Immigration is a matter of very great concern to us as it has placed huge pressures on all of our public services.
It has even, some would argue, started to erode some of our core British values.
When numbers equivalent to a city the size of Plymouth come into our country each year, it is natural that people tend to become alarmed. Yet I have had an experience this week which has opened my eyes to one important aspect of it.
Having hammered my knees over a lifetime, I needed to get them replaced. The first to receive the treatment was done twenty months ago (successfully, I might add). Ever the glutton for punishment, I pressed on.
It’s a big op, I have to admit, and the aftermath is painful; but what’s a bit of short-term suffering against a very great and long-term gain? Thus I tried to persuade myself, for I knew what I was letting myself in for the second time round.
Everyone will have to cope with clapped out and painful joints as they grow older. The lucky ones, in my view, are the ones where this happens early as they get them replaced. The less fortunate soldier on with their dodgy parts until it is too late… they are too old.
They have to watch the sprightly oldies – with their joints replaced – enjoying full and pain-free mobility while they struggle on with sticks and, if they can afford them, mobility scooters.
I opted to go to the Peninsula Treatment Centre. There, I was surrounded by a mini United Nations.
There were Filipinos, South Africans, Chinese, Jamaicans, Zambians, Polish, Romanians, Germans, French, Zimbabweans, Bulgarians – oh, and yes, one or two Brits. They all spoke excellent English and the service that I received was top-draw.
As a team they were magnificent. If only the UN, away in New York, could perform so harmoniously. Even the building and the standard of cleanliness were beyond compare.
Altogether it was a great experience. It makes you think, doesn’t it? It would not be over-egging it to say that if you’d kept these people out of our country then we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
In the higher echelon skills at Peninsula, East Europe seemed to have excelled itself. The Communists got many things wrong, but education was not one of them.
I have reason to know this at first-hand. My Lithuanian, university-educated wife (fluent in three languages) is a constant reminder. She even helps me with my crosswords – would that I could do the same with hers – and she sometimes assists with a point of grammar. English was her subject at uni, you see.
It would be no exaggeration to say that if all these superb people were removed from Peninsula it would have to shut down. Who then would be the loser?
Of course, you will have noticed that they all spoke good English and for the most part were highly skilled. This is the road we must go down: cherry-picking the best who want to join us.
As it happens we are the destination of first choice to these people because of our language, law-driven society and tolerance; they are not the sort of people who want to be holed up in some kind of ghetto, insulated from the rest of us.
It was a very big mistake to allow the mantra of diversity to shut down discussion as to how we could best integrate newcomers to these shores, and in this respect there is much the Americans could teach us.
Last week I bumped into a fellow shopkeeper and he too had had both knees renewed. They had been done the better part of twenty years ago and he wasn’t even using a stick. He is 91.
Instead of feeling that he had been put out to pasture, he has been allowed to remain a vibrant member of, and contributor to, our local community.
This has to be the future… keeping as many of us as possible active into old age. But it has to start much earlier than our 91-year-old shopkeeper, that’s for sure.
The wonderful new £41.5m Life Centre, opened this week in Plymouth, is certainly a step in the right direction.
All of us must take charge of our own well being, wherever possible, and there’s a lot of fun to be had in so doing. But those of us who are not prepared to invest in a healthier, happier future must be brought to see how very foolish this is.
We know we can successfully influence people’s life choices. Look what we did in turning attitudes around with regard to smoking and drink driving.
The ticking NHS time bomb of an ageing population could, in large measure, be defused if we could all be persuaded to get off our derrieres and get moving. Preventative medicine has the potential to free up possibly a quarter of all our hospital beds and allow us, in the process, to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.
If the recession causes us to cut our supermarket food bills, so much the better, say I.
Instead of so many old people feeling surplus to requirements, they would become a valued and much needed part of society.
We British usually appreciate being the first recipients of most things coming over ‘the pond’. But I did not appreciate learning that, after the Americans, we are the next most obese people in the developed world. As it happened, not long after learning that, I watched newsreel footage of our people in the 1940s and 50s. Do you know, I couldn’t see a fatty among them?
Food rationing had done its work and made us the healthiest we had ever been; they all looked leaner, fitter and, I have to say, altogether merrier.
Although the treatments available to them, at that time, were primitive by our standards, at least they weren’t imposing a burden on their fellow citizens, because of their super indulgent, lazy lifestyle. They were all pulling their weight – just not so much of it.
Time, may I suggest, to turn our guns on the fatties amongst us!