Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy Anniversary to us!

Since I am being a right ranty besom up on my political soapbox most of the time at the moment, I thought I'd share a cute wee video before you all give up on me for good!

You can view the whole of my wedding, eight years ago today (Is it really only eight? It feels like much longer ago - maybe because we lived together so long before marrying, maybe because the kids all look so tiny in it, maybe because of the painful absence of both my beautiful dad and my dear friend Sheina who both look so alive and vibrant in this video, just three years before we lost them both, way too young...) but I thought instead I'd leave you with me making my vows to my best friend - not only because vows are important but because as you can see I was totally eclipsed by the cuteness of little three year old Léon! Never work with children or animals!


How Brexit is buggering up lives - episode #1

I thought, given I'm a member of quite a few EU national support/information groups, it might be interesting to those of you who aren't to see some concrete examples of how Brexit is causing utter and unexpected chaos in the lives of normal people. As I assume I will feel like sharing more than one example of this, I've numbered the above blog post as #1.

So today I am reading through my Facebook feed over coffee, easing myself into the morning as usual when I come across the following scenario. I will anonymize these as knowing the individuals involved is superfluous.

Today's lucky couple are an English man and his French wife in their late 60s. They met and married over 30 years ago. They lived in the UK from the age of 35 - 60 where they raised a family, him working full-time, her part-time to look after their kids. When they retired early, they moved to a little house in France where they have now been living for ten years on his small pension of £10K a year. Since Brexit, the pound has devalued to a point where they can no longer live on his pension in France because they have no money left after paying their mortgage, heating, taxes etc so they feel forced to sell up their dream retirement home and return to the UK because of the exchange rate. They had no intention of returning here so have no property here.

Now here's the shocker (as if the first part wasn't enough). On their return, the 25 years she spent in the UK doesn't count towards obtaining Permanent Residence (it's the same as in this case) as she left again for over six months resetting her 'life in the UK' clock to zero. Of course, given she did this in 2007, she wasn't to know that this would count against her. Once EU immigrants are treated as rest-of-the-world ones are now, her husband will need to reach a specific earning threshold to sponsor a spouse. At the moment that figure is £18600. Given her husband is now retired on just over half that, he doesn't earn enough to bring her in, so although she can perhaps come till Brexit happens, she won't have clocked up the five years necessary for obtaining Permanent Residency by 2019. Having UK citizen kids, grandchildren and an English husband don't count either (as we saw yesterday) so she'll not be allowed to return here permanently with her husband. So already their retirement is completely buggered by losing their home in France but now she realizes that when he returns, she potentially cannot, and, of course, she has no French pension, nowhere to live and her family is in England.

Until the government realizes that the time spent before the break, when people could not foresee this great a change, counts, lives will continue to be devastated. Is this how we really want to be treating married couples nearing their 70s?

Monday, February 27, 2017

You'll be ok, you're married to a UK citizen... (except you won't!)

This morning's Guardian story about a woman being deported to Singapore has left me incensed! I am looking at it, of course, in the context of Brexit. After Brexit, EU citizens revert to being normal immigrants, as far as I can tell, so as you can see from this it makes not one jot of difference if you are married to a UK citizen, nor if you are the mother or grandmother of UK citizens. Only two things matter - that your partner earns over £18600 and that after being granted permanent leave to remain in the UK (after five years meeting criteria one) you don't leave the UK for more than a six month stretch. Of course a majority of these EU citizens would never have chosen to settle here in the first place, had they known their rights could simply be removed decades down the line.

Anyone who moved here before the Tories came to power in 2010 will have had no notion that their status could change, so they moved here with the certainty that if their elderly parent should become ill, they could ask them to move in, or they could take leave of absence to go back to their place of origin to care for them. The main reason this woman seems to have lost her right to remain was because her elderly parents didn't die conveniently within the six month slot allotted to them by the Home Office. Had I been living in Denmark when my dad was diagnosed terminally ill, I would of course have liked to have come home to see him and care for him if necessary. But given he dared to take twenty months to die after being given a three month prognosis, had Denmark been using these rules, I could have been deported as an illegal immigrant.

