Does England actually have any Roma?

A little it here:

A time bomb’: how social tensions are rising in a corner of northern England
Roma and British Pakistani communities are increasingly divided over problems of crime, litter and antisocial behaviour


Eighty miles away in Liverpool, Gill Furniss made plans to leave the Labour party conference, missing Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. As the local MP, she could see that the fight had the potential to reignite long-running tensions in Page Hall – especially if, as chatter at the school gate suggested, the fight had begun when a Roma girl pulled off the headscarf of a Muslim classmate.

Roma. Now, I’ve worked in Czech where there are a lot or Roma. Here in Portugal there’re quite a few – had a little horse fair at the end of the road a few weeks back. Here there’re still those living out of the back of a cart etc.

The thing is, does England actually have Roma?

Travellers, sure, the Irish kind of which have been shown to be a little different from the average Irish population but not much. But actual Roma? North Indian genetic stock and all that? Migration across Europe in the past couple of thousands years? Entirely different language group etc?

I don’t know which is why I ask youse guys.

British agriculture is still largely indigenous

More than half of students admitted to 23 universities are from ethnic minorities.

The startling statistic is revealed as The Sunday Times today becomes the first newspaper to compile a university league table for social inclusion as part of its Good University Guide.

Nearly three-quarters of the student intake at Aston and Bradford universities are from ethnic minorities — while at Harper Adams, a largely agriculture-based university in Shropshire, the figure is 0.8%.

British agriculture has probably been largely indigenous since the passing of the Beaker People in fact….things can be slow to change out there. Even the Normans only changed who owned, not who farmed.


£1 polystyrene pumpkins branded ‘total madness’

“I think it’s totally unnecessary and total madness,” said Emily French, owner of Foxes Farm Produce in Colchester which sells thousands of pumpkins every autumn.

My word, you do?

And why not?

Seems rather more useful anyway:

More A levels in PE than French as pupils drop European languages

PE is now more popular than French at A level, a sign of the sharp decline in European languages being studied.

Only 8,713 candidates took French, this year’s results show, down 8 per cent in a year. In 1996 French was one of the most popular A levels, taken by 22,718 students. A total of 11,307 took PE this year.

After all, we’ve always found it more useful to thrash a Frenchman than speak to him. Enjoyable too.

Sure, why not?

The earliest Britons were black-skinned, with dark curly hair and possibly blue eyes, new analysis of a 10,000-year-old Somerset skeleton has revealed.


The results show, contrary to popular belief, that the founding generations of Britons owed more in appearance to Paleolithic Africans, from whom all humans descend.

Scientists said they show that commonly understood racial categories are historically only “recent constructions”.

Sure. Lighter skin is an evolutionary adaptation to northern climes.

Dr Yoan Dieckmann, from University College London, who took part in the project, said: “The historical perspective that you get just tells you that things change, things are in flux, and what may seem as a cemented truth that people who feel British should have white skin, through time is not at all something that is an immutable truth.

“It has always changed and will change.”

And yet that’s a different point. Isn’t it now? Something of a logical leap from “early Britons were black skinned” to “mass immigration ain’t no thing.” Note that my comment is purely about the logic on display, not the assertion itself.

Yes it was, and?

Half a century ago, Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation took BBC viewers on a tour de force of Western culture, setting a standard for arts broadcasting and educating a generation along the way.

This year, the 21st century version of the landmark show is to turn a critical eye to the history of British civilisation, questioning whether it is built on “looting and plunder” and who, really, are the barbarians.

Anyone want to try and name a non-autarchic civilisation that wasn’t built upon plunder?

Wrong side of the Pennines

Newlyweds spend their wedding night in (separate) police cells after the bride spat at a police officer during the reception at their local pub
Neill John Draper, 44 and Keira Andrea Draper, 39, got married on December 22
But the couple spent their wedding night at a custody suite in Barrow, Cumbria
Police were called to their reception at the Farmer’s Arms pub, in Ulverston
The bride launched a foul-mouthed tirade, called officers ‘pigs’ then spat at them when she was handcuffed

If this had happened in ‘Toon it wouldn’t even make the papers, would it? Or, perhaps, as a “the newly married couple spent their first night of wedded bliss in the traditional manner” story?

Do stop being an idiot, please

A few years ago, I interviewed Nicola Roberts, the best member of Girls Aloud, to talk about her underrated debut solo album Cinderella’s Eyes. She discussed what it was like to be on Popstars: The Rivals, the TV singing competition that predated The X Factor and gave birth to the band. What stood out most to me was how it felt for her to ricochet between two worlds. She was 16 and split her time between TV studios in London, and hanging out at the chippie in her home town of Runcorn. She remembered being taken to a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant where none of the girls could understand the menu. She had to ask the head of Universal Records: “What the fuck’s coriander?”

It doesn’t take much to get me on to Girls Aloud, but I thought of that particular anecdote when I saw the State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission this week. Its findings are a sobering confirmation of what is apparent to anyone whose world is not centred on London or the slim area surrounding it. Social divisions are deeply entrenched in British society, and social mobility, this notion that you can be born “disadvantaged” and step outside of such circumstances given the right opportunities, increasingly looks about as achievable as the UK’s chances of walking away from the EU without self-destructing in the process. Alienation and resentment are growing, and for rural, coastal and formerly industrial areas in particular, the outlook is grim.

Good grief, you’re never going to get anywhere if you keep insisting that class in the UK is an economic matter.

We regard plumbers as working class (rightly or wrongly) and lawyers as very middle class indeed. Provincial plumbers make rather more than provincial lawyers. Coriander or not is a social matter, income an economic one. Not grasping this but then wanting to talk about class in Britain just ain’t ever gonna work.

