Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What a sight!

Hahaha - you see the funniest sights sometimes! Léon's 'furloughed' from his dishwasher job at the local restaurant at the moment because it is only doing takeaway. Desperate for some income, Thomas has given him some gardening jobs, but to keep out the climate (it's 2 degrees today), he's out digging, dressed up like some seriously dodgy bank robber, and that's without even mentioning the cute 'glasses on the outside' of the ski mask and headphones for music!

Thomas's haggis


Last year we brought haggis back from Scotland at New Year for our Burns supper, but between Covid banning us from travel and Brexit banning us from bringing any food into the EU, I'd assumed our annual haggis-fest was off and off for good... I should have realised who I was married to! Ready to content myself with a plate of neep mash (bought in the immigrant bazar!) on Monday, Thomas suddenly decided that making haggis from scratch was far from daunting. I was dubious, but having tasted the end product I have to say I'm impressed. It was slightly too salty compared to the shop ones and a little less greasy but had I been served it at a Burns supper in Scotland, I would have been in no doubt as to what I was eating. It definitely isn't the worst haggis I've ever had so I think with a tweak or two, we might just have found a way round Brexit... it's just another on a long list of things that we won't need to get from the UK going forward.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Finally a plus

Charlotte is of course loving getting to be in Madrid for a year but it isn't how she would have chosen it to be. She wanted to travel round and see the whole of Spain because she only really knows Madrid, but has been forbidden to cross out of Madrid region since she got there at the beginning of September because of lockdown restrictions. She hasn't been able to meet the Spanish friends she has, nor has she had the opportunity to make new ones, outside her own household. All the festivals she wanted to attend have been cancelled, she was in Madrid at the turn of the year but the main square was closed to the public and yesterday's January 6 parade was off too. She doesn't even know what her pupils look like as they are all hidden behind masks. And any hope she might secretly have had of picking herself up a Spanish partner is definitely out the window if she'd have to try chatting them up with a two metre gap!!

But today she finally got one up on the last decade's assistants. It is snowing in Madrid centre for the first time since 2009 and she's skipping around like a six year old texting me in capital letters no less about how happy she is to get to see palm trees in the snow. And with -12 forecast overnight all weekend, she might get to take some more cool pics yet! 

Brexit propaganda


So this hideous little thing just dropped into my letterbox. Apparently getting this flimsy black piece of shit was worth billions in red tape and removing the rights of freedom of movement from a generation. This particular specimen is owned by one of my kids, so he has a spare passport up his sleeve in a more acceptable burgundy shade, which means his own freedoms have not been removed but that get out of jail card sadly isn't open to most of his contemporaries. Not that they care, but I don't think your average Brexiteer has any idea how appalling this document is to people like us. It's an interesting way of torturing people, almost reminiscent of Dante's Inferno - take the people who love most to travel, those who are the most open to other peoples, cultures and worlds and force them to show the one piece of paper that epitomises Brexit, every single time they manage to escape the insular madhouse for a breath of fresh air. You really need to be some sort of sadistic bastard to come up with that one.😠 I know it is only a passport, but I am struggling to articulate quite how offensive it is to me, because of what it represents. I'll be making sure that all my kids travel on their EU documents going forward so only I need to feel the shame. And as soon as 2025 comes round I'll jump through any hoop the Danish government sets before me to gain my own dual nationality and have my rightful EU citizenship restored.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Corona masks and snow

Denmark was one of the last countries to adopt masks. We didn't require them in shops, schools or elsewhere during our first, and by European terms, rather short lockdown between March and May. So my first time in a mask was probably on the Ryanair flight to Italy in late July. Anyone who tried a mask in Southern Europe at the height of summer knows they were rather hot and stuffy! 

Since autumn, they've been increasingly required here, first on public transport and now in shops too so I always have one in my pocket and I can tell you that that might always be the case going forward, at least in my winter coats, because they are really quite pleasant indeed when the snow is driving into your face on a winter walk!

