Friday, August 23, 2019

Danish school stories - a difference

Here's an interesting observation from my eldest (schoolchild)...

Most of what I have blogged so far about Danish school seems very positive. Here's one that has positives and negatives. From the beginning of Danish school around the age of six, the kids (where we are anyway - I obviously can't vouch for any other parts of the country) are issued with tablets (with keyboards) to do all their school work on. At twelve, this is swapped for a laptop. 90% of their written work is done on screen, much as it is in the adult world. Léon is finding the knock-on effect interesting.

Yesterday, they were brainstorming something in groups and one child was in charge of writing it up on a flipchart. Léon said watching the speed at which the kids write by hand was excruciating. A kid named Frederick had been nominated for a task and as the chart operator slowly printed the name F-r-e-d-e-r-i-c-k on the paper, Léon wondered if he was actually going to reach the 'k' before the weekend! Léon had been taking some notes in his standard (cursive) handwriting and the kids were both in awe at the speed he writes and completely incapable of reading any of the words he had written down! Both Anna and Amaia have also said the writing in their classes looks like it belongs to much younger children and Amaia says her classmates are completely gobsmacked by her (also cursive) writing skills.

Now, of course, as adults they will only ever write for themselves so this is fine but maybe (if the UK actually sorts out its Brexit mess) UK unis should write somewhere in large letters that kids will struggle to sit the exams if they can't write by hand at a decent speed, because I suspect it wouldn't even occur to Danes that they would be expected to hand-write uni exams in the 21st century!

Strathaven balloon festival

Every year for the last decade I have gone to this... sometimes I have sneaked out alone, other times I have managed to drag the whole family, though for some reason they are less excited by these majestic beasts than me. Anyway, today is the 20th anniversary and unless there is an imminent flight leaving from Bogense to Strathaven, I might be missing this big one. 😢 So, for those of you not in Brexile, please get yourselves along, weather permitting, and send me pics?!?!?

Here's a facebook link.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Watching the car crash

I'm not sure I can find the words to explain how I feel watching the UK at the moment, from the safety of my Danish Brexile... That, despite writing dictionaries for a living since the age of 23... not good.

I thought David Cameron was a reckless idiot, an impetuous, self-important man, who gambled with everyone's future unaware he could lose and then ran for cover when the shit hit the fan. Theresa was tortuous to watch. She juggled and can-kicked, agreed with everyone and no one in an attempt to tread water till the end of time, but my god the last few weeks are beyond belief. We truly had seen nothing yet. With the kids safely back at school and out of earshot, I now find it impossible not to curse and swear my way through the morning news, facebook and twitter. This morning was particularly beautiful so I sat at the outside table for my morning coffee. Birds tweeted, the leaves rustled in the sea breeze. Only the sound of a lone Scottish female shouting 'Just fuck off right now!' or occasionally 'Wanker!' disturbed the idyll.

The amount of grief, terror and devastation most of you who do not inhabit the 3 million facebook group have missed out on this week is indescribable. Monday I woke up to this many cries for help and real deep fear, but also some resignation and determined anger.

This mystical settled status that EU citizens are now required to have and that you originally needed to have by 2021, has been brought forward to eight weeks from now. Only 30% of EU citizens have managed to get it so far, many, especially older ones don't even know they become illegal aliens in their home of 50 plus years (overnight) without it. They haven't applied as they haven't even heard of it. Some can't apply - they stayed home to look after a disabled child, or they let their EU passport lapse as they are too old or frail to travel to their country of origin, they lived in old folks' homes and didn't intend to go anywhere. You can only apply with a valid biometric passport from your country of origin and if you are one of the weirdos who has chosen an Apple phone rather than an Android (don't suppose there are many of those😖), the app hasn't been made available yet so you need to travel in person to one of the physical places you can apply.

I went on the government page just now and put in the postcode KW14 7QU (Thurso), just for fun then asked where the nearest place I, as an 85 year old pensioner from, say France, would need to go for a physical appointment - the government page happily told me, without a hint of irony, that my nearest appointment available was at Edinburgh city chambers - that's five hours and thirty minutes drive away, if the traffic is light. Would you want this to be your granny?

People fear they won't be allowed to use the NHS, despite only working here and their taxes funding the NHS. They are scared if they take their child to casualty they won't be treated once they hear the parent's accent, despite the fact that their child was born in that hospital and has known no other.

People talk about feeling frightened if they speak too loudly in the street in case their accent makes them a target for verbal or even physical abuse. They now tell their kids not to speak their native language outside their homes. My kids are all bilingual and yet they came top in English too. Being able to speak a second language doesn't make you worse at your own, it actually helps.

