Rahma

Why do we remember? It’s not for any personal gain. If anything, memories like these are a burden. But still, we remember.

Perhaps only those that remember can say those prayers. Perhaps only these can petition sincerely on their behalf, oblivious to all that has occurred in the intervening years.

Perhaps that is why those thoughts were injected into my mind a year ago, out of the blue. To respond to them, with forgiveness long overdue, and to ask for the best for them, whatever that may be.

I think that’s why I remembered. Not for personal gain of any kind. Just to surface a little mercy from within. To let a little faith flow out of me.

Perhaps it was the answer to a heartfelt prayer: “O Allah, make me merciful.”

Warm welcomes

We have friends and relatives in Turkey asking for advice on moving to the UK. We say, don’t bother; move to Canada instead. The UK has a “hostile environment” policy. Canada is opening its arms, actively pursuing migrant labour.

The UK’s approach will backfire, damaging economic growth and effective public services. Until this insular mindset changes, this will remain our advice to those seeking better lives and economic stability abroad.

Migration rebuilt Europe, but we’re not a very grateful people, given to communal amnesia. Better to go to a land where you’ll be warmly welcomed, and appreciated.

Misunderstandings

My detractors used to warn others, “Be careful or he’ll be after you,” as if I was a hunter in pursuit of prey. Perhaps it was my fault, for not understanding what my friend was on, or what he would say on my behalf. I thought he was from a very religious home like me, constrained by the same morality.

It turned out I was severely mistaken. Unfortunately, the first time this occurred to me was at our leaving party at a nightclub in town, witness to the behaviour of his friends. Perhaps that was the first time I wondered what had actually come out of his mouth in his defence of me months earlier. For sure, we were poles apart in our approach to life.

But I was not alone in misreading everything. I was from a very strict religious family, our home out in the affluent suburbs. My mother had just been ordained priest, working both as a chaplain at the hospital and at our local church, and my father was managing partner at the foremost firm of solicitors in the city.

There was no way in the world a kid as shy as me could be a hunter in pursuit of prey, seeking out conquests or one night stands. I was never, ever after anything like that at all, for my conduct was forever under scrutiny and subject to the high expectations of my parents and grandparents.

That’s not to say I wasn’t seeking companionship. I was, just like any young person, with blood pulsating through their veins. In truth, I was hoping to follow in my eldest brother’s footsteps, who met his lifelong partner while studying for his A-levels.

My problem, though, was seeking a companion sympathetic to the morality of my family. Foremost amongst them, that expectation of no intimacy before marriage — an expectation which seemed to fly in the face of the popular culture promoted all around us.

Unfortunately, that worry would be my downfall. For while the one I fell for — in my head alone — would probably have been sympathetic to that understanding, that was just the tip of the iceberg. In attempting to conform to my own family’s culture and high expectations, I had accidentally fallen foul of the cultural expectations of others, which turned out to be far more demanding than my own.

Alas, as my cross-cultural awareness was virtually nonexistent in those days, this was a reality I would not understand for years. It never once occurred to me that I was wandering amongst young women who might already have been promised to others. For all I know, some of them may even have been engaged. In any case, theirs was a culture of chastity.

But the misunderstandings were many in those days. It cut both ways. For while others perpetually warned against me, thinking me a predator after anyone like them, the subject of my crush was one alone. Well her, and Julia Roberts. In fact, friends witness to my infatuation tried to persuade me to take an interest in a friend of hers instead, but I could not be moved. Indeed, my devotion to her lasted long after we parted company, which seemingly couldn’t even be shaken by the shocking revelations of an old friend.

There were so many misunderstandings back then. Mostly they were my own. I misunderstood interactions and glances; an understatement, if ever there was one. I misunderstood words I overheard. I misunderstood the lingering stares that seemed to follow me around. Worse than that, I didn’t understand the cultural expectations of those I was wandering amongst. I was very naive in my understanding of the world, and undoubtedly patronising in my attitudes. Nor did I understand how I was perceived by others — only now, looking back on old photos in horror, can I see what they all saw.

