I belong to several local groups on Facebook serving Bognor, Felpham, Tooting and Streatham all of them places where I’ve lived and worked for a considerable time. It is interesting to see how much they vary.
Tooting takes pride in the variety of its inhabitants and the way they usually gel and work together. It’s a cosmopolitan place and always has been. When I was a child the newcomers were predominately German, Italian and Jewish. My grandfather – a Parodi who kept a wine store – lived two doors up from Mr Jung who ran the bakers at Tooting Broadway. A very nice man. A few years before their arrival the men in the local chamber of commerce all had very English names with the occasional Irish one for there were lots of Irish labourers who had dug up the road and laid the tram lines and settled in Tooting, in a road call Kellino Street. As I said, a mixed community. Now it is even more mixed with newcomers from Pakistan, Syria, India many of whom run stalls and cafes in Tooting market and sell delicious food there.
Felpham on the other hand has had very few immigrants other than Londoners who have come here to retire. Bognor has always been a favourite watering place for day-trippers from South London. But the Bognorians answer to the mixture of races that Tooting accepts and glories in, is to close ranks.
Not long ago, one of the moderators of a Felpham group put up a notice to say that people who use the group should not say anything that was ‘political’ or ‘about religion’ because according to her, people were finding that very uncomfortable. So ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ were banned, but that sent me thinking. Politics is a wide term and covers a whole range of beliefs, so does religion and if you stand back and think about what the moderator has said it becomes very clear that what she is actually saying is ‘don’t mention anything left-wing, it upsets people who live here.’ ‘Don’t say anything about religion unless it is about the local church and people who attend it.’ What she is asking us to avoid is a variety of outlook and opinions. I haven’t met many socialists in Felpham although they are here and very sensible, valuable people, but I’m pretty sure the majority of people are ingrained Tories – you only have to look at the voting figures to see that – and comfortable middle of the road people who would call themselves CofE.
And the more I think about all this the more I think how curious it is that in my part of south London, variety is accepted and celebrated and in my part of West Sussex, it is retreated from in horror or at least it is according to what the moderator of that particular group has said.
Curiouser and curiouser as Alice said when she was in Wonderland.
And yet political and religious opinions are changed over the years and what once was unthinkable – like votes for women – becomes established and acceptable. The chartists ensured that all men over 21 got the vote, no matter what class they belonged to. It took blood as those of us who know the story of the Peterloo massacre could tell you. The Suffragettes ensured that women were given the vote to, although they had to endure forced feeding in prison and it took the death of Emily Davison to finally begin to achieve it.
Yes, Beryl, South London very different from East Anglia as well as rural Sussex! We lived in Ipswich when first married, which was a slower pace of life than Brixton Hill, but there were Sikhs, West Indians and the USAF chaps from the now closed airforce bases. Where we live now, there are a handful of people who have never voted for the Tory Party, so we really don’t have a vote that counts. Our local FB is mainly about parking, dog poo complaints and trivia.