Friday, 30 November 2018

Brexit and the shrinking of possibilities


I have been invited to a wedding in France next spring to celebrate the union of two English people, who live in Switzerland. I met my friend who is getting married in Australia over ten years ago now.

Then, the world seemed a bigger place, at least to me. The European Union was not big enough to contain our travel appetite it seemed, and we flew to Sidney. On separate planes, but from the same place, a place we called Europe.

We grew up in an Europe that was expanding.

As a young French teenager in 1992, I remember receiving the Maastricht treaty in my parents’ mail box before the referendum. Opening it I had the fuzzy feeling that this was something big. I will admit that I did not make it further than page three although I pretended to (as probably 99% of the French population of voting age), and did not understand a word of it.

But we did talk about it at school, what it would mean for us and all. Of course the discussions were largely biased, but we knew this too. Standing behind the treaty that would create a closer union made sense for young souls. Even more so as, close to us just on the other side on the Adriatic sea, the Olympic stadium of Sarajevo was about to become a war victim's cemetery.

Now the world is shrinking again. Teenagers at secondary school discuss Brexit, walls in Mexico, closed borders in Europe, far right etc.

If I was a teenager today, especially in the UK, I would have a silly haircut and feel I have reduced possibilities.
I understand the frustration of some of the people who voted to exit the European Union, especially those whose perspectives did not really expand, ever.

But look at the main Brexit campaigners, rich, white men in their late 50s, who will never suffer from the consequences of a leave vote. Meanwhile, the people whose horizon was limited face even more barriers.
I want to be proved wrong, but only time will tell.

Women and men born before the Second World War have seen what division and extremism bring. In fairness, as long as you don’t turn a blind eye, you don't need to have lived through the war to know. Don’t be a selfish sod, they will tell you.

When my friend will get married, I might have a tear of joy for her, and a tear of sadness for the Europe we almost had.  

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Weather you like it or not

Chéri, did you see my flip flop?

After a 9-month long autumn accompanied by exactly 9 months of endless complaints about the miserable weather you would expect the British to welcome above average temperatures with a smile and a sigh of relief. You should know better. 

Complaining is a national sport here. I did not say that. And the weather and its variations is by far the favourite topic of discussion in the British culture. It is an handy subject to revert to after someone foolishly replied to a carelessly thrown "you alright?" and actually stopped to chat and know how well you are doing today (when will the Continentals learn...).

The (pre-Eurostar) secluded Island is blessed with long periods of rain. And it does not take months of intense British integration (here is your crumpet, dear) to understand that the British Subject is above all fond of complaining about the weather.

June was to be forgotten as the most miserable month of autumn. Countless blogs posts have been written about this. Islanders in their misery were sharing counts of endless summers spent running in the woods when they were younger, which could fool any Southeners living below the river Loire but not a Norman.

Summer is a rare commodity here and I was prepared for the worse, even looking into buying my first pair of wellies. "I gave up, there won't be  summers any more in this country," a source close to the matter said.

But miracles do still happen, and we should never underestimate the power of greenhouse gas. July brought us Summer, a real Summer. At first people smiled, happy again do dig out their flip flops and too soon forgotten shorts. But the joy was short-lived and made space to more complaining. Done with the rain, British Subjects turned their anger to the sun and the heat.

"Bring on the Autumn," I heard. "I had enough of Summer now," said another one. "I can't sleep in this heat, I would rather have the rain," added a sun burned man. Why oh why, I ask you? They know, don't they, that this weather is not here to stay.

"Well, we are not used to this kind of heat, we are mild weather people," I was told. Yet some won't hesitate to offer their un-sunscreened body to the midday sun, in the unique purpose to proudly show off their purple-red marks afterwards and complain (again) about the pain.

The weird thing is that this month of July will join the ranks of the beautiful legendary summers which paved the childhood of our British complainers. Parents will talk about July 2013 with stars in their eyes, and children will fall asleep with a smile on their faces hoping this could happen again. 

Oh well, as long as Summer stays as it is, I say bring on the complaints. Is this rain I hear outside?