But no matter. Perhaps those misunderstandings were good for us at the time. For me, they led to a lifelong mission to better understand others. I wasn’t content to rest on my laurels and revel in my ignorance. Instead, I set out on a road of discovery, which carried me far from home. In a way, though it was once so painful, I am grateful for those misunderstandings. In a way, they changed everything. In that we might say, “It’s all good.”

For sure, today I would apologise to those who were bothered by my eyes back then, when their focus was solely and squarely on their studies, laying foundations for the future. I would apologise too for my runaway heart, which could not be reasoned with, no matter how hard my detractors tried. If I encountered those folk today, I would certainly say, “Sorry for those misunderstandings.”

To respond

Rarely in my life have I ever challenged the slanders and lies that seemed to follow me around. By the time it occurred to me that I should, it was always too late, the moment passed, those responsible long out of reach.

Sometimes I could blame my tongue, always reluctant to submit to me, locking words inside. Sometimes I could blame delayed comprehension, rendering me too slow to respond in time.

Sometimes, it would simply have been cowardice. At other times, perhaps I simply concluded that there was nothing to gain from responding to what was so obviously untrue.

But should I have challenged all that was said? Would it have changed anything at all? Would it have made me feel better? Would it have repaired my self-esteem? It may have done. Equally, it may just have seeded further conflict.

Perhaps there was greater wisdom — or at least benefit — in simply letting it pass. Our faith calls us to repel evil with what is better than it. Perhaps controlling rage and that inner urge for revenge is more fitting. Perhaps it is better for the ego that it escapes that puffed up pride, choosing humility instead.

Perhaps if we choose silence, an angel will answer on our behalf. Perhaps if we choose patience, in time hearts will soften, growing wise with age, realising the error of their ways. As the years pass by, perhaps regrets will be planted inside, and then repentance. If so, may God forgive them and mend their ways.

As for those once slandered: may they find the courage to forgive, and then forget. Perhaps some good may still come of their pain. All of this, the hyperlinks of the unseen. Those strange connections which somehow bind us.

United by…

Emerging from the Bakehouse today, site of our clandestine coffee following the weekly three-mile saunter beneath the trees, it seems we had accidentally stumbled upon a car meet.

Out front, young twenty-something women were found drooling over a dark blue Golf GTI, SLR cameras at the ready to capture it from every angle.

Behind it, a pale blue M3 coupe. Over there, two Fiat 500 Abarths, and yet more souped up cars, celebrated with pride by their owners. As we wandered towards our own cars, a Nissan GTR arrived.

Glancing back, it struck me that this was a diverse gathering, united by a shared passion. Black and white, male and female, of different faiths and creeds. Young and, well, just young. Perhaps I should have dusted down my Qashqai to complete that absent binary.

Somehow, I don’t think the younguns would drool over my sensible middle-aged family crossover in quite the same way. No, but one day they will have to content themselves with one, replacing the sporty coupe with some frumpy car capable of accommodating the kids and all their junk.

For now, let these youngsters enjoy their youthful glee, united by their motors, so diverse. Perhaps it’s good that they have a hobby that brings them together. Maybe I should find one of my own. Perhaps we all need a cause to believe in.

Computing

Can computing be taught in an interesting and engaging way? Our lad is cross with me for making him take such a boring subject. I feel sorry for him, because I felt exactly the same way.

In my day, we had to share one computer between three of us. In the early days, they were BBC Micros, into which we would have to type Basic commands, for very little gain. Later, they would be replaced by Research Machines running MS-DOS and featuring a new-fangled storage device called a floppy disk.

Unfortunately, I dropped the subject before Window 3.1 came in. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than taking computing for my GCSEs. But then, back then I had no idea how computers would come to shape our lives. Who knew that thirty years later I would be working in IT myself?

Yes, so our poor lad is stuck with it. I believe the subject could be made more engaging with the right teacher, and the right projects. After all, at home he utilizes the family computer for homework and light entertainment. Unfortunately, it seems his lessons are taught in a very dry, abstract fashion, which he simply cannot relate to.

