Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Anyone for poo?

Sometimes it is the one-liners that get you. Looking at the world through seven year old eyes never ceases to amuse!

A post shared by Phyllis Buchanan (@phylbuc) on

Applying for PR

I doubt many of you will have even heard of PR (permanent residency in the UK) but if you have a close friend or family member that have led to your joining the Facebook groups: Forum for eu citizens (the3million) or UK citizenship eu nationals CEN, then you will probably have heard of nothing else since last July.

It used to be that no EU nationals applied for this piece of paper as they were allowed under EU law to work and live here indefinitely without it. It is a document aimed at migrants from places like the US or similar. Technically, until the UK leaves the EU it is still not required, and ironically, given it comes under EU law, it may not even be valid after Brexit. But the important fact is that you cannot apply for UK citizenship unless you already have Permanent Residency status, so many of the 3 million EU citizens who have been living here for decades are desperately clambering to get it and thereafter citizenship to stop the government being able to deport them in 2019 when the Brexit negotiations are due to be completed.

The process seems to be that you apply after being in the country for five years for Permanent Residency which seems to cost just under a hundred pounds, then you need to sit a language test (even if you have lived here for the whole of your life (which is the case for some EU passport holders, even if you have a degree in English from a non-UK uni, even if you work as an English translator or interpreter or you happen to lecture in say English Lit at Oxford - yes it is that absurd!) To put it in perspective, if you know me - Thomas is obliged to sit it! After knowing him fifteen years I can actually tell you every mistake he's made in English in my presence as they number fewer than the fingers on one hand. Even as a dictionary consultant who wrote his Masters thesis in English before moving here, Thomas is not exempt!

Of course, you get to pay for the privilege of sitting that too and finally you then have to take the Life in the UK test. Without beating about the bush, it is also a piece of nonsense... I am no more likely to be able to pass it than Thomas is as it is full of obscure historical facts and quotes from poems that may well be part of the ordinary English school curriculum but definitely are not part of the Scottish one! They ask questions about health and schooling and law - all of which are different up here, so if you are bright, you simply have to memorize a long list of meaningless facts to jump through a ridiculous hoop.

If you have been living here since the turn of the millennium, always working and sending your kids to the local school, you should probably be given a bye into the next round but that's been ruled out for two reasons as far as I can see - it would reduce the stress levels of the foreigner who has to sit it (and we can't be having them feel secure and comfortable in the place they used to consider as home - that just wouldn't do at all) and it would mean less money for the treasury, because these two obligatory but meaningless hoops cost the EU citizen another £150.

So already you are up at £250 before you can apply for citizenship which can set you back more than a thousand pounds itself. (In our family that is bad enough but in some families everyone, including the kids, is having to apply so we're talking £1000+ per person!) It's not a bad little money spinner for the government to suddenly require 3 million people take these tests, but I'm sure that's not why they aren't clarifying people's statuses...

Of course, back to PR - if you fill the (up-to-recently 85 page form, that wants details of every trip home to a wedding or stag weekend since the year dot, payslips and utility bills (God forbid they're in your wife's name) till you're drowning in them etc incorrectly), if you omit a p60 from 5 years ago, if you didn't take out CSI - that's private health insurance to you and I - during the week you were off on paternity leave seven years ago (and that no one knew was mandatory till they started applying for PR!) then your application is rejected, your qualifying five years reset to zero and your £70 not refunded. You are simply sent a rejection with no explanation. I have seen some applications rejected because they were sent in with a legally signed and certified photocopy of the bearer's passport giving the reason that they were unable to furnish them with the original as they needed to commute back and forth to say France on business or to visit a sick relative and couldn't be without their passport for four to six months. Thomas would certainly not feel comfortable handing his passport in indefinitely - it is only three years since his mum's stroke meant he'd to fly to Italy with less than two days warning. But nope - there are no excuses - all passports must be surrendered for as long as they want to look at them. The form itself is cumbersome, contradictory and woolly to say the least. The paperwork weighs up to 5kg in some cases. Only originals of everything - because let's  face it - who doesn't keep that ferry receipt from a shopping weekend in France twelve years ago in case some nutjobs vote you out the EU based on a bucket-load of lies a decade down the line AND the government implements some new rules retrospectively?

