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From a reluctant political brexit keyboard warrior Part 2

 

Well after my last Brexit comments things have moved on – or have they?  No one really seems sure!  Mrs May decided to have a works trip with three colleagues, with entourage of security and civil servants, to the beautiful city of Florence (must add to my bucket list of places to visit as it looks wonderful!).  She made a much-hyped speech about the UK leaving the EU to a small room full of reporters, but no representatives or officials from the EU were present, so why the British taxpayers had to fund this little excursion to Florence instead of her saying it in London I have no idea.  I am tempted to say let’s put an ad on the side of a bus to say we should have spent the money on the NHS instead.

BT2

So, we are still leaving, but…  As Mrs May claims she doesn’t do U turns I won’t say that she has, but she should be dizzy by now from all the about turns!  What is a transitional deal?  Is it viable?  Are the EU negotiators even agreeing to one?  Mrs May says we are having one.  We leave, supposedly, in March 2019 but for two years will still pay our fees, still respect all EU laws and rules and still have all those things that the leavers don’t want, but because we will have left we will presumably have absolutely no say in anything that happens regarding the EU Parliamentary decisions as presumably we won’t have any MEPs for those two years.

I’m a complete layman as far as politics is concerned.  Like I have said previously, I have never been interested until the Referendum was called. So this is entirely my layman’s opinion after reading the speech, which I considered was haughty, condescending and managed to insult just about everyone.  The EU have made concession after concession over the years to the UK yet she says we were never ‘comfortable’ with being European.  It’s a bit like being invited to a party, telling the host and all other guests that you would arrive late, leave early and deliberately spend the evening standing on your own only just inside the doorway, and then accusing the host and other guests of not including you.

Remainers want to remain full members.  Leavers want to leave immediately but most don’t get why that isn’t possible.  There is clearly no middle ground so there will always be one group that isn’t happy.  But to annoy both sides, insult the entire EU Parliament and Commission plus offend all 27 other countries in one short speech was pretty impressive!

Mrs May wants an orderly, red-white-and-blue, have cake and eat it, a non-cliff-edge cliff-edge, hard-n-soft, straightforwardly-complicated style Brexit, plus a transitional deal that mirrors exactly our membership, and the closest possible relationship with the EU after the divorce, with a selected list of benefits of membership but no cost.  You don’t need a politics degree to realise that these demands are impossible to meet.  And that’s before we consider trade deals, the Irish border and Gibralter.

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And what of citizens’ rights?  3 million EU27 nationals in the UK are being treated despicably*.  Around 1.5 million UK nationals in the EU27 are being largely ignored by their own government.  Neither group is being ignored by the EU though who have made people a priority over trade.

Already court cases have shown that the current handling of the whole Brexit process has been illegal at times and there are several cases in progress at present challenging other aspects of the process.  Our MPs are neglecting their duty, alternative facts (LIES) are spouted widely and no one is happy.

As the song says – let’s call the whole thing off!

*Please take time to read “In Limbo”  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Limbo-Brexit-testimonies-EU-citizens-x/dp/1548026085

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From a reluctant political brexit keyboard warrior.

From a reluctant political keyboard warrior.

BT!

It has been a while since I last blogged. Is simply that so much of my non-work time (and some work time too!) has been taken up dealing with matters related to the dreaded Brexit.  I could write reams on how bad it has been so far for the UK.  Reams on how much worse it will get if it finally happens.  I could write about the undermining of democracy and the role of Parliament, the threat to the unity of the UK, the questionably illegal deal with the DUP made by our minority government and the very real concerns about using Henry VIII’s powers.

I could write about the problems caused by the fall in the value of sterling, the discrimination that has arisen against ‘foreigners’ in the UK since June last year.  Or about the fears of the Brits in the EU27 countries.  In fact, there are enough negatives to fill several books (and indeed several have already been written).

But today I want to say something POSITIVE instead.

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You see I have discovered that I have more in common with people with whom I have previously disagreed.  Politicians, broadcasters, journalists and experts from all walks of life.  I have realised that in times of adversity you see people’s true colours.  I have seen the hand of friendship extended across race, religion and colour.  I have seen that political allegiances matter less than moral standing.   I have discovered opinions are easy, but knowledge comes from learning and experience.

