Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Live in Britain?

For young Australians of my generation, having completed their education at the end of the '50s, it was the "done thing" to live in the UK for a while. We could easily get a winter job in London, sleep in a sleazy flat in Earls Court, meet up with other Aussies and drink warm lager in a pub of a Friday evening, visit the Tower of London and the Tate Gallery of a weekend, and abandon Britain for a hitchhiking tour of the Continent as soon as the weather warmed up. Back then, that was the nearest thing to what you might call a packaged overseas holiday deal.

In reality, I resided in London for no more than the harsh winter of 1962-63. So, when I returned to Great Britain briefly in 1977 as a tourist, to gather material and impressions for my future guide book, the truth of the matter was that I knew almost nothing concerning the subject about which I was going to write. In spite of this inexcusable ignorance, my book turned out to be quite successful, probably because I produced it in much the same logical way in which I had designed and written computer programs. [That's a big and complex subject, which I don't intend to tackle here.]

Since then, I've returned to England for a day or so from time to time, but I don't look upon Britain as a good place for a holiday, and the idea of living there has never tempted me at all. There are, however, many Commonwealth people who would like to live in Britain. Apparently too many, because the authorities have just decided to introduce culture tests for prospective immigrants. Here are a couple of typical questions:

In what year was Elizabeth II crowned?

How many members are there in Scotland's parliament?

I don't know whether or not ordinary Australian candidates (if such individuals exist) would find it easy to pass this test.

For me, today, the fact that my native land still declares its allegiance to the United Kingdom is a total mystery, which neither bothers me nor even interests me. It's simply yet another indication that Australia has not yet had the courage and imagination to take its destiny into its own hands. The nation bows down to the Crown just as it has been bowing down to Bush. Vive la République !

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