Periodically I leave this sceptered isle for lands less prosaic. East Africa, America, France: I lived in them for years, left them, then came back to what I supposed to be home. Last time I returned it was not quite as desperate a venture as that of clinging to the underside of a lorry for the entire crossing. I financed my, nevertheless, refugee like return from Paris to the uk with a job for my Paris Production Services film facility: it contributed the bulk of what I nicknamed "The Colditz Tunnel Escape Fund."
That was because returning from France was more complicated than my escapes from Africa and America. Those latter flights to my London homes of those days were accompanied merely by personal baggage. When I moved to Paris however, I left no home in the uk and embarked for what I thought might be forever taking all my furniture, files and treasures. Most of those now rest in a friend's chateau in Burgundy but I had some pieces in Paris that I wanted to bring with me and all of this requires organisation, packing, shipping, and funding. After several months hard work I found shippers and a haven to which my stuff, including a 1912 Bechstein I inherited from my mother, could be carted.
I was a sort of refugee fleeing from the jelly bellied Francois Hollande and coming hard times in France after his election. The problem began when my landlady's husband died and she decided to sell my apartment where I had lived for 13 years. I had paid a total of some €150,000 to her in that time but I had no rights under the law to either buy the place as a sitting tenant or keep on renting it with a new owner. Moving had become a difficult option. I had been living in a privileged location, poised above the Place des Pyramides on the corner of the Louvre and Tuileries Gardens. The only blight to my southerly view was the wretched Tour Montparnasse. The other blights were related to my discomfort under the legal regime that favoured the landlady's over my own rights and which, due to demand, made it by now virtually impossible to find a substitute central Paris apartment. I did not think I could stand being a foreigner any longer.
I left a great love behind me, but it was a great relief to reach Angleterre. Alas, I found it greatly changed but still very civilized with sensible common laws for property rentals. Now I am watching with some horror, those others, less blessed than myself and without a British birthright, trying with intense desperation to come to the uk.
Recently, a photograph appeared in the Telegraph of a 22 year old Sudanese whose words "Britain is good" touched my heart. He was pictured sitting at the Toddington Service Station on the M1. I could not but chuckle. Never had such a banal place seemed so much like Paradise, it seemed. He had crossed to the UK clinging to the underside of a lorry. Now he hoped to study for a degree. I was moved. I cannot bear to think of him, after his brave enterprise, languishing in a prison cell.
I can also be moved by the plight of thousands who, whether political or economic refugees and with only the clothes they are wearing, are trying to enter the country by force, even with their children? Desperation to reach a country where welfare will help them and indeed where there are many lower level jobs: surely our compassion cannot refuse them? But, we can't let them blackmail us, can we? Legal immigration procedures must be enforced. We must have the immigrants we choose, not those forced upon us.
This is a terrible harvest reaped by the great success of the English language and by the equally great success of the British economy which can provide the jobs that are unavailable in the Social Chapter strapped EU. And the freedom of movement allowed within the EU is also our great handicap. Italy, Hungary, France, just wave them through.
We are besieged and must man the battlements.