Until 2016 I paid attention to politics only when it was necessary – elections predominantly.  I have always viewed it as my DUTY to vote – not exercising my right to vote would be an insult to those past and present for whom fighting for that right has, or does, cost them their freedom or even their life.  But between elections I would express a view on things when they were on the TV news but DO very little about anything.  Even when our eldest son obtained a degree in politics I was still very much an observer.

BT2

Now I have been on rallies, on two London marches, to local meetings and even joined a political party.  I have written to loads of MPs, party leaders, MEPs and Lords.  I have signed petitions by the dozen and become an active as a ‘keyboard warrior’.  I have learnt more about the European Union, its origins, its aims, its inner workings, than I ever thought I’d bother knowing.  I can explain the difference between the ECJ and the ECHR; between the European Commission and the European Parliament; between the Customs Union and the European Economic Area.  I have finally EDUCATED myself on matters that frankly I should have known about all my adult life.  I have also learnt more about UK politics and the working of Westminster.  Children should be taught these things in school because the saddest part of the debates I have had with leavers is discovering their ignorance about the EU and the UK.

I have politely corrected leavers statements that the UK bailed out Greece (it didn’t); that the UK has been forced to take hundreds of thousands of refugees (it hasn’t); that the ECJ doesn’t allow us to deport criminals (wrong again); that the EU makes laws about bent bananas (which it doesn’t); that EU migrants are scroungers taking our benefits (which they are not, they are net contributors to our economy); That the EU stole UK sovereignty (which even the leave campaigners now say we never lost); that immigration will dramatically fall when we leave (no it won’t, there will just be a higher number from non-EU countries instead); that the EU costs us soooo much money – £350m a week (no it doesn’t, in fact around 0.6% of the government’s tax revenues are spent on membership and we get more back in financial benefits from being members); that the EU needs us more than we need them (no they don’t); that we can have great global trade deals (maybe one day in the distant future, but in the meantime we lose dozens of very favourable existing deals plus the one with our biggest trading partners).  I could go on, and on, and on.  But the point is, although I was vaguely aware of the EU benefits the only one that I felt mattered to me personally was freedom of movement, so it was really all I had bothered to learn about.  Now I have educated myself and realise there is so much more to the EU than I thought.  So many benefits.  So many positives.  Instead of just accepting Brexit would be a stupid thing to do, I now have a better and clearer understanding of WHY it is the most stupid mistake this country can make at this point in time – and I am galvanised to do something about it too!

I got to be in my mid-fifties before politics became something real to me.   I have been an EU citizen all my adult life but it is only now, with the threat of losing it all, that it has become REAL to me.  So, thank you Brexit for educating me – now please can we cancel it! #stopbrexit

#brexit

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First time travelling alone with the children

First time travelling alone with the children
SAMSUNG CSC
 
In the early years we usually visited my parents as a family, but after the youngest was born I made my first trip with the children without Dave.  My Dad had to visit the UK for some reason so it was planned for me to travel back with him to Spain, but I had to do the return journey without help.  Travelling alone with children aged 7 & 6 years old plus an 8 month old baby was an experience!  I booked airport assistance for when I arrived back in the UK but the flight had been delayed, so my ‘assistance’ finally arrived after we had walked as far as the luggage collection area and consisted of a guy handing me a luggage trolley and disappearing to go and look after his next assignment!
I could see the pushchair and case on the carousel so asked a man who looked to be fit and healthy in his 30’s if he could please help by lifting them off for me as I was holding a baby, but he told me if I couldn’t do it myself I shouldn’t be travelling on my own with kids!
air
 A bit stunned by his attitude an older gentleman approached and said he would help when the case and buggy came around again, and kindly removed both for me.  I strapped the baby into the buggy and found we were left standing alone with our trolley except for an elderly lady with walking sticks standing beside her case.  She too had booked assistance and she too had been let down due to the flight delay.  I lifted her bags onto my trolley and whilst the children pushed their brother in the buggy she held onto the trolley for support as I pushed it and we walked at a snail’s pace the rest of the way together.
Standing looking very anxious as we walked out through arrivals into the public area were two men, one was Dave and the other the elderly lady’s son.  They had thought we must have got lost, but in truth we had just been abandoned by airport assistance!

