Friday, 22 August 2008

My very own Ground Zero? Sainsbury's Car Park, Stanmore, North-West London, England!

Alright already, I'm sorry!
It seems that some of you didn't take too kindly to a being called 'a bunch of nutters' in this colyoom a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I never understand people who take things out of context simply in order to become outraged.
Yes, indeed I did say that a large chunk of the Irish population were a 'bunch of nutters', but then I went on to explain how, coming from me, that was a compliment.
But sure enough, there were the angry emails, flying into my inbox, the general theme of which was the horribly familiar cry of:
"If you don't like it here, go back to where you come from."
Sorry, lads, even if I wanted to, I can't, because I'm not sure where that is. Born in London, but only 2 generations British, and before that, who knows? One night many years ago, my much-loved recently-departed father was in his armchair, knocking back the scotch, when an item appeared on the news about Lithuania.
"Ah yes, that's where we are from!" he uttered in guttural croak.
"Really? But I thought you always said your side came from Germany?"
Having reached that point of his evening's drinking when it was more important to be right than accurate, he insisted his point by pointing at the tele with a swaying arm, and once more asserting,
"There. That's it. Where we come from."
Admittedly, when I mentioned this exchange to him many years later, he looked at me with utter amazement.
"Don't be ridiculous! I'd never say such a thing!"
But if you loved and respected Dad as I did and do, which Dad do you believe?
Add in the fact that I have spent far more adult years living outside England than in it; the fact that as a Jew, I resent and despise the historical and ethnic implications involved in being 'sent' from a country (especially from this country, which reflexively and ignorantly opposes everything about Israel) and you start to see why I don't know where is 'back'.
Anyway, my point is that I don't want to leave. I love living here.
If you only knew how I go on and on about loving my life in the west of Ireland whilst visiting my family and friends in England. There is something completely fascinating to me about belonging to two nations (three, if you count the Jewish Diaspora), particularly when the lucky winners are England and Ireland.
My countries share an uncomfortable history (a euphemism only an Englishman could use!), and (ex-Gaeilge!) a language. The really significant difference is population size, with Ireland having only 4 million lucky individuals, compared to 65 million English people having to get along with each other. Obviously, the English need different 'coping strategies', as they are wont to say these days; which brings me to my identity's very own Ground Zero: Sainsbury's Car Park in my family's North-West London suburb.
Underground, yellow-jacketed security men direct the traffic around in slow moving snakey jams, which come to a stop each time somebody finds a car leaving a space. The process requires good humour and patience, but the English are a warrior race, and soon enough, geezer in Ghia decides he's had enough, and swings around the wrong way, going against the arrows and all that is good, in order to 'alf-inch my parking spot.
Being now invested with Galway mentality, I smile and point and wave my hand, telling him in what I felt was more than reasonable mime that the space he coveted was mine.
Does he give a damn? Dropping a gear, he leaves tyre rubber on the car park concrete, and shoots his hatchback prematurely into my space.
Getting out of his car, he pushes his chin forward twice, like he's a Mitchell brother, staring at me, eager for me to 'ave a go if think I'm 'ard enough.
Despite knowing that a parking space is not really one of life's worthy causes, I am furious, and being a product of the same society as himself, want to beat him to a messy pulp of bone and gore.
But if I did that, how would I explain to my mum about the blood on her dry cleaning?
Instead I think back a few days, to a similar situation in the Claddagh.
I was just turning my car around so that I could slide into a parking space, when another car pulled up and started to park in my spot.
I waved my hands and smiled.
The bloke in the car waved his hand back, smiled, laughed a bit, pulled out of the space and drove off.
Of course I'm not saying that there are no aggressive arseholes in Ireland. What I am saying is that the chances of you getting into a physical fight over a parking space are infinitesimally smaller in this country than that.
The next morning I went down to the Maxol in Lower Salthill, my mind still severely tested from over-exuberance the night before. After visiting the cashpoint, I was walking to the garage shop, listening in the background to a rapid
'That sounds like a cashpoint machine with money hanging out of it.' thought I to myself. 'Oh shit! That is a cashpoint machine with money hanging out of it, and that money is mine! And if I don't get the money out in time, the machine will pull it back in, although it's already been deducted from my account, leaving me broke, with all hell to pay with the bank to make sure that I get my money back, and anyway, I need the bloomin' cash, right now, and-'
The beeping stopped. My heart sank. And then, from around the corner came a charming smiling local woman, clutching my cash.
"Oh hello! Is this yours? I thought I'd better grab it for you!"
To that woman, whoever you are, I say many thanks.
Thanks for being a wonderful warm trustworthy human being.
Thanks for restoring my faith in our species.
And thanks for reminding me why I live here.
Chances of that happening in England? Less than zero.
One country feels like my past, the other feels like my home; the rest of my life.
So sorry, you're stuck with me. And if that makes me a nutter, I'm sure you'll not hesitate to tell me.

1 comment:

Charlie Adley said...

Time to pay my respects to all those loyal and hard-working people who were made redundant at the Connacht Tribune last week. The self-congratulatory story in this week's paper declaring that the Tribune is now in full colour and that it will be available on newsstands earlier than ever falied to mention that these bonuses came at the expense of several people's jobs. To those excellent Galwegians who lost their livelihoods, I say good luck, thanks and sorry to hear it.