Still, computing now rules our lives. Even the FireStick plugged into the telly, enabling them to watch their Turkish dramas via YouTube, is a tiny computer. Whatever job they take in a decade’s time will require computer skills to some degree.

I wish I could find a way to make the subject interesting for our son. If you have any ideas, leave me a comment below.

Crapple

Apple, you truly deserve that epithet. You’re the new Microsoft, deploying buggy software you haven’t bothered to test on anything but your latest hardware.

How can it be that your latest OS “update” crashes constantly because WindowServer can’t cope with me having two external monitors plugged into my laptop, something I have been able to do without issue with all previous releases going back years?

The solution to this issue? Disconnect one of the displays, you say! Perfect, so professional! Even my Samsung Galaxy S8 can run these displays without falling over. But a quad-core Intel i7 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM? No, apparently powering two displays is too much for its poor little CPU.

I get it: you want us to upgrade to the latest and greatest hardware running Apple silicon. Well that aint going to happen. I inherited this laptop from a previous manager when he left the organisation five years ago. The new guard will kit me out with the standard Dell laptop when its time is up.

All you needed to do was support the software you provide on the allegedly still-supported machines you yourselves manufacture. Not such a big ask. But nope: let’s crash out every few hours, right in the middle of an important piece of work. How dare your power users power two 24″ displays off a laptop!

Oh, and by the way, you’ve killed my webcam too. Utter crapple indeed.

Apologetic

These days my inner grumblings have me contemplating why I was always not just passive in the face of harassment, but apologetic too. Last night, my memories had me back in the flat I rented from a church housing association in King’s Cross in the late ’90s — for years the backdrop to my restless nightmares.

I resided in that grotty flat through my second year at university, the summer that followed and the first term of my third year. I had come across it during that searching phase of my life, while attending a popular church in central London.

Despite the entire building shaking whenever a tube train passed beneath us, it was a comfortable dwelling for most of the academic year. There were two other tenants in my flat: a tall young man from Hiroshima — quite an eccentric — and an Italian woman.

There were a series of other flats downstairs — the common areas of which I would clean weekly — but I didn’t really know those residents at all. I would just clean up their mess, leaving their kitchen spotless, vacuuming the dusty brown carpets in the corridors and on the stairs. For a time, I earned the praise of our landlord for those efforts.

Those comforts would come to an end just as the academic year did. My Italian student neighbour moved out, and a middle-aged man moved in, along with his burgeoning record collection. He was a different breed from previous tenants though.

While the others had just been students in need of a home, he was a true evangelical on a mission, intent on reminding us that ours was a Christian housing association established to provide accommodation to Christians specifically. It was thus a given that he had every right to constantly invite me to his church.

And so the invitations came thick and fast, whenever we encountered one another in the kitchen. At first they were friendly, but as time went on they became ever more persistent and unrelenting. Each time the topic was raised, I would politely decline. When that would not satisfy him, I would offer various non-specific excuses. But in the end, of course, I would just have to come clean. “I’m a Muslim,” I whispered one afternoon, as he cornered me with more demands.

With those words, the invitations ceased. But there his incessant harassment began.

Over the weeks that followed, I would be subjected to the most peculiar behaviour on his part. On several occasions, late at night, he would trail the speakers from his record player out into the landing, place them directly against my bedroom door and proceed to blast me with Christian rock music.

Although he was my immediate neighbour renting the room next door, I took to avoiding him as much as I could, for whenever we did speak, he would be hostile towards me, threatening to tell the housing association about my conversion. Soon he would be joined by a Sri Lankan resident from one of the flats downstairs, who would stop and question me whenever I entered or left our building.

Others, in my position, would have written to the housing association to complain of harassment. But I — in typical apologetic fashion — sent a letter to my landlord explaining that since moving into the flat as a searching agnostic, I had found faith: only that faith was not Christianity.

Instead of listing the behaviour I had been subjected to for months, conscious that the housing association had been established to serve practising Christians, I explained that one of my flatmates had taken exception to my faith and that, as he was clearly uncomfortable living with me, I proposed to move out to placate him.

