Friday, 15 July 2016

This England, whose England?

It is now almost two months since we were parked-up at Calais docks feeling glum about journey's end and dreading the routine of reverting to being of 'fixed abode'. It would be great to be able to report that our apprehensions were wholly misplaced and that home life has proven unexpectedly delightful and full unanticipated mundane, but deeply satisfying pleasures. There have been good moments; seeing the kids is always great, and the week we spent in Brittany with our two daughters was lovely. Somehow we will have to fix up another holiday with Matthew who was not able to join us.

The rental in La Cabellou, near Concarneau - rather lovely
Sunny interior
Nice garden
Outside kitchen
Sarah at the local beach
local footpaths along the coast
Other than that, it's fair to say that the last two months have been a bit grim. Following three days of pleasant sunshine in late May the weather has been cold, wet and miserable. Stuck indoors we have had far to much time to observe with growing consternation the UK slide quickly into political chaos following the referendum. 

May 31st - the last sunny day, them weeks of rain...
3.30 am. B&B Hotel Boulogne, the horrible truth....
Auntie Angela says she feels very sad....
The day after....
As the resultant political farce unfolded, a French commentator called it 'watching a cross between Game of Thrones and Monty Python'. So now we have Maggie II as PM, a cabinet of the swivel eyed plus Boris, and the world looking on in amazement. Obnoxious people are feeling empowered, reported hate crime is up by 200%, Jo Cox, a renowned internationalist and campaigner on behalf of the dispossessed murdered by a right wing lunatic, and the 48% if us who voted Remain are told to 'get over it'. Yesterday the BBC reported on a follow-up poll of 24,000 leave voters investigating the core values that united them. Some of the findings reflected previously reported demographics. As expected over 50% were from lower income groups and a similar proportion drawn from people with few qualifications. What was more alarming was some of the attitudinal findings; over 70% of the respondents approved of the reintroduction of capital punishment and felt that criminals should be publicly whipped. What it reveals is that the 'Leave' constituency is not a protest vote from a section of the electorate who feel unrepresented, but a deeply illiberal groundswell which embraces violence as a means of social control. When adherents demand that they 'want their country back', this is deeply troubling as what they desire is a country many of us would not care to live in. There is not one England, but many; just reflecting on where our immediate family live, Hackney, Oxford, Buxton, South Tyneside - culturally, ethnically and politically so diverse, even before the traditions and history of the other nations of the UK are factored in. What we are living through is a dangerous English dominated right-wing power grab. Who can tell what the outcome will be in the long term?

In a sense, it would be some consolation if this deeply reactionary trend was simply some sort of temporary national nervous breakdown. However news across the world has been equally troublesome. Collectively humanity seems to be enmeshed in violence right now: massacres in Orlando and Nice, individual acts of extreme violence such as the murder of Jo Cox. Last week the BBC ran an item about Qandeel Baloch, a young woman in Pakistan who had achieved notoriety by becoming a social media star promoting 'girl power'. Two days ago she was drugged then strangled by her brother in a so called 'honour killing'. Her 'immodesty' so offended his traditional Islamic sensibilities that she deserved to die apparently. So with the weather alternating between downpour and drizzle and our mood equally gloomy what to do? Over the past few weeks I have been wading through a weighty tome called 'Europe, a History', by Norman Davies. The book is an ambitious attempt to trace the story of our corner of the globe from first settlers to the last decade of the twentieth century. It provides context but little consolation. There have been periods of peace and prosperity, but in general the history of Europe seems like a river of blood, the continent constantly riven by division and internecine violence.

So in the end, all you can do is get on with life and derive what pleasure you can from the everyday. In preparation for next autumn's extended trip we have had solar panels and a refillable LPG system installed on the van. Now, with a brief lull in the July monsoon and a period of wall to wall blue forecast due to a previously unreported weather phenomena known as a 'Spanish plume', we are planning a trip to Suffolk to test out our new toys. Sticking to our principle of visiting new places we have found a couple of inexpensive places to stay in the Suffolk countryside - all new territory. The world as it is lived is never quite so depressing as how it is represented in the the media. People and places are always more interesting, intriguing and contradictory in the flesh than how they are depicted, and looking for yourself more satisfying than reading second hand news. I am sure escape from watching rain on the window and misery on-screen will lift out spirits.


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