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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Brexit - no, thank you

I should probably write something about Brexit but I haven't a clue where to start and it depends on my mood whether you get 1) an angry post full of four letter expletives at how the Westminster parliament is treating EU families who have settled here decades ago and built their lives around a given that they are prepared to take away, 2) a resigned mood where I wonder what the point of anything is and hide under my duvet sobbing, 3) a freedom-fighter one where I dig out all my old Yes Scotland stuff and this time fight to the death for my very survival, or even 4) an adventurous 'let's sell the house, pack up all the kids and disappear to mainland Europe while we still can' fuck-the-world one. I have been fluctuating daily between all these alternatives since I awoke to find the duped, the desperate and the racists had snatched my children's futures from them.

My kids are the result of a family tradition of international intermarrying. Both my husbands had parents of mixed European origin - Thomas is half Danish, half German, his predecessor was half French, half German and yet someone has decided for my kids that they won't be able to carry that tradition on. Wandering round Europe freely and falling in love is no longer allowed! And my heart breaks when I think of how small their world is becoming. I am angry as their international universities risk becoming parochial because of the whims of some ill-informed bigots in another country. I scream at the computer (I've stopped watching TV - it's not good for my mental health) when I hear people wanting to stop others from coming to work here, without ever realizing they are also stopping their own kids from being able to go there and work. I am one of those European kids (ok I was one of them in the 80s and 90s) - I have lived in France, and Germany and Italy. I have studied internationally, I have married internationally and it has enriched my life considerably.

Two years ago I fought passionately for Scotland to become independent for exactly this reason. I could see how narrow and insular the popular press was turning England and I shared that dream described so eloquently last week in the EU parliament by Alyn Smith: I wanted a Scotland that was internationalist, co-operative, ecological, fair, & European. I could see this referendum would be called at Farage's whim and I could see Out was a very real possibility. I wanted my children to grow up in a society where we care about the weakest in society, where we celebrate each other's differences and love what makes each other special. I could see that the separatist movement in Scotland was aiming for an inclusive state, within Europe based on our perception of the Scandinavian model. I'm married to a Scandy man so I could see the merits of a society where women can actually afford to work, childcare works and isn't a few hours in the middle of a working day, and kids are paid to go to university because an educated population benefits all. England's introduction of tuition fees and privatising of their NHS filled me with horror - it was going in all the wrong directions for me. I shared that left of centre ideal for Scotland the the SNP, the Greens and the Socialists amongst others were offering us and I still do. Imagining 62% of us could vote to stay in the EU and seeing us pulled out underlines what we've been saying all along. Last election we voted for a left-wing government, the Tories got just one MP from Scotland, but still we have a Tory government. Now we have voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, so if they drag us out then there is no point in ever voting here because 5 million people can never be heard over 60. We might as well stay home forever more on polling day. There is no point in politics in this union and therefore, there is no point for me in this union. So I guess I have my answer... I have no option but to go for solution three and if that fails number four will need to be put into action, somehow. Otherwise I won't have fought hard enough for the future my kids deserve.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Eight-year-old political analysis

So there I was lying in the bath minding my own business this morning when Anna burst in. Obviously Daddy being interviewed on Danish TV about Scottish politics this morning had got her to thinking!

Anna: See how David Cameron voted us out of Europe?
Me: No, Anna, Cameron voted Remain, that's why he's resigned. It was the rest of England that voted out.
Anna: Yeah, but Scotland voted to stay?
Me: Yes.
Anna: So if England leaves and Scotland stays that can only really happen if the two countries break up and Scotland gets independence.
Me: It looks like it.
Anna: So then Cameron will have been the cause of Scottish independence for having the referendum on Europe?
Me: Yes.
Anna: Ooooooops, lol!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Farage, Boris and now this bunch?

Marine le Pen shared on social media: « Victoire de la liberté ! Comme je le demande depuis des années, il faut maintenant le même référendum en France et dans les pays de l'UE. »

Geert Wilders tweeted: Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!

Matteo Salvini tweeted: Evviva il coraggio dei liberi cittadini!
Cuore, testa e orgoglio battono bugie, minacce e ricatti. GRAZIE UK, ora tocca a noi.

Norbert Hofer looked on excitedly:  UK VOTES TO LEAVE! Wir werden erst in den nächsten Tagen die volle Tragweite dieser Entscheidung erkennen.
Beatrix von Storch: All I want to say: THANK! YOU!! For and

Donald Trump tweeted: Getting ready to open the magnificent Turnberry in Scotland. What a great day, especially when added to the brave & brilliant vote.

Is this really who you want to get into bed with, England?

I am so out of here. Bring it on, Nicola.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Married to an immigrant

I've never thought of myself as being married to an immigrant. I don't think I have ever even thought about the word immigrant in his context but given the gutter press has been trying to tie that label around his neck for the best part of the last couple of years, I thought I would give my reaction to it. 

