Viv Groskop: Wherever you go, you can't escape yourself


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According to popular lore, Britain has been threatening to break for some time. And now it is finally broken. Dave Jones, dubbed "Britain's hardest-working father", is emigrating to Australia with his wife and 12 children because he believes the future for his family is "too bleak" in the UK. Yes, that did just say 12 children. With no job prospects and only an offer to stay with friends in Brisbane, 42-year-old Jones, from Barrow, Cumbria, has quit his £38,000-a-year job and spent £8,000 on flights. They left on Easter Sunday.

Jones' pluck and hard work are to be applauded. And his abandonment of the UK is indeed an unfortunate symbol. Jones hit the headlines two years ago when he was lauded as the ultimate opposite of a benefits cheat, working 12-hour shifts in a paper mill. His cycle meant two day shifts, a rest day and then two night shifts. He did it for 15 years.

So I don't begrudge him the move and only wish I could personally sponsor him to go and live out his days in the Bahamas. But I'm not sure how much we should read politically into this family's departure. People rarely overturn their life circumstances for one singular reason. In any case, Jones has already made a life decision which can be interpreted as far more radical than emigrating to Australia: he's had 12 children.

In a world where you are criticised for reproducing more than twice (think of the environment!), he is no stranger to doing things his own way. He and his wife, Jackie, obviously made a positive decision to have these children and to provide for them responsibly. Very few people are able to strike out for what they really want in life in the way he obviously has. This is where the Joneses are to be envied.

Never mind what it says about Broken Britain. What is completely fascinating is how you save £8,000 with 14 mouths to feed. They've managed trips to Majorca and Euro Disney. Could someone check the house to see if they've left their spreadsheet behind? I need to know the secret.

Let's hope the move works out for them. But be mindful of philosopher Alain de Botton's warning. Traveller, beware. You can journey as far as you like but there is one thing you cannot escape: yourself. In the Jones' case, it's worse. They'll be in Australia. But they'll still have 12 children.

Enough, already

There's nothing (that) wrong with swearing. Although when Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson do it in lifts, it's objectionable. Swearing, that is. And generally it should be avoided, especially on live radio.

So imagine the hot shame when an exclamation of mine was misinterpreted as an expletive, almost causing BBC Radio 4 to come off air. The occasion was Any Questions last week, where a fellow panellist was Ukip rabble-rouser Nigel Farage. Teaching, police racism, politicians' tax returns... all Europe's fault, you know.

His ranting pseudo-patriotism is enough to bring out the Mediterranean in anyone. Which is why I found myself shouting a phrase familiar to anyone who has dealt with an overzealous Parmesan-wielding waiter: "Basta!" ("Enough!"). Of course, the sound technicians heard "bastard!" As did a rash of complainants. A split-second ruling kept us on air.

Too close to Europe? Mamma mia! Not nearly close enough!

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