Monday, 4 July 2011

International Maritime City gets bolshy

Pride in a place is an odd thing. Getting some sense of self-worth from the fact that your parents happened to meet and make babies in a particular city makes little rational sense. But, like its big brother patriotism, hometown pride does have an emotional pull.

Pride in being a Londoner is different, in that it's not congratulating yourself for a quirk of fate, but for a conscious decision: some might be born Londoners, but many of us choose Londonerdom; we're here because we need this place, for whatever reason. In one of Ken Livingstone's finest moments he said that we
... choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves.
Living here doesn't necessarily mean signing up to any particular set of values (other than being grumpy on the tube), but to me, it means loving the place, the people, the history; not "tolerating" other cultures, but living alongside them in the most mundane way possible: a Turkish fry-up to cure the hangover you got in an Irish pub. Strolling through a Chinese cultural fete on your way to a Norwegian yarn shop before catching the bus into town to check out an exhibition on 16th century Afghan metalwork. Trying to buy sweet potatoes in your local cash and carry, only to find that they're something else entirely once you've scrubbed the dirt off. Eating them anyway. London is brilliant precisely because people come here from everywhere. I live in officially The Most Ethnically Diverse Local Area In The EU, and it's awesome.

But I grew up in considerably-less-colourful Southampton. I'm thawing towards it in my old age, but it is not the most thrilling town in the world: I mean, this is a place which is proud of its association with the most famous maritime disaster of all time. Driving through city limits, you're welcomed to "Southampton: Home of Ocean Sailing and the Titanic!" Which is... reassuring. So the news that they're spending millions of public money on building another Titanic memorial museum to replace the other Titanic memorial museum and to complement the ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SEVEN other Titanic memorial statues, plaques, fountains and flowerbeds - and trying to fund it by selling off the municipal art gallery's collection - did not fill me with hometown joy.

But the news that the city's refuse workers and other council employees are fighting tooth and nail against being forced to reapply for their own jobs to be taken on at reduced wages and crappy contracts? Thrills me to my strike-lovin' core. This might be the best thing Southampton's done since setting fire to Oswald Mosley.


  1. But the fact that they're striking also means that other Southamptoners are prepared to cut those workers' T&Cs... erk.

    Re: sweet potatoes: I always scratch the skin before I buy them to check the flesh is orange, not sneaky yam-in-disguise white.

  2. See above re patriotism/hometownism/etc making approx zero sense... but yeah fair point.

    YAMS! Maybe they were yams! Quite tasty, anyway.