And that's for the lucky ones who actually might qualify. If you haven't worked five years, you can't even apply. Last week I read about a Frenchwoman who'd come 15 years ago, worked 4.5 years before going on maternity leave, her baby (a UK citizen born here with an English dad) was born disabled so she gave up work to be the carer of a disabled UK citizen. Not eligible - because the 4.5 years is all that counts! It makes you want to scream at the computer on a daily basis as each new member recounts their own nightmare scenario!

On a daily basis I am seeing people who've been here 20, even 30 years having their applications rejected on technicalities. They moan to their friends who assure them that everything will be just fine as long as your married to a UK citizen - well it won't. Having a UK partner, husband, wife or even UK citizen kids counts for nothing at all in this country thanks to May's delightful rules. You just have to read the non-EU rules this week to see what we're talking about. It does not matter at all what your spouse's earning potential is, if you are under-employed because of redundancy or similar - tough! This ruling prices 40% of the UK out of being able to marry a non-EU partner and let's face it - two years from now, all those EU spouses are potentially in exactly the same boat.

So Thomas and I looked into PR at first but we've both concluded individually and together that we see no reason to pander to their nonsense. He came here, exercising his EU citizen rights, not as a migrant, not as an immigrant but as an EU citizen working in an EU country. If that country decides to impose £1500+ bills on every EU citizen who has come here in good faith and settled many years ago, then let them seek us out, let them deal with three million 85-page application forms and 15 million kilos of paperwork. I think they are forgetting that the very people who made that move are the outward-looking, internationalists who cannot reasonably see a future in a closed, xenophobic, peripheral and pitiful state. Many people seem relieved at last when they've jumped through the last hoop and emptied their hard-earned pockets into the coffers of the treasury, but to be honest PR doesn't interest us because if this isolationist, hard-line Brexit becomes a reality and Scotland doesn't manage to find an escape route, then I can see no future for our kind of family here.

Neil Hilborn

I caught this on Facebook the other night. How can so much emotion be conveyed in less than three minutes? You laugh, you cry, you feel his pain, you get a glimpse into his mental health issues, you live his anxiety and at the end, the last two lines actually make you gasp as a coldness comes across your whole body. I dare you not to feel it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Press and journalism

Yesterday was 'One day without us' here in the UK... not that you would know it, given 95% of the UK press didn't cover it but if you speak other languages, you might have caught it on the news in France or Germany or elsewhere as the foreign press did get round to mentioning. Basically as many EU citizens as had the ability or choice stayed home from work yesterday and gathered outside the Houses of Parliament in London to protest their rights. Many also gathered in other town centres when London was too far. Now, it wasn't as if the BBC wasn't in the area as they did cover the anti-Trump protest which also took place in London yesterday, they just happened to underplay the EU protest.

It is interesting to watch the deflated atmosphere amongst the EU citizens involved in the protest today - noticeably on the Facebook forum 'the3million' - a site dedicated to supporting EU national in the UK during the fiasco that is Brexit. They thought that if they protested in their thousands, they couldn't be ignored. I was, of course, completely expecting that they would indeed be ignored.

As a supporter of Scottish Independence, I have become a hardened cynic to the ways of the press over the years. There are many reasons for why I am in favour of indy... Firstly, I had predicted as early as 2013 that the UK might drag us out of the EU, and for me in my international family, that isn't an option. But I also simply want to live in the socially-caring and inclusive, internationalist, non-xenophobic country Scotland aspires to be rather than the current UK which is turning its back on all those things I hold so dear. I want investment in the NHS and free education to nurture the brightest lights of the next generation rather than these basics being run down and privatized. But those are the reasons you hear at pro-Indy meetings - both political and non-political while the press try always to tar us as blood and soil right-wing xenophobes rather than civic nationalists. They claim we're anti-English, when half the Women for Indy group I belong to are English-born! They just want to move towards the Scandinavian model of society and away from the Imperialist one we are slipping towards. We'd love nothing more than the English who are dismayed at the current state of affairs moving up and joining us Scottish, English and Europeans who are fighting for a better future.

