A LEFTY LIBERAL'S LAMENT
(Musings from the Spouse, illustrated by AsH)
I am an old-fashioned lefty liberal. At 76 years of age, I have clung all my adult life to a rag-bag of good intentions and easy theories, acquired mostly in the comfy sixties, about internationalism, socialism, multi-culturalism, and humanism. Some of these ideas have been discarded by most of my world; others have been resurrected - usually in a modern, and barely recognizable, shape.
I have stuck to my guns. I grew up in Africa (we had to leave South Africa because my father criticised apartheid); I married a Malay girl from Singapore/Malaysia, and my son is half-Chinese; I have good friends from a dozen cultures, four different religions, and four different races; and I enjoy music and food from every continent. I marched against apartheid in New Zealand, wrote against the Vietnam War in Singapore, and in London I marched against war in Palestine, Gaza, Bosnia and Iraq.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the Romanians.
Some said they were Roma; some said they were Muslims from Bosnia - because the women wore long skirts and scarves. We noticed them begging in the streets - one woman, I remember, came up to me cradling a plastic doll wrapped in a shawl. Then about five years ago, they started moving into our street. Soon, there were five families along our stretch of road. Perhaps these too were Roma, I thought: they were generally short and darker-skinned than most, and the women were all dressed alike - long skirts, scarves around their hair.
It was then the trouble started. Children would come up to us demanding money. The young woman next door came up to me asking for cigarettes. At Halloween, we had Romanian children ringing our doorbell for "trick or treat" - the first time this had happened to us in the 40 years we'd lived in Leicester. The doorbell would be rung at all hours of the night - until we disconnected it - and footballs kept thumping against our front windows. I was screamed at by one young boy when I asked him to stop kicking the ball at our house, and my wife had racist abuse hurled at her by two others. Every evening, people young and old would gather outside our front window, and sit on our front steps, eating sunflower seeds and showering the pavement with the shucks. And they never seemed to go to bed.
So the street manifestly suffered. Within a couple of years, the corner house opposite us had all its ground floor windows boarded up. Fly-tipping became a permanent feature: ransacked (and pinched) charity-shop bags of clothes, children's toys, old home appliances and packaging of new home appliances, bottles and drink cans, heaps of broken furniture, mountains of old carpet, paint tins, car parts, split bags of old food, and much else besides. Further up the road, abandoned cars started appearing.
|By 2018, both of the windows were boarded up. It's easy to make a connection between the plight of the occupant of the corner house and the unsupervised football games on the street of our new neighbours' children.
|So as not to make ourselves a hostage to fortune, we decided to change to stronger PVC double glazed windows in 2016 which set us back by £400.
|Aaahh children, and our neighbours' children, what would our future be without them? This is one solution suggested by a restaurant in Market Street, Leicester, 2017.
And this was all just in front of the house. Through the living room walls we had a never-ending chorus of shouting people, thumping feet, and slamming doors - I pitied the landlord when he discovered the damage. Some (though not all) Sundays we had religious services, complete with a speaker system, going for an hour or two. When Pope Francis was inaugurated, a three-hour long service went on into the early morning. Such occasional piety I don't mind - but when the pattern of behaviour is frequent and unrelenting ... then I do mind.
But what about the back of the house? Presumably to extend the living space, our neighbours built a lean-to kitchen in the back yard, covering the entire yard with bitumen sheeting and plastic - and from this, on many a weekend, would come a clatter of pots and pans well into the early morning. Perhaps, because of this al fresco kitchen, rats started to appear in our backyard.
But the real problem at the back was that our neighbours no longer had a shed for their clutter. Gradually, our private access path took on the role. Soon, we were unable to open our back gate to put out our wheelie bin. We asked our neighbours to remove their rubbish: initially, they demanded we put out our bin through the entry of our other neighbour - which would have involved lifting it over the party wall; they eventually agreed to clear things, and we had access for two months. Then the rubbish started to reappear. We asked again. The same thing happened once more. We gave up.
|These photos, taken from the other side of our back gate were taken only because a neighbour two doors away was doing renovation work and had left the side door to the street unbolted.
|The view in April 2018 from our side : before (image 3) and after (image 4). Now our wheelie bin's freedom of movement has been restored!!
But our problems at the rear of the house were not just about access. From our neighbour's upstairs window we have had a shower of lighted cigarette butts, drink containers, paper tissues and Pampers thrown in our direction. Over the years, hundreds of cigarette butts have landed in our yard - we only need a long hot summer and some dead leaves against our garden shed ......
|From the rear window (on the right), our back yard was peppered with cigarette butts and a paraphernalia of rubbish, including Pampers, by courtesy of our neighbours from the European Union.
And it's not only our immediate neighbour. We have had three letters from the railway company demanding settlement of unpaid fares. From the name, we know the Romanian culprit lives in number 57 - he gave our address to put the authorities off his scent.
Lest I be accused of picking on Romanians, let me say two things very clearly. Firstly, I am reporting my experience of every single Romanian I have ever met. So perhaps there are nice Romanians, and one day I will meet them. Secondly, no, it's not just Romanians. For some years, our next door neighbours were Polish. They were noisy and arrogant. One wanted to buy our car, and soon after we said it was not for sale all four tyres were slashed. On another occasion, I watched the same neighbour bring an old TV set to the front of our house and throw it bodily onto our front step. We were terrified. There was a time, too, when a walk down Evington Road risked bumping into drunk and thuggish East Europeans who certainly seemed to be Polish: I was accosted four times by such people, all demanding money, in the space of a year.
So maybe it's just Eastern Europe. And maybe Brexit is, for many people like me, an understandable gut reaction to foreign tyrants on our streets and in our midst.
One thing I am sure about: it is nothing to do with racism. These thugs are all white, they are all European, they are all Christian. I wish, I so wish, all my neighbours were Bangladeshi, Pakistani, or Indian.
The week before last, a Mercedes SUV tore round a corner onto our road and landed on top of a neighbour's parked car. The time was 8.50 on a Sunday (19 May) morning; the driver was the teenage son of one of our Romanian neighbours, well over the alcohol limit.
|Pile up on the road.
|Pile up from our window.
Five days later, on a road we can see from the window, a gang of men attacked a house with iron bars, planks, and bricks, smashing all the doors and windows. A video of the event appeared in the local paper. Three Romanians were arrested.
We all voted the following day. ----------------------------------------------
The photographs and comments in blue are by courtesy of Mrs AsH Buchanan.
On 23 May 2019 Ash and her two favourite codgers, Iain and Jack went a-voting.
|Note our choice: seventh from the top. We have had enough!!!!
|The reference to the different Political Parties.
But, being the wise, cynical old fogies that we are, we are aware that the problems of living in our neighbourhood will not improve. Fortunately we are from the baby boomers generation - our days are limited.
For more whys and wherefores, read ...