Thursday, October 27, 2022
Having been at his school, with the same English teacher now for 18 months, Léon decided she was probably up to speed with his Glasgow accent enough that he could stop enunciating quite so much when answering her questions. Asking him something today in the passing, he mumbled the reply 'Naw!' She looked blank, he repeated himself, she looked even more blank. She crossed to the board and wrote down four letters... Is this what you are saying Léon? she asked. He looked up and couldn't help but laugh when faced with the word 'GNAW' hahahaha. Think he'll need to go mid-Atlantic for a while longer!
I'm just back from a week in London visiting my son, his girlfriend and their flatmate who have been working there for the last three years. The visit was meant to have taken place years ago but what with Covid, boob ops and my mum's recent death, it didn't materialise till now.
I hadn't actually been to London since 2010. When you have family abroad, holidays don't tend to send you in that direction, though now my family abroad is London, I guess I'll be there more often in the future.
Visiting London post-Brexit is fascinating. As someone whose main friend and family group is based in Scotland, the decline in the UK is glaringly obvious when I go back home. There are more pot holes, more empty shelves, products are dearer or missing, the immigrant shops have closed down, you rarely hear foreign languages in the street any more, the high streets are full of empty retail units, homelessness is on the increase. My daughter, who's in 5th year at Glasgow uni, tells me about the chronic lack of student accommodation to the point that the uni actually messaged people the week before uni started to say that students who hadn't yet found a room should not turn up! (what exactly is that meant to mean if you are half way through a degree?), uni staff members who don't show up till a course is half way through as their work visa hasn't come through yet. Charlotte's six or seven weeks into a course that is yet to receive both a native French speaker and a native Catalan one. I could go on...
London is still a wonderful, vibrant, reasonably well-functioning place! The shops around Marcel's area are still all in use, you hear ten different languages in the space of one tube ride, you can still buy Polish products if you so desire, the roads are in a better state etcetc If you live in London, you could be forgiven for thinking that Brexit has not changed the standing of the UK and given the MPs with the power to do anything about it all live in London 90% of the time, I have to sadly conclude that it will be a long time before the penny drops and they realise that one city cannot support a country of nearly 70 million people. I will never stop being angry and I will never stop mourning the country that used to be so welcoming.
Still, like in Glasgow, the house prices there, as far as I can see, are becoming even more unrealistic than they already were. Marcel and Milly have spent just shy of a half million on a quarter of an old house in Streatham. It is lovely and has great potential but is in need of modernisation but at half a million, it is pricing most young people out of the area. I can see walking around Streatham and Brixton that the people who live there could not afford to move there now, so I'm not sure where their kids will go as they grow up and leave home. Could you afford to pay over 2 million for this house?
It feels slightly like the whole city is on a knife edge and things could suddenly take a turn for the worse when the economy fails to live up to the expectations that have been set for it. I hope I am wrong, given I'd hate to see a housing crash where my child has bought a house.
We were actually there the day the lettuce ousted Truss and within a few streets of Westminster. We wandered over to watch developments in Downing street. There were fifty or so protesters, but for the most part life was going on as usual. Shanghai TV actually stopped and interviewed me, asking whether I thought a change of Prime Minister would solve the UK's problems. I managed both to keep my face straight and to refrain from shouting 'Are you fucking kidding me?' I said that in my humble opinion even a change in government wouldn't solve things given the opposition is so terrified to admit Brexit was a wrong move or prepare people for the reality of the hole they are actually in. The guy almost rubbed his hands together in glee as he filmed the footage, so I guess that was the angle he was looking for.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
I have three kids living here in Denmark. All three have lived their whole life with me and Thomas, all three have grown up hearing Danish at home, celebrating odd things like Fastelavn and eating klejner at Xmas. All three sound completely Danish and are somewhere near the top of their class. Unless you have a conversation with them in English and suddenly hear their Glasgow accents, you cannot guess they haven't been here always. Léon, unlike the girls who have picked up standard boring Danish accents, speaks in the local dialect, with a rather Funen accent and I am often asked if he has ever left our island. Some aren't even sure he's ever left Stillebæk! There is only one thing that differentiates my three kids and that is their citizenship. Where Anna and Amaia have Danish and British passports, Léon has a French and a British passport. My marriage to Léon's dad, to be quite honest, was on the rocks long before Léon came along and I had moved in with Thomas before he was a year old. Léon has always considered Thomas as his father and last saw his biological father when he was 6 years old, (he's 17 now).
