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Perspective: Immigrants must embrace our values and stop resentment.

Byline: John Duckers

The horror stories from university have been coming in - like the girl who lasted just three days before she gave up and came home.

That was one tale we picked up this last week. But then universities always get some fall-out.

So much so that, rather in the way airlines overbook seats, universities overbook places on their courses.

Going to university is a big step, a bigger step than many people realise.

But so far only a few wails from Kirsteen, now in her first term at university in Southampton, doing film studies.

I deliberately avoided getting in touch with her in her first week. The first week for new students is all go as they get an idea of their work commitments; they are finding their feet in a new city; meeting new friends and, for most of them, learning how to run their own lives for the first time.

Naturally the wife and even granny couldn't resist phoning up though.

They found a very tired teenager, but that in some ways is good. She has been throwing herself into the world of university rather than hiding herself away in her room.

But I suspect she is still working out how best to structure her commitments.

I can't help thinking her preferred way of work, which is doing essays from about 10pm until 2am, is not perhaps the best long-term approach.

Depends rather when your first lecture is, but even students need sleep.

So far, however, she seems to be coping fairly well with her new environment and its demands on her.

It was events back in Birmingham which disturbed her.

It started with news of one of her Asian friends who she hadn't seen for months and months.

Her pal was in the same year at school and had got better results than she did. She would have been guaranteed a university place.

Instead her destiny was an arranged marriage at 16.

And, not only that, but she was forbidden from seeing any of her old friends. For how long I'm not sure, but Kirsteen is now 18 and she hasn't been allowed to see her chum since the wedding. I can't say I understand why that should be, and different Asian communities have different traditions in these matters, but it does seem particularly harsh.

OK, you are starting a new life and perhaps you need some time as a couple on your own so as to adjust to each other.

But even so . . .

Actually it coincided with another story emerging from Kirsteen's old school of a Muslim girl no longer returning because she had been taken to Pakistan and married off to a 62 year old farmer in the middle of nowhere.

And her crime?

Well, nobody, it seems, quite knows. But it is thought she had slunk off with her friends for a night out, possibly at the cinema.

Outrageous. Barbaric even.

Which is where I agree with Home Secretary David Blunkett's recent lecturing of the immigrant community.

If they are to live here they should embrace Britain's values and culture albeit without denying their own roots.

Many do but many others don't. Particularly the few who seem to delight in slagging off this country. No wonder resentments can build up.

Respect for the individual is at the heart of British society.

Anyway, for a while Kirsteen was bent on coming home for the weekend for fear she wouldn't be able to see her friend for goodness knows how long again. And she was quite upset about it.

So what was the second thing which disturbed her?

The hamster died.

It was called OB1 after the Star Wars character and successor to the late Gazza, so named because it was fat and lazy.

Our theory is that OB1 was so terrified by the recent earthquake that death seemed a more pleasurable outcome than continuing in this world.

But then it was getting on a bit.

Unfortunate though that it should peg out in Kirsteen's first week at university.

Jolly inconsiderate of it.

It is now buried in the garden under the mountain ash tree beside Gazza.

Personally, not being much of an animal lover, I'm glad to see the back of the smelly beast.

Never thought it was very healthy having the thing scrambling around its cage in Kirsteen's bedroom.

Bits of hamster food seemed forever to be dotted around the floor and, whenever the cage needed cleaning out, we seemed to end up with bits of filthy bedding strewn down the stairs and into the kitchen.

Still, Kirsteen was very fond of the animal.

As for me, I sincerely hope we have seen the last of hamsters in the house.

A question of RIP OB1.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 7, 2002
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