Monday, 11 December 2017

Polish Perivale

In Tesco Hoover yesterday bulk-buying stuff for Xmas at my father's. Had to put up with It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas played repeatedly for over half an hour before staff changed it to a more varied medley of Yuletide slush (a relief for the chap dressed up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who stood in mortal danger of ending up impaled on a pointy Xmas tree). Anyway, Perivale being Perivale, with its diverse mix of humanity, I'm still shocked me by how many Poles were shopping there. I left Perivale 20 years ago after 15 years living there. Back then, there were a few Poles, second-generation like me, and some newcomers, but all in all, not in the least bit visible.

Today there are many, and they most certainly are visible. From young families pushing laden trolleys hither and yon to men in hi-vis jackets placing słoiki of bigos or flaki into their baskets. Polish food is no longer in the 'Food of the World' aisles, but present across the entire store mixed in with other ethnic foods for ethnic groups who are no longer a minority in Perivale. Parents would speak among themselves in Polish, to their children in Polish - who'd reply to their parents in Polish, but speak to their siblings in English - without a trace of foreign accent.

When you see a white face in Perivale, it's likely to be Polish. According to the 2011 Census, 22% of its population are 'White, Other' (read: Polish), while only 20% were English; 'Indian' came third at 15%. I heard one or two middle-aged couples in Tesco (and I was there for nearly an hour and half) talking in native English to one another. To them it must seem strange, to say the least, to have become a minority, but the same process happened in Southall, just down the road, at the other end of the E5 bus route, some 40 years ago. Whereas Southall is south Asian, Perivale is extremely diverse, with peoples from all corners of the world in evidence.

Outside in the car park, vehicles with Polish number plates so exotic, you'd not see them in Warsaw - RRS for example, or RT, or LJA (that one I know to be Janów Lubelski), although of course nary a car on Warsaw plates. Many Poles in Perivale have long settled down, sending their children to the Catholic John Fisher primary school on the Western Avenue, and having bought properties before their reached their current high (half a million pounds for an ordinary three-bedroom terraced house) are paying off mortgages. The ones that run their own businesses, in the construction sector in particular, are doing well. Unemployment is low and hard-working skilled tradespeople are in demand.

Perivale UB6 is downmarket of West Ealing W13, which in turn is downmarket of Ealing W5; clawing one's way up the property market to reach the (literal) peak of Edgehill Road or Hillcrest Road will take some doing, but I can sense the determination among many Polish business owners and self-employed people.

The London Borough of Ealing, which also includes Perivale and Southall, voted 60.4% to stay in the EU, on a turnout of 71%. Given the large immigrant population in the borough - far higher than most Vote Leave districts, one can only surmise that a long-standing exposure to migrants has made Ealing less nativist with the passing of time.

POSTSCRIPT: Round the time I pressed the 'Publish' button on this post, a young Polish man died after being stabbed on Bilton Road, Perivale...

I am troubled by the prospect of the murderer being revealed as an English racist, a Islamist fanatic... but it seems that this was Polish-on-Polish violence. A 23 year-old Polish national was arrested in Edinburgh on Saturday 16 December charged with the murder.

This time last year:
Power in the vertical

This time five years ago:
And still they come [anomalous flashbacks that is]

This time six years ago:
Classic glass

This time seven years ago:
What's the Polish for 'pattern'?

This time ten years ago:
"Rorate caeli de super nubes pluant justum..."

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