SO somebody asked me: “Where are you from?” And I said: “Well, I was born in Liverpool.”
And he looked me in the eye, and he said: “No, but where are you from? Where is your family from?” I blinked. “Er, Liverpool. That’s why I was born there. It was more convenient.”
He stared at me, his eyes boring into me. “No, you’re not getting it. Where is your family from? You’re not British, are you?”
“Oh!” I said. “Well, I’m not really sure about my dad’s side, though Bainbridge is a village in North Yorkshire, so I suppose they must have come from there at some point.
“But on my mum’s side… well, there’s some Irish in there. I mean, see how pale I am. I make milk look brown. I could hide out in a paper factory for months.
“But there’s also some Italian in me from a few generations back. Half my mum’s siblings looked Irish like me. The other half looked like Al Pacino.”
“Ah! I thought so,” he said, and made to wander off. “Hang on a sec,” I said to him, “are you a figment of my imagination?”
He nodded, and vanished in a puff of smoke, his point made.
I’m quite lucky in that I am white, and usually pass for a native. If I were brown or black, I would have been asked those questions so many times I would not have had to make up an anecdote.
But ask yourself: “Where am I from?” If you can go back more than four generations without finding a foreigner in your forebears, you are a very unusual and rare flower. Even the Queen is part German, and married to a Greek.
The fact is we are all immigrants, or the children of immigrants. So when the Government starts talking about cutting immigration, and about taking us out of the European Single Market just so that we can halt immigration, you should feel uneasy.
When the Government talks about cutting the number of foreign students who come to Britain, pay fees to learn here, and then go back home, you should feel uneasy.
And when the Government talks about forcing companies to publish lists of their foreign workers, you should feel worried. Because while this is bad enough, where will it end?
It is becoming clearer than ever that Brexit is going to hit this country hard. The pound is crashing already. And instead of surgically unpicking the legal and social veins which bind us to the EU, this gang of vandals is going to yank us out.
And as the blood spills and the damage mounts up, the Brexiteers in government who blundered and blustered and said we had nothing to fear from leaving the EU will not take the blame.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, has already said that if Brexit is a failure we are all to be held responsible. Well, not me, matey – I am not going to be accountable for this disaster. And neither will the half of the country who voted to remain in the EU.
So who do you think will be considered responsible? It will be the ones who always get the blame, the easy targets already being lined up – the unloved immigrants. It will be the people like your great-grandparents, the people who spoke foreign in shops and even so were allowed to stay and work and marry and eventually produce you.
They will be blamed for taking British jobs, as if there is a queue of Brits outside the hotels and fruit farms dying to do a hard day’s work for a pittance. They will be given the blame for why you are unemployed after the car manufacturers and call centres leave this post-EU country. And God help them.
We’ve seen all this before in this continent. It ended with a world war and millions dead. That’s why we had an EU, why we had to make it inconceivable that the countries of Europe would ever go to war with each other again.
But the question is, which side are you going to be on?
Are you going to be one of those cheering as people like your great-grandparents are hounded out of their homes and this country?