Thomas moved here in 2002. It never occurred to him that if one day his parents needed him to fly over and care for them, he'd be obliged to leave them to die alone simply to adhere to insensitive immigration rules. That woman had been here 30 years - let that sink in, 30 years and the reason her partner is no longer earning the allotted amount is age and ill health. No one will want to come to the UK if they know that thirty years down the line, their partner losing their job or their parents falling ill can have you thrown out without a second glance. Yes, it will solve the immigrant problem that the Tories perceive exists, but this idea that rules can be change retrospectively and people can never feel safe is beyond inhumane.

So many EU citizens I know are highly qualified academics. They too are falling foul of the five year rule because academics often take a year out at a foreign uni to teach. These academics are now deciding that the UK is not a safe place to have a career because these arbitrary rules leave them and their families too vulnerable. They are choosing to apply to any of the other 27 countries where they can work without worrying about their immigration status. Do we really want our kids to go to mediocre universities because the brightest lights have fled these Draconian immigration loopholes? I certainly don't. I had some wonderful professors at uni who were EU nationals, as does Marcel. My own father-in-law was a German citizen when he started teaching at Aarhus uni (in Denmark), where he became the Dean.

If Brexit goes ahead and Scotland doesn't manage to find an escape route, should my family leave now in case one day I am not earning the required income because, for example, I've retired, and Thomas suddenly finds himself obliged to help a sick relative for one month too many?

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

Mini-Proclaimer



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

Disgusted

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!




Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Life on the roller coaster part 2: It's only a couch...
















I was discussing the level of uncertainty facing mixed EU couples yesterday with my MP (and friend) Kirsten Oswald. She was asking me to describe how it is to be in a situation (ongoing for the last seven months and given every indication coming out of Westminster, continuing to be ongoing indefinitely or at least until 2019).

You don't actually know if your husband will be allowed to stay in the country after 2019, or simply if he'll continue to get the same standard of living afterwards. You don't know if you'll be able to follow him if he's sent away as your right to travel will be revoked at the same time as his.

Even if they let me travel, what becomes of the oldest of my three youngest children at Brexit point? The two oldest are over 18 in 2019 so can decided themselves, as dual citizens of UK and France, where to live, the two youngest can go or stay as they too are dual citizens of UK and Denmark, but what of the child of my first marriage who will be 14 at that point. Yes, he too is a dual national so can leave on his French passport, but until he's 18, only his French father can get him a French passport and needs to sign documentation allowing him to leave. I have no contact with him and he hasn't seen his father since 2012. If I had to bet my mortgage on him helping us out if I was to track him down, I'd bet he'd refuse to help us. Some divorces are sadly like that. So do I get to wait home with him till he turns 18 while the others all live abroad? (Not in this home of course because I can't pay for that alone...)That's fairly stressful as situations go, isn't it?

I worry too what will happen to my two student children in 2019. If I actually get to leave and they are part way through their course, are the still UK citizens as over 18s who always lived here or will they suddenly be charged the full £16K a year because mum moved abroad? No one seems to know. These questions are huge and because it hasn't happened before, no one can answer them. You're just supposed to get on with life as usual as if nothing is happening.

Thomas talks about applying for the right to remain but my gut feeling is why would you beg and grovel to stay a place that doesn't want you and where your children will be cut off from the rest of the continent where people potentially celebrate differences better...

I, then, as a light note and to add some humour to our chat, mentioned to Kirsten that my TV room couch was a bin case! It's so insignificant on the scale of things that are worrying me, but look at it! The TV room is a little den, if you like, not a living room and as such a normal three piece suite doesn't fit. Ikea sells a corner couch (Friheten - ironically in this case means Freedom in Swedish! (something I feel we have all too little of at the moment)).

This would be a perfect replacement for that mess we're sitting on. It's legs are loose so it wobbles. It looks like the cat's got it (except we don't have a cat). But we're not buying it. Spending £400 on something that fits a room in our current house seems meaningless at the moment as we don't know how long we'll be allowed to stay here. We don't know how far we'll have to take all our furniture and we don't know when £400 might become a matter of life and death. That is the reality of what's happened to us and the three million other families like us in the UK at the moment. It's funny that the big questions could overwhelm but somehow it was the simple, matter-of-fact way that I mentioned we wouldn't be buying a new couch that really brought it home to her, how precarious this situation feels (and I didn't even show her this picture!). Sometimes the small things can be larger than the big ones.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Live from the House of Commons...


