No man or country is an island...

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
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Peterborough, my Peterborough, a land where doors were left unlocked, where neighbours swapped cups of sugar and children played football with gay abandon on the streets, before heading in for tiffin and lashings of ginger beer.

According to UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, this was how we all lived, before immigration came along and ruined our perfect, picture postcard lives.

Funny though, I don’t remember it quite like that.

Yes, we were more neighbourly thirty or forty years ago and community spirit was much more to the fore, but we lived in an incredibly insular society, with little or no information available to the majority about the wider world in which we lived.

Of course, as kids, we played football on the streets but it wasn’t “Johnny foreigner” that sent us all scurrying back indoors in fear of our lives, it was the proliferation of the motor car and the meows of a ginger cat called Charley, who constantly warned us, through his animated companion Tommy, to “Always tell our mummy before you go off somewhere, so she knows who you are with.”

Nevertheless, Nigel’s comments cannot be dismissed entirely because when it comes to integration in the city and elsewhere, he surely has a valid point.

Stewart Jackson, Conservative candidate for Peterborough in next month’s general election, argues that we don’t have the conflict between communities that you see in some parts of the country. But whilst that may be true, we do have a definite divide between our respective communities.

Lisa Forbes, who is standing for Labour next month, claims that there are no issues with integration in Peterborough but I am not sure she is right, certainly not when it comes to Tony “45 minutes” Blair’s interpretation of the word.

True integration, we were told would lead to people of all faiths, creeds and colours living alongside each other, right across the city, without a care who moved in next door but that dream has never come true.

We all know that the majority of people of Italian heritage tend to live together in Fletton and Stanground and that the bulk of the Asian community is centred around the Gladstone Street area.

The Eastern European population seems to congregate in Millfield and New England and white middle class folks like to stick together in the outlying villages.

Of course this is a bit of a generalisation but for the most part it is the truth and everybody knows it.

I have many friends in all of the different communities and we all rub along nicely during the day, have a pint now and then, before retiring to our respective, indigenous hubs. It doesn’t mean we don’t like or respect each other or that we are in some way racist, but it is not true integration either - we just seem to prefer the comfort of what and who we know, and I am not sure that it will ever change - or whether it needs to.

For the vast majority it seems to work, and as the planet gets increasingly smaller, that long, lost utopian view of British life, that some people still cling dearly to, seems to bear less and less relevance to the world we actually live in today. Immigration has to be controlled of course, but you can’t blame it exclusively for the seismic changes that have taken place in this country over the last three or four decades. Blame that on progress or evolution, call it what you will.

Somebody once said that no man is an island, maybe we just have to start accepting that no country is any more.