Although the initial response I received from my housing officer was kind, there would be no probing into the events that motivated me to write. Looking back now, I wonder why I was so passive in the face of serious harassment. No, why I was in fact apologetic. Why did I project the blame onto myself, rather than seeking redress, as I would have had every right to do?

Perhaps what happened next provides a clue. As I sat out my notice period, there was a break-in downstairs. An intruder had broken into a flat by kicking and hacking through the plasterboard wall, instead of trying to force the door. The tenant was naturally shaken by the incident, as we all were.

But while we might imagine that the residents of the downstairs flats might have realised it was unwise to leave a window accessible to neighbouring buildings wide open in what was then one of the most crime ridden parts of central London, it turned out that the drug addicts and dealers for which the area was notorious were not the prime suspects.

No: I was the prime suspect.

While I was preparing to set off for the library one morning, I received a phone call from the housing association. It was not the officer I was used to dealing with and we exchanged none of the usual pleasantries. Instead, taking up my letter to her colleague, she noted my newfound faith and, almost in the same breath, asked if I had anything to do with the break-in downstairs. Of course, I was mortified.

As her accusing words rang in my ears — “It’s disgusting!” — I wondered how I had transformed from that nice, quiet tenant who had been praised for cleaning the flats weekly to one capable of attempting to enter another’s room by merciless force. How was it that my desire to honour God had been ripped to shreds and twisted into the pursuit of criminality? 

And so that was that. Yet another slander, unchallenged as I passively absorbed months of harassment. I suspect those former tenants still have vague recollections of that once-kind flatmate turned brutal thug, who suddenly moved out in mysterious circumstances, shortly afterwards. Perhaps they’re still recounting that tale in their personal anecdotes about the criminality of the Muslims.

Looking back now, I regret my apologetic response to harassment. I should have had courage of my convictions and stood up for my rights. I should have pointed out, not with pride but with self-respect, that I was the long-standing tenant who had been respectful to all, paying my rent on time, cleaning their filthy flats weekly, who was simply pursuing sincerity before God.

But, instead, like so many other times, before and since, I just let it go. I left them to think whatever they wanted to think. Once again, I walked away, apologising for my very existence. Always, always apologetic.

Morality police

I’m not a fan of morality police, who set themselves up as upholders of societal decency. Maybe my distaste has its origins in my own experience with those presumed to be gatekeepers of ethical standards.

Long ago, in the dim and distant past, some such folk thought that for the crime of thinking a girl in my midst was quite sweet, I ought to be smashed to pieces. Naturally, taking the threat seriously, I walked away, but that’s not to say that was the end of it. Actually, that experience had a profound effect on me, lasting years.

Still, I was one of the lucky ones. In many countries and communities, those seen to infringe the boundaries of cultural expectations are not so fortunate. Sometimes the enforcers are family members, parents, siblings, spouses — or the jilted prospective spouse. Sometimes they are complete strangers, whether a self-appointed community leader or a representative of state.

What causes an individual to land in trouble can vary from place to place. In some repressive states, a single Tweet can result in a thirty-year prison sentence. In other places, either wearing a headscarf, or not wearing one, can result in all manner of sanctions.

But I am of the personal responsibility school of thought, shunning compulsion in matters of the heart. In the realm of faith, especially, compulsion seems to fly in the face of both reason and revelation. For sure, a forced faith is no faith at all.

And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed — all of them entirely. So would you compel the people in order that they become believers?

Quran 10:99

There is a clear difference between those actions which cause others harm, and matters of the heart. The robber must be prevented from stealing. The warmonger’s tyranny must be confronted. The terrorist or brigand must be brought to justice.

But as for that which does no harm — seemingly the concern of the morality police everywhere — leave the people be. How strange that so often those strictest on minor issues of personal piety are silent on the major abominations, such as taking a life or depriving others of their rights.

As for those concerning themselves with alleged infringements of morality, here’s an idea for you: consider talking to those involved. Perhaps a kind word, in place of hostility, will change absolutely everything. That too is from our tradition.

