12 september 2016, of copenhagen, calais and canterbury

Saw the wonderful performance of the pianist of willesden lane at the weekend; well worth the watch. It resonated both as we lived just the other end of the very same lane, but also, for everyone, because of its relevance to so many themes of the day. Lucky enough to speak to the author and star afterwards, daughter of the kindertransport refugee the play was about, hers was a paean to the generosity of the british people that took in 10, 000 children. Whither that generosity now was the question no-one asked. It would though have been a little harsh. Not only because it wasn't a question for mona, but also because a legitimate view is that britain has still been exceptionally generous these last years, even in the very different world, of rather selfish and indulgent individualism as opposed to wartime collectivism when so much was so transient anyway. For all that though, britain has taken in over 7 million migrants and refugees over the last 15 years, more than 300, 000 every single year since 1994 (though before getting too caught up in numbers, not all stayed). In 2015 it was over 600, 000 (of which the vast majority were migrants and some 39, 000 refugees). Granted, this is well down the scale from the kindness of strangers welcoming children into their homes and families and caring for them for life, but it is nonetheless an astounding mass of generosity somehow, and sadly one more in keeping with a modern society of each to their own, paying their taxes, minding their own business. We also live today with the brutal transparency of relentless modern-day media that give such succour and platforms to grumbles, hate and sensation. Borgen chronicles the descent of denmark from the international paragon of virtue that, fairytale-like, resolutely protected and saved its jewish community from nazi extermination to mean-spirited refugee-basher of the age that confiscates personal valuables from those fleeing war and destitution if they dare to find their way to the danish border. Britain is not yet far down that road. Yet, it is a moot point then whether its generous absorption capacity that the lonely then loved willesden pianist experienced has been diminished or has just reached its limits.