Little things like being made to queue in a different passport queue from their partner or kids is hurting them deeply. It says they are no longer tolerated and the way they have lived their life till now is to be looked down upon, discouraged and terminated as a model, going forward.

Families are cancelling their Christmas trip home to visit loved ones because they are scared they might not be able to convince the border guards on the return trip that they are eligible to live in their own homes. I was fourteen years into a mortgage when I felt I needed to give up my home to be sure of my future. That was never something I thought I would have to do, simply because of my choice of legal immigrant.

And returning to this settled status... The government is not issuing those who have successfully jumped through their hoops with a form or a card or any other piece of paper. You get an email saying you have been granted settled status that explicitly says it isn't really proof that you have it and no further documents are issued. How insane is that? I was given a medical card as soon as I arrived here in Denmark and a certificate granting me permanent residence, that I can pull out as soon as I'm asked to prove I am eligible for a mortgage. So I can easily prove I am a legal alien, but the UK has introduced a compulsory status with no proof!

So, going forward, you go along to the bank because you want to renew your mortgage fixed rate, you go try to rent a flat, you go to a job interview, you ask for a GP appointment - these people have no guidelines other than to check you have settled status, but when you show them an email on your phone, and they ask for proof, all you can say is that is all you have. They, of course, then decide they are better erring on the side of caution - after all they can be prosecuted for employing, renting to etc an illegal alien. Suddenly the life you've always known, perhaps the only life you've had since you were born in the UK, is up in smoke. You can't 'go back to where you came from' because you've always been here, or it's been twenty years, your partner and kids can't speak the language, you own a house, a car and all the rest. All your friends and family are here not there. Nowhere is home suddenly.

And meanwhile the currency is plummeting so you can't go visit your elderly relatives, even if you are brave enough to attempt the border crossing, because renting a car at home is suddenly too dear, and buying food is too dear. You can't sell up and flee if you reach the end of your tether because every day you wait, the value of what you can escape with decreases. If you stay, you are accepting food and medicine rationing and a government that is anti-you and gives you no vote or say. Feeling forced out of your home was something, we in Europe, thought belonged to another era.

For three years these people, I know because I used to be one, have woken up with an iguana-sized lump in their dry throat, they've immediately reached for the phone to see whether today is going to be one of the days where they are a nobody, which is the better of the two options, or if today they are going to be used as a scapegoat, a punchbag and the object of the sick right wing's hatred. They live Brexit and breathe it every second of every day. It haunts their dreams and it's sitting beside them on the pillow when they waken up. They feel heavy, tied down, as if they have no control over what is happening to their life. And yet, the vast majority of people are completely oblivious to their plight. Even their closest friends, colleagues and workmates think they will probably be fine, after all it was only the foreigners they didn't know that the UK really wanted to throw out. They wonder how long it will be till they hear chants of send her back in the UK?

So Boris is touring Europe with his demands but no plans and is desperately pulling diplomats out of meetings as his only plan now seems to be that he needs to quickly cut as many ties as possible before he's ousted. The more he severs, the harder it is to reattach ourselves. He has no plan other than to wreck. It's like he wants to sell his house for wads of cash, his partner doesn't so he's set it on fire to keep her from staying, forgetting it might also affect the resale price somewhat.

It feels like we EU families are the Tories' play things - they pick us up and shake us every time they need a snappy headline, then drop us for months - we hear nothing and wait on tenterhooks till someone else pulls on our strings... until one day many of us break free of the strings. By their very nature, those EU nationals who are in the UK are there because they had the balls to try something new, to think outside the box, to pull up all their roots and start anew. By our nature, those of us who partner them also do not feel the need to conform. We are willing to split our lives between two places, two languages and two cultures. For the most part we are the resourceful ones who will, when push comes to shove, pick up our skirts, step over the mess and leave. What has already been lost will never be replaced, and we will continue to haemorrhage intelligent, resourceful people as long as they can find a way out.

As a Brit abroad, I feel embarrassed and humiliated by what is happening at home, as well as terrified for the futures of my family and friends. Will sense ever prevail or am I destined to spend my time from this autumn onwards making up food parcels?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Danish school stories of the day #2

Léon has a concert tour of Norway coming up so is having to go straight from school to violin practice. Yesterday was his first day of practice so he took his fiddle with him to school.

At break the kids gathered round and asked what he had in his case. He showed them his violin. They asked for a tune so he played Katyusha, this was the point in his account where his eyes began to gleam...

Mum, within two minutes I had at least 15 girls around me hugging me and telling me how wonderful I was then afterwards, my mate comes up and whispers in Danish - Fuuuuck, mate, I would have learnt violin too if I had known it would turn me into a babe magnet!

He then thanked me profusely for years violin lessons and playing the taxi to Williamwood music school. Lol.

