Monday, 17 March 2008

Berneray and Dewsbury: different worlds

One of the effects of living here is that, increasingly, TV news brings location coverage from places that seem - well, alien. Maybe it's because I read a lot of non-UK media that describes more familiar places, but it's really difficult to believe that Dewsbury and similar places (of which there are many) are in the same country as Berneray. That's not saying one is better than the other; just that they seem so extremely different, culturally and socio-economically.

A blog posting by Iain Dale, and some of the comments within it, give pause for thought:

http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/03/people-like-us-phenomenon.html

In 1998-1999 I lived in a similar socio-economic area to Dewsbury, in the west part of Nottingham. Recent TV coverage of the Shannon Matthews case reminded me a bit of that; the people and how they integrated with each other, the housing (especially), the odd fact that the outside coverage was of an all-white mono-culture but many of the interviewed residents were from ethnic minorities. My main memories of living there was of a large gang of pushchair-wielding parents attacking the house of the drug dealer who lived across the road one day, frequent car chases past my house that involved the police, and the police helicopter circling overhead nearly every saturday night.

The plus sides were that rent was very cheap, and there was (still) the best curry takeaway place I've ever eaten from at the end of the road.

It is odd, watching the coverage from the Shannon Matthews case. Berneray seems so very different, in so many cultural and socio-economic ways. The Outer Hebrides seems far more similar to rural Montana, or the Lofoten Islands, or some of the Texan communities in No Country for Old Men, than it is to places like Dewsbury.  It's difficult to believe it's the same country.

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