Posted: 02 Jul 2012 05:02 AM PDT
WHAT'S the most important thing you need to know to live in Britain? It's probably the answer to the question 'Pippa Middleton - why?' but then no-one seems to have figured that one out yet. Perhaps the physicists at CERN will get around to it now they've found the God particle and can devote themselves to more important stuff.According to convent-educated Theresa May the most important thing people moving here need to learn is bits of Victorian poetry, the first verse of a Georgian national anthem, and stuff about a nurse from the Crimean War who had so little idea of hygiene that death rates actually rose on her wards.There's an argument to be had about how much any of that has influenced British culture, and whether harking back two hundred years or more does anyone many favours. But it can't really be argued that the contents of the Home Office's new citizenship handbook would better suit time-travellers to the 19th century than someone who's fresh off the boat in the 21st.There is a massive problem with people who arrive in Britain and never settle in. I've knocked on doors where the woman of the house cannot answer my questions despite being here for 30 years because she's never learned English and barely left the building. I've had to scour the streets to find someone who'll translate for me, sat in living rooms where life is absolutely no different from that of a country with far lower standards, not just of human rights but also hygiene and education. I've walked back to my car reflecting on the fact that the Middle Ages is sometimes only a five-minute walk from the petrol station. I've been stuck with a hangover in places where you can't find a bacon sandwich in a five-mile radius, which is when even a journalist starts to wonder whether not drinking in the first place might have been a better idea. The net result of that disconnect is people who don't feel they're part of things: who can't watch the news, who don't question what they're told or chat to other parents at the school gates. It promotes looking inwards when humans - and countries - are always at their best when they look out. A little more cultural crossover is a great idea but of what possible relevance can the poetry of Robert Browning, wittering on about blossom'd pear trees and chaffinches on orchard boughs, have to someone who's finding their feet after fleeing genocide or poverty? I've lived here all my life and although I know we won the Battle of Trafalgar and afterwards Nelson had a snog and then died before being pickled in a barrel of brandy, it's fairly unimportant to my daily life and the actual date it took place utterly irrelevant. It makes far more sense for the citizenship test to include questions that will fit people for life in modern Britain, and actually be useful if you want to fit in on this sceptred isle:
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Monday, 2 July 2012
If satire is balm for the enraged you should get your fixes from Fleet Street Fox
This woman, Fleet Street Fox, is a seriously good satirist. If like most people you are assaulted by what politicians, media, police and bankers get up to her articles will help you manage your sense of outrage.
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This arrived today!