Of England

Hello from the middle of the night, where I’m wide awake with jet-lag after a whirlwind trip back to London for my mother’s 75th birthday celebrations.  Spending five days back in my parents’ home has got me thinking about how much change they’ve seen during their lifetimes.  I’m the one who’s travelled and “seen the world”, yet just as much has happened while they’ve stayed in one place!  This post contains some random musings about living in a big city, to which many of us can relate:

The line is advancing, it cannot be stopped

It will soon pass over the heads of my parents and the last few of their friends who chose not to vacate for the countryside

The quiet cul-de-sac where they live bears scant attestation to the passage of an era

But it passes nevertheless

In the age of the global citizen, my parents are of England

 

Families in the surrounding houses value the same things, regardless of where they come from

Indeed, they uprooted themselves from their homelands in order to achieve the best they could

The ability to educate their children at fine schools without having to send them away from home

Professional careers, with a salary to call their own and economic and political stability to build a successful life without fear of losing it all at a moment’s notice

A comfortable house in an area with a comparatively low crime rate, where their prestige cars are safe in their driveways

An endless supply of arts and culture with which to feed their souls

A tolerant society where people are free to believe in what’s important to them and to live accordingly

These are the global citizens who live in London but with no need to be of England

 

My dad’s lawn is mown in stripes, and my mum’s roses and camellias bloom in clay soil

Such precision is not as important to the global citizen, and largely outsourced

Neighbours exchange golfing tips with my father, but they do not belong to a traditional club because their business and social interests are best served elsewhere and with fellow global citizens

The men in the street are equally passionate about cricket and football, but their hearts rightly cannot support English teams even though their children are eligible to play

Victoria sponges, sausage rolls and cream teas are shared by my mum and the women of England, a domain even harder to infiltrate for the global woman, who is either engaged in her career (if she’s lucky) or is stuck indoors, feverishly upholding their own cultural traditions while her menfolk go global

 

My parents do not have a racist bone in their bodies, yet they lament the loss of their England

They have the utmost respect for those around them, for what they have achieved and how they live their lives

They are interested in where these friendly people have come from and the different lifestyles they keep

Together, they all suffer from the same traffic congestion, crumbling infrastructure, rubbish collection strikes and self-serving politicians who seem to have lost sight of reality

They have seen their neighbours’ children grow up with their own, knowing each of them by their first name and eagerly following news of their exploits as the new generation of global citizens

These very “children” now call in on my parents to make sure they’re alright, when I, as another global citizen whose home is on the other side of the world, am unable to be there for them

My siblings are still of England, though I am not

 

So the line advances ever onwards

The suburban pocket where I grew up now lies on the border between England and the city which is only London by name. It could be New York or Paris or Sydney or New Delhi or Shanghai or Buenos Aires.

What will be the origin of the next family to occupy my parents’ house?

Turn away from the city, and their children will play on grass. Turn towards it, and they’ll play on rubberised surfaces

To the global citizen, it only matters that they play safely and happily

But then, they are not of England

2 thoughts on “Of England

    • Thank you, John. It’s hard for the old folks when their wisdom can’t see sense in what’s going on around them. Let’s hope we have the master plan somewhere hidden up our sleeves… 🙂

      Reply

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