English?

One evening, while we washed up after the community meal at the Baptist Church, a tall thin elderly Indian gentleman with white wiry hair and dark deepset eyes came into the kitchen.

“Are you from England?” he asked me.

Not an unreasonable question, considering many of the white people in Southall are from eastern Europe, but one that always makes me pause before answering. Should I just say yes, or split hairs about being born and raised in Wales, so technically no, although my parents are English and I live here now so, in a way, yes . . .

“But are you Anglo-Saxon?” he wanted to know.

Anglo-Saxon?! Are there any bona fide Anglo-Saxons left?! Isn’t that like asking someone if they’re an Ancient Greek or a Visigoth?! Short of a DNA test, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you to what extent I’m Angle, Saxon, Celt, Norman, Viking, Huguenot or any other people group who’s made these islands their home.

It’s said that Southall is the least English place in England but, when it comes down to it, who are the English anyway?

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