Northumberland Tour 2007
There's a battle, well several battles, going on inside me right now. The first is whether to talk about immigration in these pages, and the second is a personal one, watching an online friend's marriage disintegrate around her, and the focus I have put on her and my lack of attention to my own world.
There's a climate in the UK now of seeming like a neo-fascist if you even mention the issue of immigration or talk about British culture. But during this short tour it's come to my notice and I feel I have to broach the subject.
As I stood in a museum today and read about the Angles overwhelming the Britons I felt a deep disdain towards them which is ironic because by definition I am more Anglo-Saxon than an original Briton. Maybe that's why the british are so self loathing. They feel sorry for the underdog and consequently hate their own lineage which wiped out the underdog in the first place. There's probably a little twist at the end of this thought process though that goes something like: “You nasty Angles, attacking the sweet innocent Britons” whilst simultaneously giving the Angles a pat on the head, a little wink, and an evil smile.
Of course the general influences on Northumberland over the centuries were the original Britons - whoever they were, I think they became the Welsh, how ironic is that? – then the Romans and who ever else they imported, then came the Angles, the Picts, and the Scots – who apparently came from Ireland (now I'm really confused) -. Then in the eighth century came the Scandinavians, then in the eleventh century came the French and during the twentieth century many modern day Irish people moved to the area for work and more recently a swathe of eastern Europeans have arrived. We came across many Eastern Europeans as we stopped off at cafes and service stations which felt weird because it's something I expect in London but not in the middle of the countryside.
One lunch time a few years ago, a Roman student of mine, ok he was Italian but Roman sounded more fitting, startled the other class mates when during a conversation about immigration he said “Who would most people in Britain prefer to be served by, someone of their own colour and religious background or someone of a different colour, different religion and who, in their mind at least, may want to cut their throat.” Now don't get all uppity because even if you think it's racist say this it is probably this mentality that is behind the lack of resistance to the influx of people from Eastern Europe . Of course there is resistance but not as much as had the influx been from a group of people with a different colour or religion. So ironically underpinning this latest wave of immigration is a racist agenda.
If you want to know my agenda it's this. The pressure to not deal with these issues openly is going to cause deep and dangerous divisions in the future and as far as racism, disable-ism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and any other ism goes, if that's what people choose to believe in then that's their right. And it's my right not to agree with them if I so wish.
So Northumberland was a key entrance point in terms of immigration in the past. Once each group got in it then it set about making sure others couldn't get in either. The Romans built Hadrian's Wall , whilst the others built forts at first and later castles. Ironically one of the most famous and impressive looking castles there was mainly renovated and built over the last century as a status symbol for a family whose wealth came from developing and selling the Gatling Gun.
There was two great things about being disabled and visiting Banburgh Castle , the first was getting to drive right up to the entrance – which, in my mind at least, made me look like I was one of the inhabitants – and secondly I got to see the disabled toilet which was, I have to say extremely impressive. The door was wide enough for two wheelchairs (admittedly they'd have to be the type Tanni Gray uses when racing), and it was long enough to fail a mobility allowance test if you were to walk it unaided. I checked for cameras before washing my paws.
As I came out the loo the woman on the door was telling a little girl off for touching one of the exhibits, immediately I could tell this wasn't a particularly child friendly museum – look but don't touch -, I couldn't help it but I felt a tinge of satisfaction as the little girl started to cry. “Yes” I thought “Bloody youth culture about time that you bowed down to your elders”. – God I must be on self destruct mode now, this page is going to get me killed or, worse still, struck off Google! –
One of the most impressive parts of the castle was the great hall which was, obviously, quite large. Apparently you could use it for weddings and other functions. I'm quite tempted to start up a website where people who want to die can meet up with people who've had a hard day and want to kill someone. I thought the castle would be a great venue for the launch. I mean there's loads of weapons, there's dungeons – maybe we could get a few S&M people in too in order to get the numbers up, after all half the people won't be countable once they've been knocked off – and there's big high walls for throwing people down. There's also a deep well, excavated in the middleages by heating up the rock and cooling it quickly thus making it crack. It seems they weren't so stupid back then as Monty Python makes them out to be.
Anyway the hall was quite impressive.
After viewing the castle we went outside where I found it much more interesting to talk to other photographers about our cameras. One couple had a bit of a chat with me. I said to her “What country are you from? You speak very good English” and she said “I'm from Leeds love, Yorkshire. Why where are you from petal?” I mumbled “ Eastbourne ” under my breath. “Oh Eastbourne that's where people go to die isn't it?” My teeth gritted, “Actually I also live in London ”, she stepped back and slightly too loudly said “Ooh you are posh, Eastbourne and London ”.
“no no” I reassured her, “I'm not posh at all”.
A few minutes later we drove out of the castle (after taking a wrong turning and nearly ending up reversing in to the tea shop). I had put the roof down – Larry had protested that it was pretentious and show offy, so I told him that was precisely why I was doing it). “Thought you said you weren't Posh?” said the woman.
“I'm not” I shouted in as middle class accent as possible.
We drove to the harbour in Sea Houses and took a boat around the islands. There's not much to say about it that the photos don't say already. If you're in the area, it's worth a trip especially if it's a bit choppy, it was loads of fun pretending to be on the star Ship enterprise whilst under attack and trying to make your way around the boat. It's a good way to meet people too. Later that evening there were people in the restaurant who'd been on the boat so we had fun showing each other our bruises.