So, to ask some foreigners

Is this true?

Our universities, the NHS and the BBC: three things that the rest of the world admires about Britain. It is no coincidence that all of them derive their values and ethics from outside the marketplace. If we want to ruin them, the quickest way is to bring in the values of finance and business – of profiteering from students, sweating academics and handing riches to the management.

Is this what is admired? Sorry, these three are?

I’ve lived most of my adult life abroad and I’ve most certainly heard people praise some parts of the university system – and not all of it, not by a long way. The BBC? Meh, other than parts of the World Service in repressive regimes not really. And no one, no one at all, I’ve met has said that they admire the NHS.

But to ask any foreigners who read here?

Something I have directly experienced though is our reputation for honesty. Not that it’s true or anything, but one day, when working in a country without any real rule of law or anything, I sealed a $300,000 deal on a handshake. The seller would be entirely and wholly at risk for the full amount for about two weeks as the export was made, arrived, checked, then paid for. No letter of credit, no bank guarantee. Just my handshake. Because, as everyone knows, when an Englishman gives his word… worked with me for I just couldn’t let the side own if people really do believe that.

But that is my personal experience. Bowler hats and London busses and all that – old maids cycling to communion, warm beer. It just ain’t that trio Chakrabortty is blethering on about.

This will be very amusing indeed

Malia Obama’s boyfriend has been revealed to be a former British public schoolboy who met the former first daughter at Harvard University.

Rory Farquharson, a former head boy at the prestigious Rugby School, was linked to Barack Obama’s eldest daughter after footage emerged appearing to show them kissing during the Harvard v Yale American football game.

Just the idea of the airheads populating American news reporting attempting to pronounce that name. Even I’m not sure how the family actually does it but I would guess something close to “Farson.” There’s an amusing little blog there in clips of people trying to say it…..

Of course

Ferry McFerryface: Sydney insists name for new harbour boat is ‘not a joke’

The original Boaty McBoatface started as a joke, to be sure. But soon enough transcended that.

We can even say it’s silly etc, but then that’s popular culture.

About time we freed up planning permission then, eh?

According to the BBC, these images have been analysed and compared with detailed maps. Every different type of land has been awarded a classification and this permits scientists and environmentalists to obtain a snapshot of changing land use in the UK. Thus, conservationists can observe those areas that may be in danger of being swamped by the urban sprawl. Yet the urban sprawl hardly exists at all.

Actual built-on land in the UK comprises only around 6% of the total. The rest is made up of natural wilderness (35%), farmland (57%) and green urban areas (2.5%).

Not that us informed people didn’t know this already.

One of the greats

Iona Opie
Folklorist renowned for her work on nursery rhymes and children’s games who amassed a library of 20,000 books sold for £500,000

For those who don’t know, she and her husband Peter collected nursery rhymes, childrens’ playground games and so on. One of the surprising conclusions of which is just how permanent culture actually is.

For it isn’t so much that parents teach their children these things. Rather, that the slightly older children teach the slightly younger and so on down the generations. The transmission is happening every two or three years, again and again. And things like Ring a Ring o’ Roses have been doing that since the 1670s or so.

This isn’t Gypsies

Norfolk Police let a gang of travellers go on the rampage because they failed to grasp the “community tensions”, leaving a seaside town in lockdown, a review has found.

Shops, bars and restaurants were forced to close on one of the busiest weekends of the year after 23 motorhomes parked up during Cromer’s August carnival this year.

In total, 37 crimes were reported to police including a rape, threatening behaviour and thefts. One pub landlord was pulled over the counter as some of the travellers demanded money. Meanwhile, an Indian restaurant was “ambushed” as around 40 people stormed in stealing alcohol and upsetting diners.

This is a rather different grouping, isn’t it?

They’ll be after My Fair Lady next

A theatre company has been embroiled in a gentrification row after it announced a series of £55-a-head “immersive” Cockney-themed dinner parties to be held in a traditionally working-class area.

The firm apologised after it released promotional material that showed a cast of tracksuited characters, including a pregnant woman drinking and smoking and a tattooed man striking an aggressive pose, in a pub.

The Cockney’tivity Christmas dinners are scheduled to take place across three weeks in December in an “authentic Hackney boozer” in London’s East End. Attendees will get a three course meal and a “Cockney Christmas story” from the actors.

The company, Zebedee Productions, said it would be a “proper celebration of east London culture” and said many of the people involved had links to the East End. But critics pointed out the entry fee meant that, while local working-class people were being sent up, it was unlikely they would be able to afford to be in on the joke.

“The local people, they just get laughed at, they get joked at and there’s no respect there,” said Joe Ellis, who was born and grew up in the East End.

Josh Clarke, who helped run a campaign to gain asset of community value status for a local pub to save it from closure, said: “These establishments want to keep a certain kind of person out. There’s no one involved in that who said: ‘Let’s respect Cockney culture.’”

The traditional Cockney response to someone managing to get punters to pay £55 pounds for a £10 meal would be along the lines of giggling over that first half and half* and by the time the second was easing down formulating a plan to similarly fleece the mugs.

*Light and lager when I was serving bar out in Stratford, light and bitter by then being for the older crowd.

Perhaps Mr BiS, our expert on these matters, would care to comment?

I think we know this, don’t we?

The north-south divide has been the butt of jokes in Britain for years, but research has shown the Watford Gap, which separates the country, was in fact established centuries ago when the Vikings invaded Britain.

According to the archaeologist Max Adams, who made the discovery while researching his new book, the Northamptonshire-Warwickshire boundary known as the Watford Gap is a geographic and cultural reality that can be traced back to the Viking age.

I think it would be very difficult to argue that this is a new discovery, wouldn’t it?