Britain: the immigrant’s petulant spouse


There’s a scene in Fawlty Towers where Sybil catches Basil singing and dancing to himself.

“You seem very jolly, Basil.”


“Yes, jolly. Sort of happy.”

“Oh, happy. Yes, I remember that. No, not that I noticed, dear. Well, I’ll report it if it happens, though.”

I sometimes feel as though this might be what it feels like to be an immigrant in Britain in 2014, tethered to a spouse who you allegedly chose to be with at some point or another, and have spent the rest of your life wondering whether it was worth it.

First there’s the family. Old Granny Europe – the one who keeps losing her twenty-pound notes down the back of the sofa – is always very keen for you two to stay together. In fact, it was her who got you together in the first place, back in 2007. The wife didn’t seem all that keen on you back then; in fact, she made you wait seven years before you could even meet for the first time, but you just thought she was playing hard-to-get. She’d been having difficulties with her ex, a bloke named Poland who apparently kept inviting his kids over and making her cook their favourite soup even though they never said thank you. Even so, when you finally met she made an effort, putting on her best Keith Vaz for the occasion. “This could be OK,” you thought. How wrong you were.

First, there was all that nagging about needing to get a job, even though none of her brothers had one and she didn’t seem to care – you even caught her giving them extra helpings of custard with dessert when you hadn’t had any yet. Then she started threatening to hide the paracetamols if you didn’t stop hogging the duvet in bed, and said she’d stop letting you watch the football if you didn’t start supporting her team.

You tried to complain to Granny EU, but she was too busy looking down the back of the sofa for the tenner she’d promised to lend Cousin Greece, while the Syria twins were arguing again.

And then there came Uncle Nigel, who wasn’t really her Uncle but kept coming round uninvited like he was. You were sure he was trying to split you up, with his sniping and barbed comments about how you always took the last roast potato without asking. But even though she laughed about him behind his back, whenever he came round she always made sure he got the comfiest sofa and you had to sit on the wooden chair with the wobbly leg.

And the more often Uncle Nigel came round, the more unreasonable she became. It seemed that you couldn’t do anything right. On the one hand whenever you tried to help her with the cooking she’d complain that you were just trying to replace her, but whenever you let her do it herself she’d moan that you did nothing round the house to help.

Now you’re starting to think that the relationship may just be over. For your last birthday she bought you a card asking you to fix the shed or “go home,” (although you thought the handwriting looked suspiciously like Uncle Nigel’s). Granny Europe’s still too busy trying to get Great-Uncle Russia to stop the Syrian twins from slapping each other, while she’s started saying that if you don’t stop biting your nails at the dinner table she’ll kick you out the house.

Maybe you will go, you think, leave her with Uncle Nigel. The two seem like a nice pair. And Nigel has always had a thing for your wife. Even her half-brother Scotland is thinking of moving. You might go and stay with her half-brother Australia. At least he’s got a decent cricket team.



Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to contribute? Join our contributors’ group here or email us – click here for contact details