BREXIT Episode Seven - Birds of a Feather

Episode Seven - Boston, Birds of a Feather

After my travails of the first day in Boston, where everyone looked at me and no one would speak with me, let alone allow me to take their photograph, I went to a bar. After all, I am English.

I went to the Weatherspoons pub, a nationwide chain whose Chairman is a key brexiteer. If I have learned anything this past few days, it’s that the native english can be found there - it’s there haven. I had wondered if their reticents to speak was because we were out in the open, in full view of ‘the others’ in a divided city. We have a saying, ‘Birds of a feather, flock together’.

Once inside, with a beer in hand, suddenly everyone spoke. It was a relief. It was only ever going to be one side of the story of course, the rest would have to wait. But nobody was shy.

I spoke with Alan, and his friend’s Les and David.


I asked Alan why he had voted to leave, and he said bluntly, ‘IMMIGRATION, IMMIGRATION, IMMIGRATION’, and with each word he thrust his finger in my direction.

Alan's position was unabashed, he had no qualms in telling it like it is - in his eyes.

In Bradford, people had talked of the north south divide, of big government, of poverty and having no voice. But here, everything was different - there was only one reason that 75% of people voted to leave - foreign workers.

Alan's friend David had the words ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ tattooed on his fingers. I asked where he had got them, and he said ‘When I was in prison. I wasn’t a great person when I was a young man’. His friend Les said that he had gone to prison for pilfering - a discrete euphemism. But Alan himself was more philisophical, 'I tried to crack a safe. I was always stealing.'

In my photograph, by pure chance, the word love is softly out of focus, the word hate, stronger, sharper. Coming into focus.

And I thought, 'This is a metaphor, about changing times, and of rising nationalism.'

The story of the Pilgrim Fathers who left Britain because of religious persecution - as told in the Moon Under the Water, Weatherspoons pub, Boston.

The Portuguese came first, fifteen years ago, followed by the Polish, Latvians and Lithuanians. And recently there has been a second wave from Bulgaria and Romania.

The city’s infrastructure is swamped, the local NHS hospital, ‘The Pilgrim’ is close to collapse, people can no longer afford the cost of rental properties, and the only shops I saw doing any trade were all eastern European shops selling bargain food and alcohol.

Debbie works as a cleaner at the Pilgrim Hospital - she was desperate for me to visit and witness first hand how it has collapsed under the additional weight of 30,000 migrants.




In the pub, I met with Carmen, Kate and Anna, three old friends. Each had a story to tell, each a complex life.

And they all had strong views, and as Kate said ‘We’ve got enough dickheads in England already, we don’t need anymore’. But she also went on to say, ‘Too many English accuse the foreigners of stealing their jobs, but it’s always the English who sit on the sofa and have never worked a day in their lives, who say that’.

Kate went on to say:

‘Too many English accuse the foreigners of stealing their jobs, but it’s always the English who sit on the sofa and have never worked a day in their lives, who say that’

I heard all sorts of stories about rising crime rates too; the guy who had his hands and feet nailed to his bedroom floor, as a form of crucifixion by a Russian criminal gang, and so on. But these comments felt anecdotal, the words of the disenchanted. That’s how it appeared to me, because in speaking to others, they held the view that the Eastern Europeans are no different to the British - there was plenty of crime before they arrived.

Carmen had a different story to tell about integration altogether. Her daughter has three children with a Latvian man. And this thought struck me. Most of the people I had met who were against the immigration were white local english, and either retired or heading in that direction. And they will all be dead within the next twenty years. But Carmen’s daughter, and her ‘half Latvian’ children will grow up as the new Boston community, not the ‘old' one.

I heard these kind of stories about mixed relationships again and again. And I thought, one day, all of this will seem perfectly normal.

And as this thought settled in my consciousness, a family came in and sat at the next table. A mother with a strong Eastern European accent was teaching her daughter maths. And her daughter replied in perfect English.


© Martin Middlebrook | All Rights Reserved

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