Heading off in search of a better life

As those who have done well seek out an olive grove, they are replaced by a new, vibrant type: the immigrant
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The Independent Online

It has been said that once this cruel war is over, life at home will settle down and resume its normal, busy, trivial course. I wonder about that. We were already, before it started, living through a period of relocation and change. All over the world, there had been great movements of people seeking a new future in more prosperous countries than their own, a process that seems likely to be accelerated by events in the Gulf.

It has been said that once this cruel war is over, life at home will settle down and resume its normal, busy, trivial course. I wonder about that. We were already, before it started, living through a period of relocation and change. All over the world, there had been great movements of people seeking a new future in more prosperous countries than their own, a process that seems likely to be accelerated by events in the Gulf.

Here, the television schedules reveal another form of movement. Night after night, programmes appear about people changing the geography – and, implicitly, the meaning – of their lives, by moving to somewhere entirely new: Escape to the Country, Living the Dream, Relocation, Relocation, Get a New Life, on and on it goes.

The side-effects of all these global and domestic shifts are being felt in the most unlikely places. Last week, a jetty in Southwold went on the market for £12,000. To you and me, it may seem a lot to pay for a few planks of wood sticking into the water, but to someone it will be foothold in the Suffolk countryside. "Everybody wants a bit of this place," said a local boat-user. "But why do they have to push us out?"

A few miles up the coast, another small row, significant in that it embraces local and world events, has broken out. So many visitors to Overstrand have been walking their dogs that a serious turd problem has developed. Daringly a local artist, Tony Edson, has incorporated the iconic image of Che Guevara in his design of the waste bins for the town, bearing the catchy slogan, "Che says use a dog mess bin." For Doreen Bolton, a local resident, the idea of using a foreign terrorist, albeit a dead one, to encourage the use of pooper-scoopers was not only "warped" but, in these dangerous times, "a gross insult to responsible dog owners". After protests, the local council has had to agreed to paint over Che's image on the bins.

There will be those, even in Overstrand, who will mock Doreen for her fear that leftist extremism is entering our society as it were by the back door, but her position is not untypical. The great movement of the times is away from the city to live the dream in a countryside free of traffic, beggars, Tube snarl-ups and aggressive young people who talk too loudly into their mobile phones.

People like Doreen and the Southwold boatman may not too be happy about this. In fact, there is now a pronounced trend among country-dwellers with the money and the nerve to take action by joining the army of mostly middle-class folk who have had enough of England and whose fantasy of relocation, relocation takes them to somewhere the sun shines, people smile and supermarkets have yet to destroy local communities. They go to live abroad.

These people are not cowards, nor lazy, fat-bottomed lotus-eaters. Like those leaving the cities, they need a change of scenery, a new challenge. They have decided that a better quality of life is available elsewhere. They are people like you and me.

It might be thought that, when an influential and moneyed sector of a community elects to emigrate, there will be grave socio-economic effects for the country they are leaving. The truth is that, as those who have done reasonably well search out an olive grove in southern Europe, they are being replaced by a new and vibrant social type, the immigrant.

For anyone who has complained that England has become a tired, etiolated place whose inhabitants gaze back longingly at a more glorious past, this social trend must be welcome. Activities the old English find tiresome or naff – working hard, making money, breeding lots of children, singing the national anthem with a tear in the eye – are the sort of things that make a nation strong and which the new English will do with energy and passion.

In the great melting-pot of nationality, there are necessarily a few ingredients which are too knackered, stringy and gamy to be included and must be left aside, but it is quite possible that in another dish – Spanish or French, perhaps – they will provide some useful roughage.

So the old English who are on the fringes of the movement outwards and are looking for a new life abroad need not feel that they are historically redundant. Instead they should remember not to stand in the doorways or block up the halls, as Saint Bob advised in another, simpler age. For the times they are a-changin'.

terblacker@aol.com

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