I want to write about boundaries and borders. In fact I want to write in praise of boundaries and borders, not something very well looked upon in these days of free movement and fear of saying that difference is good and that there are differences. Difference is a precious thing, it’s difference that moves us all forward. But first let’s talk about boundaries and borders.
When I was young the county that you lived in defined you. I was from Oxfordshire and had an Oxfordshire accent. Next door was Bucks and they spoke quite differently. Down in
they spoke a strange tongue and over in Lincolnshire,
where my family came from. I couldn’t understand a single word my granddad
said. I’d never heard Scouse, or Black County, or Geordie, they all came much
later, but I guess the point I’m making is that we were different and separate
and it was okay and nobody expected you to be the same as the chap from the
Over the years I have seen these county differences, particularly accents and customs, almost vanish as people move freely from one county to another seeking work or change. Gone are the days when each small village was a tribe, often running with different words for the same things, sometimes running on different times as the church clock was the time in that place. Now I’m not saying this was a good or bad thing but it did give a wonderful diversity, boundaries and borders kept good things in and sometimes kept bad things out.
Of course, the media and ease of travel, technology and fashion, the need to conform and aspire to what everybody else has got has changed all of that even in the short sixty years of my life. No longer are there people who have never been out of their county as there were in my youth and the days of living in the village you were born in all your life are long gone.
By now you might have realised I don’t quite know what I’m trying to say. But I think that my point is that as we allow our boundaries and borders to be opened up, we lose the differences that make us so interesting. If we accept the idea that we must all be the same, speak with the same accent, run on the same village time, we will lose uniqueness and eventually we will become a grey sludge of nothingness no better than a mound of ants working and thinking to a pre-formatted plan.