Despite bobbing throughout the whole debate on the EU Nationals amendments to the Brexit Bill, myself and six other SNP colleagues were not called to speak. 
want our EU friends and neighbours in East Renfrewshire to know that I stand with them, so I have recorded my speech anyway.
The UK Govt must see sense, and start treating people as people,mans confirm their right to stay.



I would like to thank my friend, and MP for spending the entire day in the House of Commons today trying to have my case heard and for going to the trouble of recording her speech for everyone to see when she was denied the right to give it in the House because of time constraints.

It is easy for those in charge of the Tory party to sit daily saying we are overreacting and nothing has changed in our situation (as yet anyway). But realistically who sits and wonders without a care in the world when the status of their partner is being changed after what will be 17 years in the country (despite him not having a vote on the matter) from legal EU resident to 'rest of the world immigrant' - a status which usually involves specific earnings thresholds, specific paperwork, visas and all sorts?

I don't realistically believe there will be mass deportations - that would lead to too many bad headlines - well in some of the press at least. Maybe fathers being ripped from the arms of their children and thrown onto a boat or plane would be celebrated by Express readers and similar... But insidious changes are not beyond the likelihood with a government like this. Maybe he'll need to suddenly find hundreds of pounds a month for health insurance but of course as an asthmatic (I think it's called having a pre-existing condition in the US - a lovely euphemism for please empty you bankbook into our account now) maybe he won't even be insurable... Would you live in a country where as a tax-payer you used to get healthcare, but now don't?

We've also heard ideas being flung around like fining companies £1000 for using an EU worker instead of a British one. This is particularly awful for consultants like my husband - he works for many different clients/employers every year, not one, so suddenly will all the work dry up even if he can stay? Like everyone our mortgage is based on two incomes, not just on mine so losing his would leave us homeless. So don't tell us we are worrying unnecessarily and nothing has changed. Everything has changed.

People are already leaving and yes, it'll look great for the government's headline immigration figures but only until we realize we can't attract the right calibre of teachers, lecturers, vets, specialized doctors and so on any more. No one in their right mind who isn't already here and in this mess will apply, and anyone without ties is fleeing already. Interestingly on the EU forum on facebook many, many people who are trapped here because their kids are at the wrong point in their education to change language are all planning an exodus to Dublin. If I was the Irish government I'd actually be beginning to worry about the size of the possible influx they could see over the next couple of years.

The government actually believes that letting in the right kind of people will work. Imagine I'm a Belgian vet (90% of abattoir vets in the UK are EU nationals and the entire meat industry relies on them certifying meat hygiene.) From now on if I apply to work here I am not sure my status will be guaranteed, I am not sure my partner will be able to join me or allowed to work, I am not sure if the people of the UK will be racist towards me, I can see from the drop in the exchange rate that what I would earn would be 20% lower when converted back into my national currency than it would have been last May. You as the UK government are going to have to offer me 30-40% more than I would earn in Germany, France or the Netherlands to have any chance of me even considering applying. Is May really planning that kind of financial incentives? on what budget?

It's an absolute bloody mess.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Life on the roller coaster part 1

I haven't been blogging as much as I used to for the past six months. I keep thinking to myself that I'll get back to it once I feel normal again. But I'm beginning to suspect normal is a thing of the past and that if I wait till my mood stabilizes, no one will be hearing much from me at all this side of 2020, so maybe the solution is to inflict my daily ups and downs on the world in lieu of sitting waiting on mental stability.

I have, of course, mentioned Brexit once or twice but not the full roller coaster ride it is providing on a weekly basis. I don't think going through the emotions chronologically really works. Then you end up with a mundane list of: that week I was almost ok, that week I was bloody angry and that week I hid under the duvet and cried a lot, that week every time I looked at Facebook or Twitter I panicked, that week I spent on the Internet researching international house prices...

Well that's an interesting starting point actually to get an idea of the state of mind of those of us in a mixed marriage at the moment...

It must have been a fortnight or so ago. Every piece of news was gloomier than the next, Trump was compounding everything and that embarrassment of a woman was on the first plane over to fall at his feet, humiliating us in the process. Thomas was working away from home that day - those days are always the worst for dark thoughts.

