My Project 28 Experiences is a series of blog posts recounting my impressions of the towns I visited for the project. Anecdote, opinion and comment, sharing my personal journeys. I hope you find them of interest.
On 10th August 2016 I made the first of the eleven journeys that would be required to travel to all twenty-eight states
Boston 116 miles north of London and just 80 miles north of my home but this would be my first visit. I travelled by car. On route it was clear that local industries are food production, both agriculture and food processing factories. Arriving in the market square, dominated by St Botolph’s Church known as the Stump, the town appeared to be a typical English market town. Soon after arriving I climbed the 209 steps of the Stump’s tower and set a precedent repeated in many towns throughout my journeys of climbing towers to capture aerial images and to familiarise myself with the town layout.
St Botolphs and the Market Square
Another precedent was for me to stay in an AirBnB room. Boston was my first experience of using AirBnB. Having now stayed on numerous occasions something that is common across Europe is the wonderful AirBnB hosts. Without exception I have found them kind, helpful and genuinely interested in their guests. James, my host in Boston was no exception. When he heard about my EU project he offered his opinion of Boston, the referendum result and plenty more.
James, himself is an immigrant, not from the EU but from the USA. James has lived in Boston for 25 years, he owns numerous properties that he lets as bedsits, flats etc. After I shared my project with James he took some joy in telling me that the vast majority of his tenants are from the EU, Polish, Romanian and Portuguese. None are ‘on benefits’ His only tenants on benefits are an English family. Also he has never had any trouble from an immigrant tenant. The only real trouble James has experienced was a local guy who rented a room, most likely for an extra-marital liaison, who ended up stabbing one of the fellow tenants. James added that was actually in the room I was renting – thanks for that James! He went on to share his view of the indigenous population, “They are mostly Boguns,” he volunteered.
I was determined to get the locals view so I spent an evening in a pub on the edge of an estate a short walk from the town centre. It was poker in the pub evening, a pastime I am quite partial to. As a stranger I was welcomed and I was pleased to see that the ‘school’ was made up of a disparate group in terms of age, gender etc. They appeared a fair cross section of the community. During my time in Boston I was struck by the totally different economic situation just 80 miles from where I live. I had witnessed the economic at the market held at Bargate Green on Wednesdays where an outdoor auction takes place between 09:00 and 13:00. The ‘goods’ to be auctioned set up in endless lines across the car park for inspection. The auctioneer and his assistant, both images of what comes to my mind when I hear the term ‘Bogun’ enthusiastically take bids on an eclectic and eccentric array of what can only be described as junk. Lots such as ‘three garden canes and a golf putter’, a ‘well worn Eddie Stobart jacket’, a ‘Sgt. Peppers album in a sleeve but minus the cover’. It reminded me of the street off of Brick Lane in the sixties.
Autioneers at Bargate Green with a nice glass table on offer
Back to the poker it was just £2 to play which included a sandwich at the break (where I live it would be £15 at least) prizes were simply points in the national league and pride. I told those assembled about my project and why I had chosen Boston. There was a consensus that had David Cameron arrived back from Brussels with an agreement to reduce, to stem the flow, of EU immigrants then the vote would have been to remain. Not to stop immigration, the Poles and Romanians contributed to the local economy, they did the jobs the locals don’t want to do. They were accepted and welcomed. There were simply a disproportionate number that meant they now were impacting local business and traders, and also changing the character of Boston too far too quickly. Only one amongst them, an out and out racist, did not subscribe to this theory. His peers even chastised him for his racist opinions. So the decision to leave the EU was down to David Cameron’s failings not the voters of Boston being anti immigration, they said.
During the evening a couple of young men, quite clearly Eastern European, enquired about the poker in the pub. I noted they did not receive the warm welcome I had experienced. The most moderate of the group, the one who had led the David Cameron debate, told them the rules and the process but did so with an air of negativity. He closed with “come along any Wednesday at 8pm, we’ll look forward to seeing you. The more the merrier." The manner in which he delivered those words clearly implied that he meant “you are not wanted round here, don’t come back”. Thank goodness the racist didn’t deal with them!
David Cameron indeed!! A few hours and a couple of beers here said to me James’s assessment was pretty much on the money. Of course I will still be free to travel to Boston once we leave the EU. Somehow I doubt I will.