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Early Family Visits to Costa Blanca

Early family visits
 
With Mum and Dad living outside the town on a steep hill we had to use a car for getting anywhere.  The road was too steep to walk, I know as I tried several times!  I stopped trying after the youngest was born as after struggling to push the buggy up the hill I discovered it was positively terrifying trying to hold onto it on the way back down and stop him falling out whilst trying to stop two other children ending up rolling down!
uphill
Dave learnt to drive in Spain without an issue the first time we visited Mum and Dad but I was very hesitant.  In fact it was many years before I was persuaded to drive in Spain.
car
In the end it was necessity that made me learn, it being obvious that at some point in the not too distant future I might have to visit alone to see Mum and Dad due to Dad’s health issues.  I don’t know why I was so reluctant to do it, there was nothing to be scared about.  Mum and Dad had two cars so we used one of theirs when we visited.  We would have days out to visit local places but often stayed around the villa as the garden was plenty big enough and the children all loved the large pool.
Hidden among the fruit trees Dad had created a petanque court and he invested in a plastic set for the kids.  They became surprisingly good at it over the years.
coin3
The children also loved to visit the ‘100 pesetas’ shops (this was well before the introduction of the Euro!) where they could buy cheap toys and treats, a sort of equivalent of the UK’s Poundland.  Later these became the 1 euros shops (which was if I remember correctly quite a lot more than 100 pesetas, so a hefty price rise!) but even those seem to have disappeared now.
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Memories of a young Traveller – Don’t drink the water!

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Memories of a young Traveller Childhood Spain – with my Grandparents

Childhood Spain – with my Grandparents

On our second visit to Spain my Dad had thought it would be a great idea to take my Grandparents (his parents) away with us.  My Grandmother had never been outside the UK and my Grandad’s only previous experiences had been whilst serving during WW2, mainly in North Africa.  My relationship with them was probably unusual, I was not close to either, although my relationship with my Grandad grew closer over the years.  My Grandma had never forgiven me for being born a girl and I can honestly say although I saw her almost every week of my childhood we were almost estranged.  I wasn’t therefore particularly excited about them coming along.

old

My strongest memory was that I saw my stern and fierce Grandma, a woman who usually frightened me, laugh and smile.  My Grandfather I remember as being fun but always saying or doing the wrong thing.  I suppose today you would call his comments racist and bigoted but it was the 60’s, pre EU days, his memories of sights from the War still playing over in the back of his mind.  My Dad was forever apologising to people for his behaviour.  He hated the food, the ‘foreigners’ and the heat!  He told a ‘bloody crout’ to ‘go back to his own country’ and when Dad pointed out that as we were in Spain we were actually the foreigners he replied that he was British so couldn’t possibly be foreign!

Statler_and_Waldorf

However my strongest memory of them is at the beach. Grandad with dad taking me into the sea and between them swinging me high as I ‘jumped’ the waves.   Grandma sitting under the thatched sun shade knitting, wearing her flowered frock and hat – and still in her stockings!  Despite everything they both said it was the best holiday they had ever had.

My Grandma died in 1985 and a year or so later my Grandad holidayed in my Aunt’s apartment on the Costa del Sol and when he met the lady who looked after the apartment for my Aunt it was love at first sight.  Doreen had lived in Spain over 20 years so was not inclined to move back to England now she was a pensioner in her early 60’s.  So at the age of 86 my Grandad moved to Spain to spend his last years living as an ex-pat.  He and Doreen had 7 happy years before she died of cancer and my Grandfather outlived her by another two years, staying in Spain, living to the ripe old age of nearly 95.  A happy but rather ironic story!

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Memories of a young traveller Childhood Spain – Sunburn and donkeys and coach trips Part 60

Childhood Spain – Sunburn and donkeys and coach trips

donkey-taxis-colourful

We didn’t use sun screen in those days, we used oil on our bodies.  No one worried about skin cancer and getting sunburnt was just part of the holiday.  We used large amounts of ‘after sun’ to cool our hot skin every evening.  We even laughed about how red we were and how you could spot the new arrivals as they were so pale or so pink.  I blistered on several holidays on my shoulders and back, but it was never considered a concern – how times have changed.

coach trip

Highlights of the package holidays were the excursions.  Early in the holiday you would select your choices and on the appropriate day we would pile onto the coach with our hotel issued paper bag containing out packed lunch.  We visited caves with underground lakes, old Spanish villages that clung precariously to the hillside, waterfalls of icy mountain snow melt, vineyards with bodegas, potteries and glass blowing factories, to name just a few of the trips.  At each we would buy souvenirs that would take pride of place back home on the mantle until our next holiday.

