A Sorry State

europe

I know I’ve nailed my colours to the mast on a previous occasion but despite eschewing political views generally I’m posting this week in a brief return to the UK’s most bitter, divisive and hackneyed topic of leaving the EU.

It will be no surprise to regular readers to learn that we are Europhiles, Husband and myself. We make frequent and lengthy trips to Europe and have done for many years. These expeditions are for leisure purposes but I’d have to include education within the leisure definition, since discovering hitherto unvisited places, viewing landscapes, towns, villages, architecture, galleries, learning history, seeing what is grown [and what grows!], how people live, where people live, what they grow in their gardens, what is in the shops, meeting people and conversing [or trying to]- these benefits are more compelling than any sun-soaked Spanish beach can be.

We have grown addicted to exploration of our near neighbour countries. Is there any other continent as divers as Europe? Our cultures, cuisines, music, languages, customs and even weather systems are vastly different and this is what makes it a magnet for tourists from other continents.

Yet the EU knits countries together without loss of culture, language or any other individualism. Together the countries are stronger. Together they can work towards shared goals, combat human rights atrocities, be a louder voice on the world stage. They can deal better with mass migrations using a coordinated approach and consider difficulties over climate change or environmental problems.

So about half of the UK population has been duped into believing that this benevolent organisation is bad for us. They have been fooled by a few meddling, bullish, selfish individuals who are interested only in the furthering of their own careers at the expense of the greater good and by the gutter press whose main aim is to peddle hatred and spread jingoism.

The process of leaving has been left to an inept, disorganised and disjointed government who’ve no clue how to progress except by ‘carrying out the will of the people’. But we can surmise from their hints about stockpiling that things are not going well.

Marvellous.

This summer, as we experience one of the worst droughts since records began and know that our own food production is bound to be reduced we learn that supermarket stocks should be reserved and that shortages are going to be a certainty. Add to this the likelihood that ports will struggle to process imports and that those firms large enough to re-locate are beginning to do so [eg financial institutions to Germany]. Add again the numbers of immigrant workers quitting in droves, leaving horrendous voids in National Health Service personnel, the agricultural workforce, hospitality and elsewhere.

So there you are. The future looms, stretching away in a long queue for dwindling bags of potatoes or a desperate trawl through the internet for ever scarcer blood pressure tablets. Meanwhile triumphant Brexiters delight in goading ‘put up and shut up’ style posts, calling those of us who are heart-sick ‘remoaners’. These are the very people who will be squealing like stuck pigs at the empty shelves in the supermarkets when it happens.

If there were a way to buy EU citizenship I would be doing it-but I can only claim a Maltese great grandmother in my heritage, which I don’t suppose will do. I am so very sorry, Europe for the ignorant foolishness of my country. Please may we continue to visit?

Spying in Salisbury

You could not, as they say, make it up. Gentile, refined, sedate, medieval, touristy cathedral city Salisbury has been the unwitting scene for a clandestine but audacious attempted murder of an international spy.
This is a bizarre story. We are used to the spy yarns of fiction. They are the tales that have informed we lay people over the years. We think of The Third Man, staged melodramatically in a post-war, crumbling, gothic Vienna or of Le Carré novels such as     The Spy who came in from the Cold, set in the cold war era of the 1960s with brooding double agents and East German backdrops. Or our experience of spies may be based upon James Bond, whose daring exploits, car chases, gadget-ridden confrontations and glamorous lifestyle has become increasingly divorced from reality.
On a serious note, the use of a lethal nerve poison in a public space is a frightening prospect and who is to know what the effects on the fellow diners at Zizi’s restaurant have been? I think, ‘I’ll never go to Zizi’s restaurant again’ and then of course  I realise that I have never been to Zizi’s and never will, since there is a plethora of beautiful, cosy independent Italian bistros to frequent.
As the substance is Russian made it is safe to assume that the attacker is Russian, particularly since so are the victim and his daughter. How should we respond, then to this outrageous assault in poor, provincial Salisbury? Should we, it was suggested, boycott the football world cup? I’ll admit to finding this idea hilarious as a] Who would care if little old England was not there and b] The absence of our national team [whose track record at world cups is less than exemplary] serves a useful purpose in terms of face-saving for we English.
So now our government has slung out a number of Russian diplomats-those deemed to have been conducting espionage and perhaps, amongst them, the attacker him or herself? The Russian government [Putin] has responded by holding up their hands and saying, ‘What, us?’ The next action will be expulsion of British diplomats from Moscow. Wonderful. Back we go into a cold war. We are advised against travel to Russia in case we are ‘harassed’. ‘Does this mean,’ I ask Husband, ‘that a visit to St Petersburg must be crossed off my list?’
Personally, I’m all for ousting Russian property investors from our little land. Goodness knows we’ve enough need of the housing. I’d love to think that all those homeless people displaced by the Grenfell fire and those in sub-standard accommodation could reside in the glitzy towers that lie empty in the capital. I doubt, however that the government would have the backbone to requisition the properties.
I am sorry for the terrible toll wrought on the victims of the crime and hope that they will be able to recover; but at the same time I’m intrigued by the story and to learn how the repercussions might play out.
In the meantime I’m off to persuade Husband to build a bunker in the back garden…

Will we Stay or Will we Go?

So-this is the week. We are to discover if we will stay or not. We have very little control over what will happen, a state that leaves us feeling powerless, impotent and often frustrated. There is too much information or there is not enough. The information is poor quality and we have no idea what to believe of what we hear. Will we be moving? Or will we be staying? We have waited sixteen weeks to find out if we’ll be moving house…

I remember the first EU referendum in 1975. I was barely out in the world of work and grappling with juggling first job, first live-together relationship and first home, none of which endured much longer than two years. With little information or experience I voted not to join, based, I recall on the fact that the price of butter had gone up.

This time of course we are bombarded from both sides with ranting, supposed statistics and naked self-advancement dressed in thinly veiled national fervour. ‘All you need to know’ is broadcast every day in every facet of the media. ‘Facts’ are paraded as if they are true. Debates are held in a constant stream on all channels, Everywoman leaping to her feet to declare her opinion; Everyman springing up to shout her down.

And this is the problem. Exacerbated by the tabloid press, ‘debates’ whipped up into a frenzy by shouting, screeching, pointing members of the public and raft upon raft of dodgy statistics and made up facts, the entire situation has become a hate-fest; an excuse to vent negative feelings and exploit bitter sentiments. Some of it is disguised with ‘reclaiming Britain’ as if the UK had somehow floated away from its inhabitants and some of it is just streams of invective. Most is aimed at immigration so that you are left thinking that people from countries other than ours can enter but we cannot leave. Not so. 1.3 million British people live abroad in Europe, most in Spain, which houses very many retirees. They are not working and contribute little to the Spanish economy except in purchases of alcohol [this I have seen for myself]. Should Spain kick out these layabout pensioners?

Now that the ugliness of the campaign has become beyond hideous with the murder of a young, talented Member of Parliament we can only hope that those pedalling inflammatory, bombastic rhetoric will temper their rantings into something more rational and reasonably argued. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. But you have only to look at social media to see that the ‘hate immigrant’ campaign has opened the door to right-wing organisations; organisations whose misplaced fervour appeals to loners, misfits and those with mental health issues. The killer of Jo Cox was one such individual. Let’s hope he’s the last.