A week or so ago, UKIP super-chump Nigel Farage raised eyebrows (in some places) and glasses (in other places) with his observation that he’d sat on a train leaving London for Kent and had not heard a single person speaking English until he was well clear of the metropolis. This was intended as an illustration of how terrible things are, how the English lost England, and how UKIP are the only ones telling it like it is.
Now, apart from the fact that Nige’s story is almost certainly just that – a story – it did serve to illustrate a new and rather wonderful fact about modern England, and it’s this: you can choose the environment you want to live in (as long as you can afford to live anywhere, that is). Want an all-Caucasian English-speaking village? We’ve got lots of those. Want a semi-urban environment with religious facilities with a distinctly South Asian feel? We’ve got those. Want a deserted windswept wilderness? Yep, go ahead.
And want a multicultural metropolis where English is the lingua franca but not the monoglot essential? Yes, we’ve got a few of those, too.
What Nigel doesn’t understand is the essential freedom that England now offers us. I well remember a receptionist I once worked with telling me she was moving out of Morden and into Surrey. When I asked her why, she said, without a trace of shame: “Too many blacks.” Shocking, yes. But she had somewhere to go to rehouse her appalling racism. She could go and live with other racists (and UKIP councillors, eh, Nige?), somewhere green and pleasant and suited to her own tastes.
That’s what’s great about England. I live in London precisely because of the reasons Nige gave for not living here. There’s room for us both. And if Nige or any of his ilk move into my street, I’ll sell up and move somewhere else. Because with that lot moving in, before you know it the whole place will be crawling with them.