Thomas is a Dane. But even that is more complex than it seems on the surface as Thomas's dad is a German, or was a German who is now a naturalised Dane (who happens to live in Italy!), and his mum is an Italian-dwelling Dane. He was born in Denmark as a German citizen and became a Dane later in his childhood though he has been a native Dane all his life, until fourteen years ago when he decided to become a Scottish Dane or a Danish Scot. I don't think of him as an immigrant to the UK. Nor do I think of him as a Danish ex-pat. I think of him as a fellow European. He is simply a mix of European nationalities, just as my kids and our kids are.

In truth, I have in fact been married to an immigrant for the best part of the last 25 years, because my ex-husband was also a foreign EU citizen. So some of my kids are 25% French/25%German and 50% Scottish, their siblings are 25% Danish/25%German and 50% Scottish. Every day we sit down to eat as a family and a mix of languages goes round the dining table. When family visits more languages are added and that is the reality of our life. We shuffle backwards and forwards and round and round between European destinations that are simply an extension of family and an extension of home. Our family speaks in a mix of languages, uses a mix of currencies and lives in a variety of countries but we are one – a family. I still have nieces in France, I have in-laws in Italy, I have nieces and nephews in Denmark...etc etc

My earliest memories are of a fascination with the different and the exotic. I would listen to languages I didn't know or understand, I would look at the people arriving from far-off continents in wonder and imagine their life stories, desperate to befriend them. I started school at a time before there were many immigrants in the suburbs of Glasgow. When the first Pakistani child joined my class around the age of eight, I was drawn to him. I wanted to know all about his life, where he was from, what he ate – he represented a world waiting to be discovered and I was avid to learn.

We never went abroad when I was a child so I was thirteen before I left these shores. I can still remember thirteen year old me mounting the steps of the hovercraft on Ramsgate beach in the summer of 1981. I felt like an astronaut on a trip to the moon. As everyone else discussed their mundane holiday plans around me and shouted at their squabbling kids, I sat with tears in my eyes as I achieved the first step in my life's ambition. I was going to go to mainland Europe. We stopped at a very basic café in France and ordered plain lettuce with vinaigrette (by accident!) and as my parents and brother moaned about it, I sat analysing the presentation, the taste, the newness, the wonder of lettuce in vinaigrette! I'm not sure any of them ever fully understood my obsession with Europe and the world, maybe I was just always the oddball of the family, but I was a happy oddball.

As a student I moved to Italy, then France, then Germany. I was never going to be confined to Scotland. I always assumed even at a young age that I would probably retire to France.

Nor was I ever going to marry a Scottish boy and stay here. I was always going to fill my house with the exotic, the new, the colourful. Not to disappoint, I even did it twice! Even I didn't see that coming! I once overheard Marcel's mates discussing me. They were mid-teens and he was explaining my first husband had been French and my second Danish – 'Did your mum just, like, shag her way round Europe, then?' they laughed - you've got to love the bluntness of teenagers. No, I didn't but I had a love affair with Europe and I am still having it today.

And for that reason, tomorrow fills me with a depth of dread and despair that I cannot even put into words. All the hatred and lies printed on a daily basis about these immigrants, in an attempt to stoke hatred, to split 'them' and 'us' fills me with anger and at the same time crushes me to the point I can't open a newspaper any more. I know the EU needs to evolve and could do with a bit of tweaking from the inside but leave it? I never imagined in my wildest dreams, until about three or four years ago that that possibility would be raised in my lifetime, or in my kids'. To me there is no them or us, there is just all of us.

To me voting to leave would be denying my kids' right to exist – every one of them exists because people like Thomas and people like André were free to come here and work. Because I was free to go there and work.

Tomorrow they cannot vote to legitimize the lives they already lead. Tomorrow it doesn't matter that Thomas and I have spent seven years bringing money into the country through the international company we set up. It doesn't matter that his children are UK citizens, he can't vote for their future. And what information does he have about his or our life thereafter? None. Unless you are related to an EU citizen, it may have escaped your notice but there is no information about what happens after a brexit vote. There is nothing official, just silence. There are a lot of 'oh of course they can't throw you out', 'oh of course you'll still be allowed your healthcare, schooling, bank account, child benefit...' but there is no information at all and I suspect that is because good old Boris's actual plan is let's wait and see. Let's wait and see if the other EU countries start repatriating the UK immigrants, let's wait and see if they start making the UK immigrants take out hefty insurance policies for healthcare, let's see if they bar them from benefits, let's see if France decides to play tough to keep their internal politics and the possibility of Marine le Pen at bay by making an example of the UK and then let's decide. Do you fancy living in that limbo? Do you like the idea of settling down somewhere and starting a family and then having someone change the rules of the game 14 years down the line? Can you imagine that?

So I don't need to say what I'm voting tomorrow but I can say that the rug has been pulled from under my feet, the wind taken from my sails and I will never fully recover from this blow, whatever the outcome I waken up to on Friday. I will never feel fully safe again.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Eight years and two months later

Retaking (more or less) a photo after a passage of time can be very sweet. Here are Anna and Thomas, first in April 08, then in June 16...