SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Who is my neighbour?

Sir Peter and his wife Virginia enjoying the royal wedding celebrations
Sir Peter and his wife Virginia enjoying the royal wedding celebrations

It was a great Windsor wedding. The sermon was an inspiration. The community parties were enjoyable. The weather was kind.

People in and around Worthing were cheered by the way television illustrated the announcement that Prince Harry and his wife will be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by showing the town crier Bob Smytherman hailing the news.

I was present on Friday when the youngest mayor Alex Harman retired before attending the Sunday Civic Service at St George’s church where new mayor Paul Baker and his delightful wife Sandra were interviewed by the chaplain.

Ramadan has started. I will read James Fergusson’s book Al-Britannia, his journey through Muslim Britain, described by former archbishop Rowan Williams as a seriously necessary book and on the 5 Pillars UK website as perhaps the best book ever written by a non-Muslim about Islam in Britain.

When volunteering to observe Ramadan, the author became fully acquainted with his Muslim neighbour-but-one. All kinds of things bring us together. Locally, I wish we had a synagogue. Jewish people do contribute significantly in Worthing and West Sussex life.

My view on our monarchical system is that part of its value is to find unity in voluntary, civic and military service. The Queen has exemplified this. There are other workable systems. I am happy with ours.

The first street jamboree I experienced was a carnival in Cape Town, before the full imposition of the apartheid system.

The next, in 1953, was a street party with tables all along the London residential street where my family lived.

It came after I had slept out with my sister and our mother in the Mall so we could be in the front row as the procession passed from Buckingham Palace towards Westminster Abbey where our father was stewarding.

At the time, it seemed normal for me aged eight to walk two miles alone back to Albert bridge when the others went to join my father.

The Westminster street party last weekend brought everyone together.

Whatever the nationality, age, colour or politics, half the road became a play street; the rest was a string of tables where people sat at random with neighbours they knew and others they came to know.

Our leader was German. One councillor was an American who has added British nationality. It was our corner of the United Nations.

In the constituency, my neighbours are preparing for the famous Ambrose Place Back Gardens opening on Sunday, June 24. East Preston Festival, including its carnival procession, is approaching.

Each village and most parts of town have their annual festivities, bringing joy and bringing people together.

We may not do much for the English national day; we can find other ways to be together and to join as neighbours in ways that include everyone.

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