I have been to countless demos, marches and protests over the last five years that have failed to be mentioned in the mainstream press. I have stood outside the BBC building singing my heart out in crowds of 1000+ in peaceful protest only to have them deny we're there or at the very most credit us with being a small but violent crowd of a hundred evil Nat men - often when the crowd is mainly couples, kids, disabled people, pensioners, babies and none is carrying anything to identify them as a 'Nat'. (These are typical examples)

I'm not parroting Donald here in a claim that the press actually lies but one thing that has been abundantly clear here over the last few years is that while insignificant things are often reported for their sensation value, other larger things can go completely unreported as it doesn't suit their agenda and their view of the current state of affairs. Let's be truthful about it. The press and importantly the BBC created Brexit. By taking the conscious decision nearly a decade ago to give much more airtime/print space over to to Nigel and his Kipper friends, rather than say, the UK Green party who were just as big if not bigger when Nigel started his almost weekly appearances on Question Time, they scared the Tories into having a Referendum that no one would have mentioned otherwise. Now, by failing to question May's Hard Brexit line, they are again setting the agenda - and this time I exempt the Guardian as it is actually beginning to brave printing many awkward questions that everyone should be asking. See this, this and this in just the last two days.

I don't really understand the plan (if indeed there is one). They can wave their flags and read how great they are but the day the UK falls off a cliff, people will actually notice and start asking why the press and the BBC didn't do its job. When did journalism become more about ratings than about holding people to account? Where other than the Guardian (and the National up here) is anyone asking why we are proceeding without a plan to ruin our children's future? One day the children will ask us what we did to stop the madness and we'll need to have our answers ready!

Guessing the flavour

Brita and Peter came over from Italy for a visit, bringing with them a large bag of assorted Italian sweets. Rather than asking them or us every time they took one, they used their knowledge of other languages to guess what they were choosing each time. It worked fine with caffè, fragola, cappuccino,vaniglia and a few others, but I wish I'd had my phone on movie mode when Léon chose 'salvia e limone' (lemon sage) assuming it was simply a lemon boiled sweet - he was beyond appalled and stopped short at washing his mouth out with soap to recover! Lol.

Ten years on

Ten years ago. I always liked this photo. I don't think anyone had ever looked at me like that before and I'd never have known, had someone not taken it.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Omg. Amaia made this video for Charlotte ( who's going to Nicaragua to do some charity work in the summer ). Isn't it the sweetest thing ever?  I just love her pronunciation of a country she has never heard of till now.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


We've sat through a good couple of weeks now of people in the UK frothing at the mouth at the sheer cheek of Donald Trump to ban US inhabitants who are legally living in the States with their green cards from re-entering the country. He's basically said that although they have obtained the legal right to work there, he will fight against their right to be there.

Last night these UK MPs took a similar view. They voted against protecting the rights of EU citizens who have come legally to this country, bought houses, paid taxes, had children and have been here for up to forty years. They claim, of course, that they want to use them to bargain with other EU governments. They aren't against their rights, they just want to wait and see. But this implies, of course, that there are circumstances where it would be ok in their eyes for these citizens to be removed from the UK. It would be ok to deport people who live and work here and whose children are UK citizens. There are circumstances where it would be ok to split a family up by deporting an EU spouse of a UK citizens. Every one of those spouses with UK citizenship, every one of those UK-passport holding children will remember this list (and the one below it of those who think people deserve to carry on living the life they have made for themselves legally), for a very, very long time. They will enter Brexit talks with 27 nations hoping to become close friends and allies with the ex-EU states having shown utter disdain for the expat communities from those countries and their families. I've never seen such poor judgement and hypocrisy.

And I'll leave you with this from the chamber yesterday - from real opposition to the current government.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Whitelee photo competition

It's funny - I assumed they would be looking for something atmospheric so entered my best shots of the farm and then as an after thought I put in a few of the kids playing there, never for a moment thinking they were actually going to use cute to sell it as a tourist destination. :-)

Here are some of my other photos that I thought were good.

I've now bought the paper newspapers (where available) and they have different headlines - no guessing needed as to which was Amaia's favourite!