Going back

Six years had passed and in that time another member of the family had died. It was time to pretend the gruelling flight to England would be better this time. It wasn’t. And nor was saying goodbye again, wondering if it would be the last time. But in-between was lots of fun which included tramping over Yorkshire moors and staying in villages and market towns, endless  reminiscences and just enjoying one another’s company. 

Ah, nostalgia, how it creeps over you and how refreshed eyes see details unnoticed in childhood. For instance, even the Liverpool Corporation estate where I grew up, built in the 1920s and thirties were worth another look. The curving streets and arched shopping blocks were clearly  designed by someone with vision, hope and pride. Alas, the post-war building surge had no time for stylistic detail.

Still, it was the old houses in country lanes that had always appealed to me; slate and stone and individual stylistic touches. Miles of warm sandstone walls, green-belted villages and market towns that seem to have stood still, retained their character and grown more charming.

There have been changes of course, mostly in the appearance of people; now all shades from white to black can be seen even in small towns.

The population has undergone one of those historic shifts that happen from time to time. I think the diversity is healthy and certainly more interesting than the mono ethnic days of the 1940s and fifties that I remember so well. And while there are those disgruntled by the mix of colours and ethnic origins they are being reminded that the immigrant’s sons and daughters acquire local accents emerge. In Yorkshire, white, brown or black you’ll hear, “All reet?” “Aye, Champion.” And so the world turns and we all become more mongrel and possibly more accepting of differences.

Media have also  changed. I don’t think the ‘quality’ newspapers are as good as they were even ten years ago. But it may be that I’m harder to please now and the print media is going through hard times.  Television news is presented from ridiculously lavish studio sets but that seems to be universal, as are the bits of superficial information masquerading as news. Yes, even the BBC! Just like ours at home. However, the main news morphs into regional news after half an hour. And a further difference is that the BBC has a channel that presents more comprehensive news an hour after the main news, presumably for people with an adult attention span.

And radio? BBC Four, like our own National, was full of news, interesting and stimulating  documentaries and discussions.  However the depth of talent and recourses stretches through  twenty-four hours without being boring. The same cannot be said for politics.

Poor old Theresa May, it’s her own party more than the opposition  she has most to fear from. I’m sure a few Australian ex prime ministers would sympathise. Not a charismatic figure, May is an easy target for her many colleagues champing at the bit to depose her. But one thing most commentators agree on is that a credible alternative is yet to be found.

The Labour opposition has its worries too. The membership appears to be strongly supportive of Jeremy Corbin but many of the leaders’ colleagues, old parliamentary hands for the most part, do not necessarily share the views of the rank and file. Ironic that the once socialist party is now divided between a patrician-like old guard and commoners. The commoners are seeking to enact a deselection process for their representatives who fail to represent the people who elected them, which seems fair to me but is seen by many politicians as unsporting if not treasonable.

Views on Brexit cuts across party and family lines and feature in the British media almost as frequently as President Trump is featured in America. The losers of the Brexit vote want something called a ‘people’s vote’ to determine the shape of the exit from the European Union but this is seen by the winners as a ploy to turn the tables.

One of the apparently insurmountable problems is border control, largely because of the division of Ireland. The pragmatic view is to let the Irish Republic take back Northern Ireland and let the northern Irish who choose to, settle in England or Scotland or Wales. Of course there are one or two emotional and historical obstacles to that solution, which is probably why it is not, publicly at least, part of the discussion. And the discussion has become too tedious for words and everyone’s fed-up with Brexit. But as a visitor I found it very entertaining.

After all, I had a ticket back to New Zealand.

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.