Christopher Maume: 'The British National party is right about one thing: the country is filling up'

Share
Related Topics

I am not a fan of the BNP, honest. Nick Griffin, patron saint of the benighted and cross-eyed, is as about as high on my list of People To Hug Before I Die as Melanie Phillips or the Grimes twins are. By way of consolation, they all enjoy exalted placings in the list of People To Hang Before I Die. But the British National Party are right about one thing: the country is filling up. Bill Bryson could have called his love letter to Britain Notes from a Small Island With Too Many People, Especially in London.

The capital must have been hell in the 1930s, at its peak population of 8.5m. Now it's a million down on that – but most of them seem to want to get into all the same places as me at exactly the same time (not to mention catch the same train, shop in the same supermarket and hail the same cab). The museums in South Kensington are a half-term militarised zone; taking the family to the Thames Festival in the summer was to be caught up in a human river running parallel to the watery version, with no chance to fight the tide. Alan Johnson says he doesn't lie awake at night worrying about the prospect of a UK population of 70m; well, he should.

If Johnson is perceived as the bouncer who's rubbish on the door, I have a similar ongoing domestic scandal: Filter and Splat, goldfish acquired as replacements for a dead cat a few months ago, have been recently joined by Tiffany and Ruby, given as a birthday presents to my stepdaughter by friends who should have known better. As a vegetarian who doesn't really believe in pets and disagrees with keeping animals cooped up, I wasn't happy about the fish in the first place, but was persuaded that the tank we were buying was big enough for two of them. In fact, it's big enough for three, according to the manual; but not four. At the expense of family concord, arrangements are being made to rehouse the asylum seekers.

Piscine overcrowding causes stress ("Stress? In fish? For God's sake," my stepdaughter muttered). It makes disease more likely, depletes oxygen levels and ramps up the parasite quotient. Much like human overcrowding. Perhaps with the plight of Splat and Co in mind, there was a family visit to London Aquarium at the weekend (next to an attraction whose name I forget, but it's something like "The London Near-Death Experience", its punter-pulling strategy consisting of dressing up its operatives in ghoul gear and sending them out to scare children and pensioners).

Behind the glass, the aquarium was a mirror image of multicultural Britain, in which by and large we bump along together peacefully: weedy sea dragons sidled by big-bellied seahorses (those are their names – I'm not being rude), wrasses wriggled past rays, leopard sharks shot the breeze with turtles as big as my kitchen table. No stress there, then (and did you know that octopuses have blue blood and three hearts and are more intelligent than the average Premiership footballer?). On the mammalian side of the glass, however, the human factor prevailed, which wasn't good. All those big brains, so little thought.

It's not that the Aquarium people let too many in; I'm sure current consumer-density guidelines are adhered to. But it feels like too many, which I think is a function of the general decline in urban civility and the rise in urban stupidity, all fuelled by population overload. Signs and announcements such as "Flash photography can hurt the fishes' eyes" and "touching the rays is bad for their health" were explicit and unmistakable. But it was an epileptic's nightmare in there and a ray-tickler's dream. How thick are people (they were mostly natives, incidentally)? Outside, on the steps leading up to Westminster Bridge, an entire family, six or seven of them, were spread out across the full width eating lunch while bottlenecks built up above and below. Hand me my Kalashnikov, darling, and look the other way.

The depressing thing about all this is that apart from breeding less and forgetting about medical advances, the human race has no solution. Short of a souped-up swine flu or something similar wiping out a chunk of the world's population, we're all, as they say, doomed. Goodbye self-restraint, hello mass extinction.



John Walsh will return next week

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own