Birthday tree

I remember growing up in Glasgow - my gran was quite a superstitious woman... aka mad as a brush. Many traumatic Hogmanays were spent on our knees scrubbing her kitchen floor with a 5cm square sponge because 'woe betide anyone who starts a new year with a dirty house!' And even suggesting leaving the Xmas tree up beyond the 12th night would have caused her to run for a bottle of Valium, I expect! 

I usually get our tree up around December 18 because Anna's birthday is December 19, and take it down on January 5 or 6. Anyone who knows my family can probably spot the obvious issue with that... the girls' birthdays are: Anna on December 19, Lots on January 4 and Amaia on January 11. The removal of the tree five days before her birthday every year often leads to mass protesting and a multitude of 'it's not fairs', but I've stuck to my guns, not out of superstition, but because my old dining room was small and Thomas always bought big trees so I was twitchy and claustrophobic by January 6 (or by 2 hours after he put it up, if you want the honest truth)! 

This year she's been extra pleady, presumably because Xmas wasn't like it should have been - no Charlotte, no Marcel, no Granny, no cousins, aunties or uncles. I may have the biggest tree I've ever had, but I also now have much bigger rooms and given we sawed this one down, it hasn't even started drying up or shedding needles yet. I was in two minds till yesterday, when our PM announced a new lockdown including no socialising and therefore online school on Amaia's birthday, so I'll be telling her tonight over dinner that as a special ONE-OFF treat, she can have the tree kept up till the day after her birthday this year! Hopefully she'll be happy with that!

Monday, January 04, 2021

21 today! (Aka the millennium baby turns 21)

Just to prove that things never turn out quite as you may have imagined them, and yet they work out fine for all that!

If you'd told me at this moment 21 years ago, as I sat in Glasgow on a snowy morning less than a mile from my beautiful west end flat, that on my then 14 hour old daughter's 21st birthday, I would be living in Denmark, with a husband who wasn't her father, with three more kids, that she would be quarantined in Madrid during a global pandemic eating sushi with a Spanish family who were amongst her closest friends, while her granny, aunt and uncle were in lockdown in Scotland and her then two year old brother would be holed up in Leeds with his English girlfriend and her mother... not to mention that her father would be living in a high rise in Shanghai with a woman she'd never met, who went by the name of Yuan Yuan, I'd probably have asked what you'd been smoking! And yet 21 years and 14 hours on, that is exactly where we are and none of us are any the worse for it, I guess. Yes, dans le meilleur des mondes possibles, I would be with her in Madrid eating the sushi rather than on Messenger watching her eat her breakfast, but I'm sure her day will be memorable all the same, and when we finally get to fly down, we'll do her 21st all over again.

So I wish baby number two the most unusual, unlikely and best 21st possible. Love you lots, Lots and hope to see you soon!

Saturday, January 02, 2021


I wasn't sure whether I was going to blog about Brexit. But I figure that if I don't write about it this week, I am not sure I will be able to capture the essence of its impact on me at some future point down the line...

In the run up to Hogmanay, I wondered how I would be feeling about it all. I strangely imagined it wouldn't affect me, at least not significantly, because I escaped. I was one of the lucky ones. I have long accepted that this is my home and my future now and even if somehow Brexit had been cancelled, we still couldn't seriously consider uprooting the kids and interrupting their education again before they were done with school. I also believed that I'd somehow used up every last drip of Brexit mental energy I had over the last six or seven years, since the idea of a referendum on Europe was first mooted, so I honestly felt I had nothing left to give it. All in all, I thought I would feel sad for my friends, angry for the future denied to their kids, and my own niece and nephews but somehow distant and disconnected.

The effects of Brexit on my life will be so much less than they would have been had I remained at home. I still live in the EU, I even have a route back to an EU passport, albeit a cumbersome one. I need to meet some specific criteria. Firstly, the nine years' residence in Denmark have been commuted to six thanks to my fifteen years with Thomas. On top of that, I need to pass Europe's hardest language for citizenship exam: most countries require A2, or at most B1; Denmark is the only EU country requiring a minimum of B2 for citizenship, so with a pass mark of 02, my GPA of 10 last month has more than ticked that box😁. Some time over the next three or four years I also need to learn all sorts of utter nonsense to pass the citizenship exam. This is simply a a fun way most countries have of torturing foreigners who deign to attempt to integrate. I've tried the UK version which consists of nonsense questions that many UK citizens can't actually answer and the Danish one is the same. Having tried it with various Danish relatives, it is also nonsense, but it is something I will be able to learn rote form and eventually get the bit of paper. After that it is just a question of working a specific number of years and I will have completed the marathon back to where I was three days ago, before my EU citizenship, which I have had since I was five years old, is restored to me and I am once again the owner of an EU passport. So I have a path and I have assured my kids are all safe as they are all dual citizens.

