older people, the town was completely packed, there was a small funfair, mulled wine, music and fireworks.
All in all, it was awesome and I wandered back to the pub, which had put our beers behind the bar for safe keeping with a massive grin on my face.
I was wrong about Germany and the Germans.
I was wrong about ‘The North’
I found this out by myself, I didn’t need to be harangued by people who didn’t actually live there, I didn’t need a diversity lecture, my ‘racism’ didn’t need to be called out and shamed, nor my ‘ignorance’.
And finally. Here’s my point.
I watched the video of that farrago of the Hamilton cast haranguing Mike Pence at their show and cringed. How does that help? Who does it help?
I know who Pence is and think he’s got some views that I really don’t agree with, but instead of taking the opportunity to welcome him in, show him that he’s wrong about things, get to meet with him, ask him backstage or to maybe come back another day – and engage – the cast gave him an embarrassing lecture via an ambush.
Opportunity wasted – all for some virtue signalling.
I’m finding myself turning off from anybody that can’t frame their argument, ‘racist’ ‘sexist’ ‘ableist’ are just words now. If you’re not sure enough of your argument to actually discuss it, don’t bother.