As EU nationals we decided to escape the UK when it went down the Brexit route. We did it more for the kids' futures than for either of us, as we could probably have just about muddled through in the UK till retirement, avoiding potholes and improvising toilet roll or whatever!
Until the early 2000s kids who grew up with one or more immigrant parents in Denmark, and who stayed in full-time education through to its natural end, could bypass some of the many adult requirements to gaining citizenship here. That seems only natural given they feel Danish, having grown up here. They didn't need to sit the fairly difficult language exam as they could show their Danish high school diploma instead. They were exempt from the fulltime 4.5 year work requirement, as long as they applied straight after school and went straight to university or further education. I'm not sure whether they got out of the ridiculous citizenship exam (that few Danes can pass, and the other week Anna's class tried in school and all failed). That was abolished a few years back unfortunately so now Léon has a mountain to climb. Léon is at Gymnasium majoring in Samfundsfag (which is like a mix of Modern Studies and Political science) and History, with Danish, English and Spanish all at the most advanced level. So it seems unfathomable to me that when he finally leaves school he needs to sit tests to prove he knows about Danish History, Politics and can speak Danish. Surely showing his high school leavers' certificate should be enough. There is no way he will fail the language requirement as it is two years below the level of his school certificate.
But while these requirements are irksome, the work requirement is the part that really angers me. To apply for citizenship, despite having moved here as a child, Léon will need work for nearly 5 years fulltime before he can apply. I have no doubts he will one day fulfil that requirement but by saying that only work, not higher education counts towards the citizenship requirement, Léon is indirectly being encouraged to go to work after school instead of university. He will leave school around 19 and a degree would take him to around 24, which would mean he couldn't start to work on the employment requirement for citizenship till his mid-twenties. He would therefore be nearly 30 before he could apply to be a Dane, something he already feels himself to be. He will have grown up here, gone through a Danish education system, and will have lived in a Danish family with a Danish father. He could have kids of his own before he is eligible to attempt to be a Dane!
Léon's young and impatient and although he is definitely bright enough for uni is leaning towards working first so he can become like everyone else. What kind of country pushes bright kids away from higher education, making them into second-class citizens, just to please the knuckle-dragging right wingers?
...or how to make your foreign residents feel like second-class citizens!
I have an ulterior motive for this post, and that is that I hate handbags, always have. It's the main reason I can often be seen sporting an ever-so-uncool bumbag, I just hate the need for a bag. It's a shame really, given my mother left two dozen, in every shade of the rainbow and every size when she died earlier this year. I could have satisfied my life's handbag requirements, no problem back in March, if only my life had required a handbag! I just want to be a bloke and wander about with everything I need in one pocket.
Now I know given the state of my home country at the moment, I really should complain about something so minor, but I feel I have to, given it is unnecessary.
Denmark, like many countries, requires you to have your driving licence on you whenever you are driving. Now that most people have all their credit, debit and loyalty cards scanned into their phones, the only thing left to carry about is that driving licence, or rather it was till a couple of years ago when the Danish State decided to make that an app on your phone too. Hurrah, I hear you call... unless you are a foreign Danish resident, that is😡. As a UK citizen, I was required to swap my UK driving licence for a Danish one back in 2019 when I moved here. I had no issues with that. I went to the town hall, swapped it, had them take a new photo of me to upload to it and one to put on their official centralised records.
As a non-EU (thanks to the shitty Brexiteers) resident of the EU, I am also now required to have a residence permit to live here. That I did too over a year ago and have a foreign resident ID card which again involved a photo of me taken at the Foreign residents bureau and finger printing. So the Danish authorities have two official photos of me and one official set of my finger prints.
When I go on the driving licence app, however, to download it to my phone to make all my handbag-free dreams come true, it tells me I am not eligible to have it because to do so they need to access the photo they have on my Danish passport records. This works fine for all Danish passport holders and Thomas gets to go out with just his phone, but I still have to carry my wallet at all times because of my licence. How hard would it be for the app to give the following options? Retrieve photo from:
- Danish passport
- Danish driving licence
- Danish residence permit