In the run up to Thursday I still felt incredibly ill at ease with the whole thing. I still see no tangible benefit to their madness. I have been so disgusted by their antics over the last few months I am frankly embarrassed to show my UK passport at the border in case it somehow lumps me in with the mad crowd. We've heard the government threaten to starve the Irish into submission, we've had them threaten to and even pass a parliamentary bill to break an international treaty, we've had them pull the rug from under students who are expecting to be starting their Erasmus courses in less than four weeks with some make-it-up-as-you-go-along replacement that simply doesn't have the funding to get off the ground and certainly not in time for many whose courses depend on it. We've seen the government winging it with their Covid vaccine too - going against scientific advice on the four week interval between the two doses in favour of imagining that their new untested twelve week gap will probably, maybe, possibly be ok, if the government crosses its fingers enough and after all, if it isn't, they can always pay a crony or two to hide the results. They have become a laughing stock and at the same time they are no longer funny, but rather sad, mad and out of touch with reality. As Global Britain farcically runs from country to country trying to replicate some vaguely inferior version of a deal that the EU already has with each, it seems to be patting itself on the back at its success, while back home half the country is visibly screaming for help. They know the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Isolationism is their only goal as far as I can see and it makes me angry and sad in equal measures. From a personal point of view I am incredulous. The amount of red tape the UK is landing itself with is unimaginable. I married a Frenchman and then a Dane. Both times we discussed which country to live in in much the same way as a couple would if one was from Glasgow and the other Aberdeen. Should we try one and if it doesn't suit us, try the other? That model was blown out of the water two nights ago. I have a daughter who is currently studying in Madrid. If she meets the love of her life there, her choices are diminished, but they are still open, but if any other student in her class happens also to fall in love, things are going to be so much more complicated for them. Unlike Charlotte, they can't go to Spain to be with their new partner for more than three months, nor can they bring them home with them. So relationships like the ones that have filled up my life from 1985 to 2020 and counting will simply, for the most part, fizzle out before they can begin. Children like mine - multilingual, multicultural and open to the world - will become rarities in the UK as their parents will never have the opportunity to conceive them. And yet my family is amongst the luckiest - my kids can live, love, study and retire to any one of 27 countries. In fact, they can even include the UK, as they have that passport too, but a few changes will need to happen before they consider that.

I awoke on Hogmanay on the verge of tears. Tears of anger, of frustration, of futility. Minutes went by when I busied myself with something else to the point where I could almost forget what was happening and then it would crash over me again like a wave in a storm. I felt incredibly alone, in a strange way too as no one else in the house was going through what I was going through. As the minutes of the day ticked on towards the moment when I, and no one else in the room, would have their EU citizenship forcibly removed, I even felt almost angry at my nearest and dearest because they could not know what it felt like, and I hope to god they never get to find out. As we neared midnight, our time, I was almost glad about the current lockdown for the first time, as it meant I had nowhere to go, no party, no need to be sociable or cheery and there was no need to say 'Happy New Year' because at the instant when everyone here would normally be wishing each other happiness, I was far from happy. As everyone breathed a sigh to leave behind 2020 - the most horrendous year in a century - I wanted to cling to it with all my might because for someone whose entire life has been Europe, losing my citizenship was even worse than 2020. 

Two days on I am still angry, with nowhere to channel that anger but I expect my musings on Brexit are far from over. All I know is that I am safe and so are my kids - those who jumped with us and those back home with their get out of jail free card up their sleeve. I don't know what else I could have done and for now my greatest hope is that I live long enough to see sense return to the country I used to call home.