Posts Tagged ‘‘Gardeners’ World’’

Afua Hirsh Is Wrong: Racists Are of All Colours and Have Told Whites to Leave

June 12, 2020

As I’ve mentioned before, a few days ago Tory hack Nick Ferrari showed how racist he was in a spat with Afua Hirsh on Sky News’ The Pledge. They’d been talking about the anti-racist iconoclasm which began with the pulling down of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol. Hirsh had made a point about the need to reevaluate British history. Ferrari then asked the inevitable question ‘If you don’t like this country, why don’t you leave?’ Hirsh was naturally angry, and told him that it was a racist question that was only ever asked of Blacks. No-one, she said, had ever asked it of a White person.

I’ve very little sympathy with Ferrari. He’s a right-wing loudmouth whose been spouting Thatcherite bilge for years. He was a regular guest on Alan Titchmarsh’s afternoon chat show all those years ago, which is one of the reasons I stopped watching it. The other was the Tory bias of Titchmarsh himself. Other celebrity gardeners and programmes on gardening are available, like Monty Don, Gaye Search and Carol Klein on Gardener’s World on Fridays. Ferrari did a phone interview with Mike on his programme on LBC a couple of years ago about Mike’s suspension from the Labour party and the allegations in the press of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Mike is very definitely neither, and was very well able to show that he wasn’t. I think this may have disappointed Ferrari, who may well have decided to do the interview into the hopes that he could catch this leftie out and show that Mike was one of those goose-stepping with Adolf. If that was the case, he was sorely disappointed.

And the taunt ‘Go back to your own country!’ is one that has been used again and again to Black and Asian Britons, many of whom have been in this country for generations at least. The Vikings imported ‘Blamenn’ – Black men into Cumbria c. the 10th century. There were Black troopers amongst the Roman legionaries stationed on Hadrian’s Wall, and Blacks are known to have been resident in London in the 12th century. The insult hurts and has left many Blacks psychologically wounded.

For some people, though, the question’s a fair one. A few years ago one of the islamophobic channels on YouTube showed a Beeb interview with a British-Eritrean playwright and activist, Aiwati. I apologise if I’ve got that wrong, as the clip didn’t show how it was spelt. Aiwati stated very clearly that he only celebrated and promoted Eritrean culture and identity. He hated Britain, and said that it actually hurt him to be called British. And so the producer asked him why he didn’t leave. He replied with something about having a family and a life here, and there not being the same opportunities in Eritrea. He also blamed Britain for the state of that country. When the interviewer politely said that it was independent and Britain had done much for the country, he simply said that it all could have been better. Which is no doubt true – other Black activists have made the same argument for their nations. But the fact remains that Aiwati’s hatred of Britain is in conflict with his desire to remain here.

Hirsh is also wrong in that Whites have been told to leave by racists. Recent migrants from eastern Europe have also been told to go back to their own countries. This has mostly common from the gammonati, who all voted for Brexit and hail Johnson and Rees-Mogg as true British heroes. But not all. Several years ago I was told by a London friend that there was a report in one of the papers there about a group of youths, who were convicted of racially abusing a White eastern European lad on a bus. The gang included Blacks as well as Whites. And White Brits have also been assaulted and abused with the same taunt. I can’t remember where I saw it, but one of the right-wing blogs or YouTube channels had a photograph of graffiti on a wall in one of the northern or midland towns. It read ‘Whites go home’. And round about the turn of the century Whites exceeded Blacks and Asians as the victims of racist assaults. Reading the articles about it now, it seems that Blacks and Asians considered together still constituted the majority of victims, but Whites were the single largest group. There was also a racist assault on a White man in Bristol, which was reported on Points West. SARI, the organisation that helps the victims of racism, responded by stating that they were open to everyone. Many of the posts on the real islamophobic blogs – I’m not going to mention them – are stories about Muslims being bad neighbours. I remember reading one about a man, who was forced to leave his home because of deliberate noise and nuisance from someone who wanted his house for an elderly relative.

Back here in Bristol, I also overheard¬† a snippet from a conversation between a young couple on the bus a few years ago. The young man was Black, and the woman White, and were talking about someone they knew in one of inner city districts. The lad said ‘He’s the only White boy in _, and the shit he gets. I don’t know why he doesn’t move.’

There is also racist friction and violence between ethnic minorities. Boy George mentioned this years ago in an interview with everyone’s favourite computer-generated video jockey, Max Headroom. For which Headroom called him ‘brave’. But it’s true. There were riots in Birmingham, I believe, a few years ago between Blacks and Asians. And I’ve heard it from people, who worked in one of Bristol’s inner city school that there were more and worse gang fights between two groups of Asians than between Blacks and Whites.

Racism is not simply about Whites using their power against Blacks. But very often it is simplified as such for political reasons. I’ve known Black activist groups decry the reportage of Black violence as ‘racist’. I’ve no doubt this comes from the way such reports have been used by the racist Tory press to work up hatred and hostility against them. A year or so ago an Asian activist tried to raise the issue of violence and racism between ethnic minorities with Diane Abbott. She refused to take up the issue, arguing that it would be exploited by the White establishment to continue discrimination against all ethnic minorities. She has a point. I don’t doubt that’s how it would be used. But it also means she’s dodged an uncomfortable issue.

Racism in Britain really is more complex than simply Whites hating and keeping Blacks and Asians down. But that is really the impression gained, and it means that the other forms of racism aren’t discussed and tackled.

But if we want to make Britain and genuinely anti-racist society, that is precisely what must happen.

 

History Book on Working Class Gardens

July 2, 2017

Gardening is one of Britain’s favourite pastimes, with programmes like Gardener’s World one of the long-running staples of BBC 2. The Beeb also devotes week-long coverage to the annual Chelsea Flower Show. A few years ago, one of the gardening programmes told a bit of the history behind popular gardening in Britain. It was deliberately started by the Victorians, with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert themselves as the patrons, as a way of encouraging the labouring poor to be respectable. Among the other virtues gardening would foster in them was neatness, from what I remember of the programme.

Looking through a copy of the Oxbow Book Catalogue for autumn 2015, I found a blurb for a book, The Gardens of the Working Class, by Margaret Willes, published by Yale University Press, ISBN 9780300212358. The price of it in paperback was £12.99. The blurb ran

This magnificently illustrated people’s history celebrates the extraordinary feats of cultivation by the working class in Britain, even if the land they toiled, planted and loved was not their own. Spanning more than four centuries, from the earliest records of the labouring classes in the country to today, Margaret Willes’ research unearths lush gardens nurtured outside rough workers’ cottages and horticultural miracles performed in blackened yards, and reveals the ingenious sometimes devious, methods employed by determined, obsessive, and eccentric workers to make their drab surroundings bloom. She also explores the stories of the great philanthropic industrialists who provided gardens for their workforces, the fashionable rich stealing the gardening ideas of the poor, alehouse syndicates and fierce rivalries between vegetable growers, flower-fanciers cultivating exotic blooms on their city windowsills, and the rich lore handed down from gardener to gardener through generations.

Garden history is taught in some universities in their archaeology departments, and the archaeology of gardens is also part of the wider field of landscape archaeology. Much of what is known about gardens in history comes from those of the rich, the great parks and gardens of royalty and the aristocracy, and the work of the great landscape gardeners like Inigo Jones and Capability Brown. They were also an important part of the lodges constructed by the medieval and early modern mercantile elite just outside town limits, to which they went at weekends to escape the cares of weekday, working life.

This book looks like it attempts to complete this picture, by showing that the working class were also keen gardeners. And its particularly interesting that the rich were nicking ideas from them.