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in the best of ways…

From Quran 16:125

Near and far

Of course, now we are missing our lands and neighbourhood. Still dreaming of those days. It’s ever so on dreary, dark, cold and wet days here. But when we are there we miss our home here too. This is life, near and far.

Damp and mould

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about landlords not taking the problem of damp and mould seriously. In fact, the problem is widespread.

In the early 2000s, we rented a flat from a housing association in west London. It was a tiny one-bedroom flat — one of several located in the roof of a converted old Victorian house, broken up into multiple self-contained dwellings.

Because we were in the roof — angled walls on one side, a flat roof above us, and velux windows — it was freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer. Through the winter, heating came from electric storage heaters and extra jumpers.

At one point, three years into our marriage, we started noticing damp and mould through the winter. We noted that it was worst after rain. We were convinced that there was a leak in the roof, which had soaked down into the cavity between the roof felt and plasterboard.

However, each time the housing inspector came to visit, he told us the problem was caused by us drying our laundry in the flat. With a kitchen and bathroom as small as we had, there was no room for a tumble drier, and even if we had had a garden of our own, there was no way we could dry our clothes outside in winter.

Anyway, that was his diagnosis, so he went away content that the damp and mould in our flat had been caused by the tenants. His prescription for the problem was telling us to leave our windows open through the winter. A sensible course of action in an already-freezing flat.

Our hypothesis would eventually prove to be correct, however, to spectacular effect. It was during a very wet evening in spring, while my father was visiting, during one of his business trips to London. My wife had just finished filling his stomach with her finest cooking when, on returning to the kitchen, she noticed a large bulge in the ceiling.

Just after she had served him Turkish coffee, the bulge in the roof began to drip. Then the drip became a steady stream of water, and then a flood, as the cavity between the roof felt and the plasterboard began to empty of its accumulated reservoir of rainwater, stored all winter long, quickly refilling the kitchen bin hastily repurposed as a bucket each time it was emptied.

That was the evening my father whispered in our ears: “Isn’t it time you two started looking for a house of your own?”

After that flood, the housing association did finally acknowledge that we had a leaking roof, which was probably the primary cause of the damp and mould in our flat. Our kitchen ceiling received emergency repairs soon afterwards and a temporary fix was made to the roof above us. Eventually all of the in-roof flats would be fully renovated, the roof completely replaced, but by then we had moved out, buying a house of our own twenty miles away.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that housing associations are failing their tenants, sometimes to devastating effect. This is in fact the norm. As a student, I rented the grottiest of flats from a church housing association opposite King’s Cross station. When I moved in, the kitchens were filthy, thick with grease, grime and fluff, the flats infested with mice.

Could we convince the housing association to do anything about it? Only in so much that they gave me a job as cleaner, deducting a slither of my rent in return! Eventually, they sold that building to property developers, for which they would have made a handsome profit. Today, my old flat has been subsumed by the upmarket Landmark Lighthouse office space.

Let’s hope the housing association reinvested that income into improving their housing stock for their remaining tenants. I hope so, because we really were living in squalor back then. And so, it seems, some still are. Some housing associations really need to up their game, if they are to avert further tragedies.

Superiority

As a nation, we have two problems: that ideologues in centuries past invented notions of racial superiority, and that we believed in those ideas.

Despite having been thoroughly discredited by advances in the study of human genetics, these outdated beliefs continue to be promulgated all around us, forever informing our discussions about the outside other.

The appeal of our universal faith is that it sets those ideas aside, both acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of our forms.

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.

Quran 30:22

Our faith doesn’t speak of any kind of hierarchy of nation, tribe or ethnicity. On the contrary, nobility is defined purely on the basis of how we behave. Those that conscientiously lead ethical, honourable and upright lives are raised high. Those that subjugate or mistreat others are brought low.

O mankind! Indeed We have created you male and female, and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is knowing and acquainted.

Quran 49:13

Most of the scaremongering we encounter in our nation is founded on notions of racial superiority. Frequently is the threat of the marauding other invoked, the spectre of our replacement by another people looming large over our consciousness.

