My first visit to Grimsby wasn’t exactly optimistic. Firstly I had to google where exactly it is as I had never heard of it. Then after some research I was a bit frightened, reading about the town through various articles saying that it is one of the most deprived areas in the UK to the Sasha Baron Cohen film called Grimsby . I can’t say I was too happy when I got the job but after months of applying for jobs I was desperate for anything that was related to my field. One of the first things I noticed as the train slowly approached the town was the steel works in Scunthorpe and the smoke various other industries. Although London isn’t exactly smoke free I don’t think I have ever seen actual factories I felt like I was seeing a glimpse into the Victorian industrial age, it felt very alien. As I got to know Grimsby I learnt that it used to be at the centre of the fishing industry in the UK and a lot of the residents’ grandparents and those before were fishermen. I soon discovered that a lot of people in the town worked for the various fish factories which include Young’s seafood.
As I settled into working life I knew I would find it difficult to fit in as I stand out as one of the few Black hijabis in town. Living in a small town I soon realised the lack of what I regarded as ‘basic’ knowledge from some individuals. I’m sure we have all heard of the phrase small town small minds well I’m afraid this phrase ran through my mind a couple of times. Let me give a few examples…
‘That woman had negro in her’
‘where are you from Me: London..NO NO where are you from …Me: Nigeria.. Is it not poor where you’re from”
“Are you from India?”
Walking home from work. Random person shouts ‘allahu akbar’
I can’t lie sometimes the comments I have received have been so stupid all I can do is laugh it off. But on a serious note it really made me aware of how little some people know about other ethnicities and religions and I truly felt like an ethnic minority compared to London where you can become delusional thinking that that we live in a ‘multicultural Britain’ . For me this made it very hard to feel relaxed, at ease and comfortable socialising with others as I would feel that I had explain and educate people on information that I have just taken for granted and expected people to know. I think living in a city implants an expectation that everyone has friends of different ethnicities and knows that you can be Black and Muslim therefore it was easy for me to become a bit frustrated and lack patience.
In addition because there aren’t many people who look like me it naturally follows that there aren’t as many activities and events for people like me, especially if you don’t drive like myself your stuck in the one town with bad transport links to neighbouring towns. When you’re someone like me who likes going to open mic, poetry and Black history related events and your stuck somewhere that just doesn’t have that type of cultural depth and I’m not exactly going down the pub for a pint so most weekends I would sit with envy scrolling through my Facebook at all the events I missed.
So far I have written mostly negatives, let me get on to some positives…
Although I have ranted about the lack of knowledge and culture I met many people that surprised me with their non-mainstream views. I had a driving instructor who left the country to travel in a van around Europe with his family and free himself from the shackles of taxes, bills and work. I met a ex-solider that saw Britain’s wars as neo-colonial and others that saw the influx of refugees as the least Britain can do considering how much they bomb everyone else. These views really surprised and enlightened me, I never thought that white British working class people who the media usually portrays as white nationalists could see through the propaganda and educate themselves about history. In the Muslim community I was surprised to meet so many white reverts ladies more than I have met in London as well as a Polish Muslim revert who is now a good friend, and I even ended up going to Poland. I never dreamed of stepping into Eastern Europe before I met this sister who really gave me an education in their history.
Another positive is living in the north in CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. I could afford to live in a 2 bedroom flat by myself; I walked to work, to town and hardly ever had to use public transport. The upside of having no social life is that not having many friends saved me a lot of money that I used to go on holidays.
So as this chapter of my life draws to an end, I believe I have learnt a lot and all these experience will contribute to the tapestry of my life which I hope will help me we the world in all it’s different colours and shades rather than a black and white picture. Would I ever I ever move to a small northern town again? My impulsive answer is NO, but we shall see what new adventures life will throw.