The Beautiful Thing by Kit de Waal

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The Beautiful Thing by Kit de Waal. Prod. Mair Bosworth. Perf. Burt Caesar. BBC Radio 4, 22 Mar. 2015. BBCiPlayer

As the old saying goes, good things often come in small packages. Kit de Waal's story has a fiftysomething narrator recalling their relationship with their father. Although they had known one another since birth, they really did not understand one another until the narrator was ten years old. At that point the father told the story of his emigration to the United Kingdom. He had first tried to immigrate to Florida, but had returned home soon afterwards. In 1959, however, he made the final break, taking the ship to the United Kingdom and hoping (as many immigrants at that time believed) that the streets would be metaphorically paved with gold.

The story follows a familiar path as the father dresses up in his best suit and spats, but discovers to his cost that the "welcome" in the United Kingdom is not what he anticipated. No one appears to want the presence of a black man in their midst, while the spats (which he believed were the height of fashion) turn out to be archaic, the relic of a bygone age.

Yet things turn out for the better when the father visits a shoe shop to purchase a pair of new shoes, in an attempt to fit in with his new world. There he discovers that not everyone resents him; the experience gives him renewed hope for his future, even though his future prospects might seem uncertain.

"The Beautiful Thing" is a pertinent tale that draws on past experiences to comment on the present. At a time when Nigel Farage and his UK Independence Party are advocating deliberately exclusionist policies aimed at reducing immigration (and hence rendering the country "better," for some reason), author de Waal suggests that if people stopped believing such rhetoric and treated immigrants on their own terms, they might help to create a more just, as well as a more settled society