We will gladly accept 1.3 million British people settling in a land 9,000 miles away. But as for our land: we must institute a hierarchy of belonging, grading people according to the quantity of melanin in their skin. Some may choose to do that, upholding such crass stupidity.

But knowledgable people hold to the best of measures: our worth is defined not by what we look like, but by how we behave. God does not look at our appearance or wealth, but rather at our hearts and deeds. This is the way of the intelligent.

Canada

Meanwhile, Canada is having a grownup discussion about immigration, seeking to attract 1.5 million people over the next three years to overcome labour shortages. Will we be amongst them? “Not likely,” says my beloved, already shivering, “Canada is much too cold!”

Is it me?

This is the question I increasingly ask myself, cognizant of negative reactions towards me. Not a reaction to how I look, but rather some kind of behaviour I exhibit, which I’m just not conscious of.

Those negative reactions didn’t cease with maturity. I just learnt to largely avoid them by withdrawing from social settings wherever possible. In my youth, due to participation in education, interpersonal interactions were unavoidable. Nowadays that’s less of an issue.

However, about a decade ago, while enrolled in a religious education course in a neighbouring town, I encountered those hostile reactions once more. Indeed the gossip amongst fellow students was nearly identical to all I had experienced previously, leaving me quite disheartened.

So to that question: “Is it me?” Do I exhibit unconscious neurobehavioural anomalies that invite derision and hostility. Or is my own perennial shyness itself interpreted as hostility, or even arrogance? I wish I knew.

Some people get on with me very well, and would be perturbed to learn of this question. These folk would say, “There’s nothing wrong with you at all. You’re just a bit quiet.” Which is lovely, but that’s not my whole experience.

If I could, I would ask those who had negative reactions in the past what they were responding to. Was it my face? Was it my form? Was it my character? Was it something I said? My behaviour? What was it that invited so much contempt and derision?

These are serious concerns. Over recent years, I have retreated back into myself. I rarely socialise except with the closest of friends. Generally, I keep myself to myself. A comfortable coping mechanism, but one which is hardly healthy. I am becoming almost a recluse.

That’s why I can’t help asking myself these days, over and over: “Seriously, is it me?”

Inner grumbles

Single point of failure? Yes, I am. Have I pointed this out? Yes, I have. There’s a problem? Yes, there is. Can I fix it? Probably not. What am I going to do about it? Keep on working away at it in hope of a miracle. Is that likely? Well, miracles have carried me this far. And if not? I’ll just sob to myself for a few hours. Then what? I’ll likely have another existential crisis and start thrashing around looking at job vacancies elsewhere. Will that help? Of course not. I’ll just conclude I’m a lost cause. Can I not just ask for help? What, in this place? We’re all single points of failures. So that’s it then? Yes, barring that miracle. It’s time for salah. Let’s try that.

Edit: Problem solved. Stand down.

Acceptance

I think my wife is better at keeping her feet on the ground than I am. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking, “What if?” or “If only.” But she would just say, “Khayr!

If I’m feeling grumpy, discontented with my job, she will be there doing mental arithmetic, calculating how much money we’ve saved on fuel over the past decade. If I’m dreaming of a larger house, her eyes will be on the garden and the view across the valley. It goes on like this.

As for everything that happened before we met: well, of course, she would say that every decision and event was leading to our paths converging. So khayr again. Hers is the stronger faith, more accepting of whatever is decreed for us.

My acceptance is more grudging. I know I need to work on this. To be more like those whose faith grants them that sense of serene resigned contentment with the decree of our Lord, once the foremost character of the Muslims. That’s a better kind of faith.

Charitable souls

They were sponsored to fast for twenty-four hours. I was sponsored to walk back and forth across the Humber Bridge. I don’t recall what their cause was, but I sponsored them anyway. Mine was for Christian Aid Week.

When they came to collect their sponsorship money from me, they refused to say thank you. I didn’t mind, but our tutor told them off. It’s funny: other people could see exactly what was going on, but not me. I had been blinded by my good opinion of everybody, thinking them justified in however they behaved.