A spanish doll

I collected a huge array of Spanish dolls dressed as Flamenco dancers, all sizes and colours, taking at least one home each year.  Each year at least one person boarding the plane would be carrying a two foot high donkey wearing a sombrero, wondering why it had seemed such a good idea to buy it!  But to me that was a symbol of the Spain I knew and loved – donkeys wearing sombreros pulling carts.  Privately owned cars were few are far between in the rural areas in the 60’s and early 70’s, people used bicycles, donkey and cart or walked.  Spain was a relatively poor country and the roads were full of potholes and bumps.  The other common sight on the roads were old tractors – rusty, noisy and belting out black fumes – but pulling a cart in which sat the family.

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Utilities in Spain

We are often asked about the utilities in Spain.  If you buy in a town you will almost certainly have mains water but if you have a villa on the edge of or outside the main town you may not have mains sewage but have a septic tank instead.  This surprises a lot of people but in parts of Spain this is normal.  If you buy a rural property you may not have mains water but use a private well or have water delivered by tanker to fill your huge storage tank.
Generally mains water is of drinkable quality these days, gone are the days when you had to buy it bottled.  To get around shortages of water there are now a number of desalination plants around the coast taking sea water and cleaning it up for local use.  There are also a number of reservoirs now that are also small hydro-electric plants.  Water supply in the Alicante region doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore.
Gas has until recently been bottled only in most areas but towns are slowly having mains gas installed.  Again this surprises many Brits looking to buy in Spain, and of course using bottles of gas for central heating is pretty expensive.  Using portable gas heaters is common practice and fairly economical too.  Modern air conditioning units have settings for cooling or heating and are sufficient for use in a bedroom, although not necessarily that cheap to run.
For many years Iberdrola were the only electricity company but in recent years de-regulation has allowed competition and there are now other options.  Also duel tariffs are available too now, so cheap electricity at night and in the morning with a slightly raised rate for the afternoon and evening means savings can be made.  Solar has come a long way too and with 320 days of sunshine a year in south Costa Blanca developers now include solar in their new build homes.
There are a few ‘anomalies’ that I have come across over the years.  For instance, where our house is located the water company are also responsible for collecting the rubbish so instead of the cost of rubbish collection being included in the local council tax it is added to your water bill instead!
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A suitcase full of tea bags

TeaBagA suitcase full of tea bags

 

As well as early communication problems there was the endless requests of “Next time you visit could you just pop ‘xyz’ in the suitcase please.”  By the time each visit came around we would have a long list of odds and ends to take, usually taking up about a third of a suitcase!  Fortunately in the 1990’s hold luggage was included in the cost of your air fare so it wasn’t a problem; these days we only travel with hand luggage due to the extra

cost of taking a suitcase.

bisto

The usual requests were for a hundreds of tea bags, Bisto, Angle Delight, Blistese, packets of casserole mixes, Christmas pudding and Atora suet.  I’m sure there were quite a few other items too.  We also supplied our daughter’s soya milk, which in those days was bought in powdered form.  Today you can buy English products in Spanish supermarkets and ready made soya milk too.  How times have changed.  Today you can also buy fresh pasteurised milk, which was once also a problem.  I can remember having to order fresh milk from the ‘English’ shop in town for our youngest child who had problems digesting long-life UHT milk, which was all that was normally available.  Drinking water was bottled as tap water was poor quality.  In fact in Fuengriola where my Grandfather lived water was sometimes rationed and turned off for several hours a day over the summer months due to shortages.

angel delight

There was a short-lived comedy series in the ‘70’s on the TV about a couple who retired to Spain, I think it was called ‘Don’t Drink the Water’.  For some strange reason I can remember only one scene from the program, where they hung their tea bags up to dry to reuse again as they were so expensive in Spain!

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