As you probably know if you are a regular, I live off the Mill Road, Cambridge’s ethnic strip. I do so not out of solidarity with the city’s immigrant population nor as some kind of fashion statement. I would much rather be in one of the areas where the rich white people live, but I couldn’t afford it and anyway preferred to be near the station here so I could easily get the train to lecture in London when I moved from the Smoke. (Once I got into town, the Tube journey to Imperial would take longer than the train journey to King’s Cross.)
So I live in the gentrifying ghetto with the other beige people and public sector workers. (A bit further out of town you get your actual blacks and salt-of-the-earth working classes—plus chavs with rusty saloon cars propped up on bricks outside their homes and mad old ladies who chase you down their front lawns when you try to deliver Labour Party leaflets.) Here, you can’t move for shops selling traditional wooden toys to the spawn of the wholemeal-trousered, Fallujah-is-burning whiners; pubs playing that dangerous, new-fangled reggae music; and bloody students. There are also three, yes three oriental supermarkets within ten minutes walk of my front door. (I have to say “oriental” because I am British and, if used the word “Asian” I would have to include “south Asian”, as in Indian subcontinent, and I’d be counting until Christmas, which isn’t very far away, I must admit.)
Anyway. I have become something of a connoisseur of oriental food round here. I have no idea if the places I frequent are being run by Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese or Martians; and the people running them (like many of the peoples of the world) have absolutely no idea what my racial background is. What amuses is me is when Brits in such venues say, “There are lots of Chinese people in here; the food must be good.” Imagine you are visiting a spot in, say, Brazil that holds the equivalent tourist appeal in that country of Cambridge within the UK. You wander into an “Irish” pub (because I guarantee there are plenty operating successfully there right now). It’s full of drunk twentysomething Anglos. Is your first thought “There are lots of English people in here; the beer must be good”?