So I procrastinated at the computer starting in Dublin. I wondered what the price of a five bedroom equivalent house is in Dublin - I could be in the EU there, so could Thomas and the kids could continue their schooling in English. An hour later I had concluded, without even checking what constituted a decent school, that there were only about two houses with five bedrooms that I could afford if I sold mine, so I went back to the drawing board.

Copenhagen, of course, drew the same blank... of course the kids would be fine there at school but we need a lot of space and space is dear in Copenhagen, so where now?

My head turned to the French German border... I have lived there before, Thomas is a fluent German speaker and theoretically I could live either side of that border, though of course I'd prefer the opposite side to Thomas. The kids would have a bit of a learning curve on the schooling front but it wouldn't be unimaginable... I soon found we could afford a house this size or even bigger significantly cheaper than this one, so my mood brightened until of course it hit me for the zillionth time that although the other six members of my family would be allowed to go, seventeen million people had voted to imprison me on this effing island for all eternity. I was raging, and inconsolable in five minute bursts for the rest of the afternoon.

I think slowly over the last six months I have gone from hating what they did to my husband, potentially leading to him being thrown out of his home country, the place where he has a job and a family, a car and a mortgage, to realizing that actually he still has 27 potential home countries, I'm the prisoner. I go over and over in my head, beating myself up despite being a 'je ne regrette rien' type of girl, usually at least... why didn't I take out French nationality with my first husband when I had the chance? Because this was never going to happen - that's why!!! I try somehow to convince the Danes I deserve a Danish passport, though I know that is harder. Denmark needs you to prove you have a deeper connection to there than here, which is kind of difficult when we met here and live here. Technically, I guess, if he gets deported that might become a more obvious argument! In a panic I check the French rules and realize if I just live there two years, I can apply for citizenship as the mother of a French minor, but that means leaving before article 50 and simultaneously Charlotte needs me here as she's sitting Highers in four months - it's all one colossal, fucking, never-ending nightmare.

Then I fall apart again. I got divorced at 37. I restarted my life from scratch. I took out a new mortgage though I was thirteen years into the first one. Rebuilding everything, though it was the right decision, was tiring and I can't honestly face restarting again at 49, as that is the age I turn on Saturday. It's hopeless. Thomas too restarted his life at 30 in a new country. We're fifteen years down the line and he too would find restarting an uphill struggle. If we're both exhausted at the thought then how can we find the strength to force it on the kids? Worse still, two will be at uni and three at school at Brexit point. We can't break up a family. But if the country follows this suicidal hard vision of the Tories, we owe it to the kids to get them out and plead with the older ones to join us after their studies because there will be no future in Scotland for them if we're dragged along. It is my duty to do what's best for my kids, and that surely means giving them a future. But how? How do you start again at 49 and 45 with nothing, and no jobs and two of your kids in another country, worrying about your mum who you've left behind? I slump to the floor again in self-pity.

Later that night Thomas, always more optimistic than me, puts on an Icelandic drama to cheer me up. And there it is! Reykjavik! A sudden light bulb moment - we frantically google the exchange rate and find a rather fetching bright red B&B for sale (a bit like this) in central Reykjavik for about £300K - two problems solved - an affordable house and a job! Ok so I can only recognize maybe 5% of Icelandic words but how hard can it be? Thomas studied old Norse twenty years ago! I dream of that escape for another couple of hours before bumping back down yet again on my nasty little roller-coaster as I waken in the middle of the night to realize once again the family have all been forced out but I can't join them. Cold sweat time in the wee small hours. I'm tired of it all... and it hasn't even started yet.

So this is my day to day life since last June. It is exhausting. So who knows what Life on the roller coaster part 2 will be  - maybe one of my angry days - they're fun to watch and expletive-filled, or maybe it'll be one of my optimistic ones, or perhaps something unrelated on one of the few days where I almost push it out my mind. Time will tell, but I suppose it's better than just blogging it in my  own head.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Rhyming exercises


Thomas was asking me earlier about this video. I was sure I had blogged it last March when I filmed it but it turns out I'd simply been discussing it on Facebook with some Danish friends. The generic homework occasionally given across the UK (despite there being two completely separate education systems overseen by totally different authorities) sometimes makes my brain hurt. A Scottish child will learn nothing whatsoever from this exercise. All they will take away from it is a vague sense of amusement. If more targeted material was written for them pointing out areas of confusion that occur in their accent, they could actually learn something more pertinent! Sigh.