As some of you may know, I have moved to the United Kingdom. I am now based in London in a little suburb called Kilburn in the north-west of the city. I was one of the last batch to be issued the two-year working holiday visa, an opportunity that could not be bypassed.
Some things I have noticed about England, which I really enjoy:
- Public transport is excellent. I feel a part of the city, rather than just passing through, as I do when I am in Joburg. The glum disposition of the passengers on the tube may be notorious, but the sense of public ownership of the trains is very high and the undergound is like the circulatory system of the city. SA would be a substantively better place to live if it could secure a safe and efficient transport system.
- A relative lack of crime concerns. In the UK feel freed up from the nagging insecurity which is so much a part of daily life back home. It is really quite unfortunate that we have to live that way, as our country is such a beautiful and dynamic place. I cannot say I have been directly affected by violent crime (I have however been burgled before), but the knowledge that the institutions of the state are losing their ability to maintain law and order profoundly affects your own sense of civic responsibility and undermines your trust in strangers. Not good for a divided society trying to heal the wounds of the past.
- True multiculturalism. Although there are some genuine barriers to freedom for people of minority groups, this is a country (or should I say a city) at ease with its plural character. I live in a neighbourhood filled with Poles, Indians, Jamaicans, Nigerians, Muslims and Jews and the melting pot of cultures is a fascinating spectacle to observe.
- The proliferation of fine museums. They're the best in the world and they're free!
The downsides are of course:
- The heightened sense of individualism and an atomised culture. At times the city can feel cold and impersonal.
- The state is far more involved in your life here. There are a proliferation of CCTV cameras and one is constantly aware of being scrutinised. So the freedom to do and act as you please is limited by an administrative apparatus that won't so much as let you pee on a tree.
- Credit crunch, financial crisis, recession, depression. Call it what you will, it's biting hard and people's livelihoods are at risk.
So QPQ is will continue to be a feature on the blogosphere, but with less of a parochial focus on South Africa. I love the place, but the off the cuff responses to the next crisis of the day can get repetitive and somewhat exhausting. So I am going to write when I feel like it and not be dictated by the caprices of the news agenda. I will also venture out of the strict boundaries of the blog's original subject mandate.