It’s so strange to think about it now — all that subsequently came to pass as a result of my runaway heart — for everything was as clear as day. I was hated. Held in complete contempt. Despised. But still, those that despised me asked me to sponsor them, and so I did, expecting nothing in return.

If they ever came across me again, I suspect they would be rather surprised to discover that I myself have fasted annually for the past twenty-four years. Sometimes I wonder if they planted that seed in my heart. Maybe they did; who knows? They were charitable souls, it seemed to me. May they be rewarded for their good deeds.

Sequel

Some days, nothing seems to work. Today is one of those days. Computer on a go-slow, memory maxed out. Applications freezing, then demanding updates, new versions, missing components. So frustrating. Tired of buggy software. Time to call it a day and start over in the morning. Can’t wait for the SQL.

British industry

The head of the Confederation of British Industry calls on the government to be honest with the public about the vast labour shortages the country faces, noting that immigration would help solve the problem.

Good luck with that one. Today, the Facebook algorithm thought I might be interested in a group which was basically the Enoch Powell Appreciation Society. Before dismissing the recommendation, I had a good gander to see what is exercising the chattering classes this afternoon.

Yep, immigration. “We should take a leaf out of Australia’s book,” griped one moaner. I started to compose a response, pointing out that Australia has been a nation of immigrants ever since the first European migrants arrived in 1788. But since I knew I was engaging with white supremacists, I decided to leave them to it.

Brits don’t like to be reminded that 5.5 million of us live overseas — about 3 million more than the UK’s entire Muslim population. We don’t like to hear that there are 1.3 million Brits in Australia. The number of Brits in each of USA, Canada and Spain is heading towards a million. There are hundreds of thousands of Brits living abroad throughout Asia and Europe.

My neighbour’s son emigrated to Australia. A whole branch of my family emigrated to Canada generations ago. It’s the way of the world. Well, it’s the way of the world for everyone except proud patriots with their daft ethnocentric hierarchies. Actually the number of Brits living abroad is similar to the number of non-Brits living in the UK.

But these aren’t popular truths, so Britain will just have to ride out this storm of diminished productivity, labour shortages and rising prices. The right-wing demagogues are quite keen on this phase anyway, for in their playbook, apocalypse is the harbinger of their own special utopia. They need a crash to remake society in their image.

British industry hopes for a more intelligent solution to the problems of our time, however. But alas, that is one that demands serious engagement with reality. That may be a task too great for any government fighting for its survival.

Superpower

Dear advocate: please stop calling our chromosome disorder a “superpower”. It’s not a superpower; it causes defecits and disadvantage.

Naturally, I understand why you do so: to encourage those youngsters with a diagnosis, helping them to overcome their difficulties.

Perhaps you could say that their natural temperament — that sensitivity and kind character often identified in individuals — is a special gift. Maybe that’s a positive trait to dwell on.

But a superpower? I’m sorry, no. There is no power in the untreated diagnosis. Those who know what they have are the lucky ones: they will now be accessing treatments to counteract its worst effects.

For the rest, they will have only have known a lifetime of struggle, difficulty, delays and fatigue — very much anti-superpowers.

Maybe there’s a better way to advocate on behalf of those bestowed with that extra chromosome which causes so much havoc.

Breaking point

My next door neighbour reports that when he bought his house sixty years ago, its price was £1,300, repaid over 25 years.

When we bought our house just over fifteen years ago, we paid a hundred times that. An eye watering price for a young couple on low incomes, but we would have had to spend at least double that had we stayed in London.

Today’s prices are, to me, mind blowing. I don’t know how any young couple could now afford to buy at all. We were lucky in being able to buy a shell of a house, its price pushed down by those missing essentials, central heating and double glazing.

The cost of living is a real conundrum. Prices are not set up to benefit ordinary people, just trying to make ends meet. If anything, the system forces people into a form of slavery.

Once you have a mortgage, you’re stuck with that job of yours, no matter how much you hate it. There’s no way out, if you wish to hold onto your home. The only way is up.

I don’t know if those millionaires in power really understand how truly broken the system is. Well, perhaps they will soon enough.