Danish school stories of the day #1

I expect this might be a repeating topic for the foreseeable future.😁

First, I picked up Amaia who came out harrumphing.
Me: How was your day, sweetie?
Amaia: It was ok. But I had RME. (RE in people my age's speak)
Me: Oh was that not fun?
Amaia: It's not that - it's just because I'm still a wee bit shy in Danish, sometimes the people at school think I don't say things cos I don't understand what they are saying but it isn't cos I don't get it - like today - they were discussing christenings and the Christian church, so the teacher goes - put your hand up if you got christened and the minister made a cross on your forehead, so all the kids other than the Muslims and people like that put up their hand and I sat with my arms folded - so some boy shouts 'Amaia, put up your hand!' so I go 'no' and he goes 'Maia, you don't understand, you're meant to put your hand up now' and I turn to him and go I do understand and I don't go to church, my family is atheist and I ask the teacher to explain atheism to the class - she looks a bit worried but says that my family don't believe there's a god, even though they are allowed to. So there! Thinking I didn't understand... harrumph!

Love my girl - adapting to a newish culture isn't going to change her😂

Friday, August 16, 2019

The ever-growing Brexit swamp

Had we still been living in the UK a week ago, our already broken sleep of the last three years would have of course been sent into overdrive by the Tory's decision that Thomas, despite having legally moved to the UK around 20 years ago, despite owning his own home, having British citizen children and owning a UK based company, would have been in the position of having to pay for his NHS treatment from November 1. Late 40s isn't a time in life you want to start looking for expensive health cover, but he would have been deemed ineligible for treatment, despite healthcare being paid for by the tax he pays in the UK and always has done.

Fortunately for the EU citizens based in Scotland rather than the rest of the UK, the Scottish NHS is devolved and separate so the the Scottish government stepped in immediately saying that they would not be implementing the same charging model - phew... So EU citizens living in England would be forced to take out expensive insurance packages and those in Scotland would be spared that indignity.

However, nothing is ever that simple where Brexit is concerned. That got us to thinking of the sheer size of the Brexit quagmire that these knee-jerk, half-baked Tory policies are creating. You see Thomas worked as a dictionary consultant for HarperCollins in Glasgow - no issues, and Scots language dictionaries in Edinburgh - no problem and Oxford university press - wait a minute... So would Thomas have no longer been able to attend Oxford meetings as he couldn't access healthcare in England when he was on a business trip? He could take out holiday insurance I guess but where are the companies offering health insurance for Scottish residents travelling in England? Oh, yeah they don't exist. And what about visiting our son who lives in London? Would that be ruled out too? Answers on a postcard? Anyone?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

School trips

Well, here's a difference between the school back home and here! Léon has been invited to a music school trip - residential, a whole week (so similar to the one he did in 2017 to Lendrick Muir at just under £300). The only difference is this one is abroad - near Oslo, Norway... and the cost is..... are you ready for this? Cos I just about fainted when I saw it, in fact I was so gobsmacked I ran it through a currency converter to make sure I was right - it costs!!!!! Fanfare: £98.52p Fuck! (Oh and Amaia has the option to go along if she fancies!)

English as a foreign language.

The kids have both English and German as 'foreign' languages here, as well as Danish as the native language, of course. Anna brought home her English text book yesterday. A little red-haired girl in tartan trousers standing on a sheep, Eilean Donan castle? I'm intrigued... So I opened it up... We are going to have fun with this!😂

When I mentioned this on Facebook earlier, I was asked why this mattered... It struck me, as a Scottish person, as a really nice change to the usual way of learning English abroad.

As a Scottish person you get so fed up being called English all the time when you're abroad. That might have been difficult to understand in the past but surely now it is quite obvious that being equated with the insular Brexit mob when you were living (as I was till three weeks ago) in an area that voted 74%+ in favour of continued EU membership, it isn't hard to see you want to be seen as separate? As a student I was often asked things like which A levels I had - I was Scottish so hadn't any, I was no more likely to have an A level than a German Abitur!  I remember meeting friends in Konstanz when I studied there and coming home to letters addressed to Phyllis Buchanan, Glasgow, Scotland, England. Let's face it, even most English people don't know Scotland is different - as an example Charlotte is working as an au pair in Madrid at the moment. She met a uni student last week from Manchester (fully 2 hours from Scotland) who didn't know Scotland had a different education system, different exams, different uni entrance application process and longer degrees).

So to see that Scotland is going to be the focus of what Anna's class is learning makes a lovely change. And it is going to be fun to see how we are seen. Who knows - if their English is up to it, I can maybe even go in and give them a wee talk about the real 'Fionas' out there!

I can tell the 'fun facts' are going to be good!