Having suffered similar humiliation and over-zealous inanity at the hands of British immigration, I can only sympathise with James Hughes-Onslow’s friend (‘Hop off, you Aussies’, 27 August). However, I do have to point out that this is neither a new phenomenon following an increased threat level, nor is it specific to Australians.
It happened to me in 1996. I was an American citizen, an 18-year resident of Switzerland, who as the child of a former diplomat had lived abroad my whole life, and had been travelling back and forth to Britain since I was a child. I simply wished to visit my British boyfriend for a couple of weeks. But the officer was afraid I would ‘disappear’ once in the country, despite the fact that I always left when I said I would and had never overstayed my visa.
To this day, most people cannot believe that I was interrogated for four hours, had my belongings confiscated (except my money which they were ‘not allowed to handle’), my diary and all personal papers photocopied (and then distortedly used ‘against’ me), was not allowed a phone call, was threatened with a night in a detention centre since there were no flights back that evening, and generally treated like a criminal.
Now happily married to my then-boyfriend, with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and despite having unfailingly contributed 40 per cent of my income to help pay the salaries of these bureaucrats, I am still given the third degree every time I fly in from a trip abroad. Indeed, the last time, I was asked how I had ‘acquired’ my leave to remain, making me again feel like a criminal.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of treating with contempt those of us who love and contribute to this country, they could concentrate their efforts on preventing wanted terrorists from leaving the country right under their very noses?
Reading of the appalling treatment of the Australian lady, Julie Hope, at Stan-sted, I reflected upon the very different behaviour of those Australians who volunteered in their thousands to come to our assistance not only in both world wars but also in the Boer war, and those who gave their lives and lie buried in the cemeteries of Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
The 50-year-old friend of James Hughes-Onslow no doubt presented a soft target to the Stansted immigration officials.
Among the public-school pop stars not mentioned in Marcus Berkmann’s amusing article (Arts, 13 August) were Michael (‘Mike’) d’Abo of A Band of Angels, which largely comprised Old Harrovians like himself, and later of Manfred Mann; Lord David Dundas, another Harrovian, of Jeans On fame; the Old Etonian Jeremy Clyde of the duo Chad & Jeremy; and Peter Asher and Gordon Waller, the Old Westminster boys who became Peter & Gordon. Waller went on to play the Presleyan Pharaoh in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, written by Tim Rice (Lancing) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (Westminster). I seem to remember that one of Dusty’s early cohorts in the Springfields claimed to have gone to Eton and that there was an Etonian called Pilkington-Miksa in the group Curved Air (led by the Old Westminster Francis Monkman). But Craig Brown’s suggestion that Marc Bolan may have been Captain of Boats at Haileybury appears to have no foundation in fact.
And more things
Paul Johnson referred in his column (And another thing, 20 August) to my parliamentary question which prised out the number of people who had died in England and Wales since 1963 at the hands of persons previously convicted of homicide. The somewhat stilted English is necessary to avoid ministers minimising the numbers by sheltering behind the definitions of unlawful killing, manslaughter and murder. Up to November of last year the total was 108 — rather more than 2.5 a year.
By definition they were all innocent victims. I doubt if there were ever in recent times 2.5 cases a year of miscarriage of justice leading to the execution of innocent people.
The corpulent lecher George IV’ could not have asked anybody to become his mistress (Books, 27 August). Even by 1814, when Dorothea Lieven sat on one side of the Prince Regent at a banquet he gave for the Tsar’s visiting sister, he was past it, and not yet George IV. Moreover, whatever Metternich and the rest preferred, he would have been unlikely to want to further what did indeed remain a pleasant friendship. He is known to have been fastidious — one of the reasons why his disastrous Protestant marriage had failed — and Dorothea Lieven suffered from profound body odour at least by the time she got to bed. The 6th Duke of Devonshire records in his memoirs that his servants made haste to open the windows of her room first thing at Chatsworth, in order to dispel ‘the noxious odours arising from her person’.