I almost got beaten up on Monday or Tuesday - I can't remember exactly because days tend to blur into each other at the moment - and while I was in the right, I probably almost deserved it because I was the one who resorted to name calling and casual racism. Let me explain in my usual way...
My dad was a bit of a pioneer. When I wrote his epitaph for his funeral my brother was concerned that I might paint this picture of the superhero we all thought dad was, but for all my faults and foibles I did learn about objectivity and the word 'pioneer', possibly 'maverick' were as romantic and prosaic a words that I used. I called him a pioneer because he wasn't afraid to do something completely out there, like up and move to a different country when you have three boys under the age of 9 - that takes some balls, especially in 1964.
The year after we came back from Canada the UK had a referendum on whether or not we should become a member of this European Common Market thingy and while I can't ever say for sure my bet is that my folks voted for us to be members of this new-fangled idea; I mean, we are, after all, co-inhabitants of this planet, we should, you know, get to know the others and work together. I think that was the philosophy that won the Yes vote and threw us into this partnership that has caused no end of strife ever since.
I was once partial to casual racism. Despite coming from a very metropolitan family, when you grow up in the 70s you couldn't avoid it and therefore words such as 'Paki' and 'wog' were probably used, but in defence, so were words like 'honky' and 'pig'. I hung around with an Indian guy who referred to himself as 'just some Paki' which actually was both ironic and racist, yet because he was Indian and therefore pretty much indistinguishable from a Pakistani to all but the most trained observer, people just thought he was reclaiming the word and being post modern. Oh how he laughed; most Indians I know hate Pakistanis with a passion (and vice versa). In fact, the first real hateful racism I ever witnessed was when I saw some Chinese kids beating up an Asian boy because he was 'a dirty Paki'... Not nice when you see it in writing, is it?
Spending a couple of years living, working and shagging my way through Shenley Hospital at the start of the 1980s made me realise I was unavoidably surrounded by a multicultural stew - the place was jam packed full of the United Nations of Mental Health and British was a minority and subsequently you had this bizarre situation of a truly peaceful multicultural 'commune' in a time when this kind of thing was still inside the developing brain of some whizz-kid (literally) sociologist. In fact, the most obvious tensions in that place was not between the - in appearance - the skin head Brit kids and the West Indians or Asians, they actually all got on really well; it was between the British and the Irish. I'm not saying racism didn't exist, but I saw considerably less there than I saw outside of its fences.
Before I met the wife, I was actually engaged to a girl who was of Polish origin. Linda was from Middlesbrough but her dad was a WW2 vet from Krakow and had been in the UK since the end of the war. He belonged to a small but settled group of ex-pat Poles in Middlesbrough and there was never any tension between them and the 'locals', but you could say the same for Northampton which has always had a huge number of Poles living here and once they all lived here peacefully without the hate. In fact racism, has always been pretty much cyclical and to prove this I listened to a man from Gujarat who has lived in this country about 20 years complaining about the number of Eastern Europeans coming into the region. I'm sure some West Indians complained about the influx of Ugandan Asians back in the 70s... It's what racism is about, innit?
The closest I've got to being racist in recent years was when we were coming home from the pub one night and we were barred from driving up a narrow road by a taxi driver. We sat there behind him, with another car behind us, patiently, then we flashed him, then we tooted the horn, eventually me and Roger, full of alcoholic chutzpah got out of our car to tell this jackanape to get a move on. The man was obviously Lithuanian, we didn't know this at the time but I've since discovered that just about the worst insult you can throw at a Lithuanian is that he is Russian. As soon as this guy got upset about me suggesting he was a Ruski prompted Roger and I to unleash a cascade of derogatory Russian put-downs until, bowed by our racist wit, he drove off, cursing us.
I know a lot of people who are more intolerant of other races at the moment than at any time in my life - even in the mega-racist 1970s, because then it was kinda treated almost like a way of dealing with it and while some people wanted them gone most were quite happy to keep them as long as they could make the occasional joke. This is alarming but also completely understandable, things are shit at the moment and we can't blame the government for everything and people from other countries are new, so we'll blame them instead. Now this isn't just idiots thinking this, there are intelligent people who seem to think that its all their fault and if we pull out of Europe things will suddenly become so much better. Really? I gave a little laugh just before I typed 'really' because people who think we'd be better off out of Europe are OUT OF THEIR FUCKING MINDS!!! Do you want much higher prices for your food? For your gas and electric? Do you? Then if we have another referendum vote that we should come out. Do that and find that travelling around Europe isn't as easy as it is now; or that those French apples, German strudel, Italian cheese or Dutch capsicums are suddenly twice the price they were or simply no longer available. Watch loads of our farmers go out of business because you're not going to keep them in business, you've got your own concerns.
Who is going to pick your fruit in the summer? Clean your work toilets? Clean your car? Be up at 4am doing some job that even I wouldn't do and I'm unemployed? No European bank to bail us out when it all goes tits up and no way back without having to eat the humblest of humble pies and make ourselves look like a complete and utter bunch of cunts in front of the two nations we least want that to happen in front - the French and the Germans. Leaving the EU is a bit like telling your neighbour he's a wanky twat yet still expecting him to put your rubbish out, let your ducks out when you go on holiday and take in parcels for you. Of course, we're British, we kind of expect Europeans to do that anyhow...
UKIP, some idiot Tories, the EDL and other racist organisations might think that us not being in Europe would be the best thing to happen, but the only things that would change - unless you really wanted to become a neo-fascist country - would be the cost of living and no more immigrants from Europe coming in to do all the above jobs that you don't want to do. Do you know how much wheat-based products are in Norway? Go research it all you Euro-sceptics; go see how much you pay for anything that's got wheat in it because Norway can't produce enough wheat to meet even a third of its needs. Norway has great trade deals with the rest of Europe, but look at the cost of wheat. Do you know how much a pint of lager is in Oslo? About £8. Norwegians will tell you that they don't think they're thriving by not being in it because they've never been in it so there's no way of really telling; is that just so Scandinavian or what? Why do you think Norwegians eat things that have been buried in the ground for months? Because if they were in the EU it would be banned on H&S grounds - or at least that's what the Daily Mail would have you believe.
So I'm driving back from my solicitor's and I get cut up something shocking on the roundabout by Riverside. I mean, I have to slam my anchors on cut up because the twat in a Mondeo just tootled out and might have well stuck two fingers up at me while he was doing it. I flashed him and made a gesture akin to suggesting he plays with his genitals in stroking motions a lot and he took umbrage to this and stopped. I then cut up several other cars to pull alongside the Mondeo and castigate the driver for his unprofessional behaviour on the road. He offered to punch my lights out in a thick Eastern European accent. I accused him of being 'foreign' and told him I didn't wish to fight him but I would take his number plate, report him to the police and see if there was any, reasonable or harsh way they might have him deported out of my country and back to whatever toilet he crawled out of. I then drove off thinking that one of these days I am going to get my arse handed to me on a plate by someone on the receiving end of my Coward-esque bon motts. I also need to chill out when I get cut up in the car - there are utter genital defilers out there who probably found their licences in Christmas crackers, but unless I suddenly become imbued with the powers of Superman all I'm going to do is end up dead - aneurysm or stabbed.
A footnote to this; I think I was upset even more by the fact that Long and Hambly isn't there any more; just wasteland. As eras go this was one only the wife and I are probably aware of...