Friday 8 December 2017

Citizens of Nowhere

In her speech to the Tory Conference 2016 Theresa May upset a lot of people by declaring that those of us who think of ourselves as global citizens are in fact citizens of nowhere. How to react? Perhaps by doing what I do best – write about it ….

At Bridge House Publishing my business partner, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and I commissioned stories by people we knew would feel the same way and a few fell into our laps while we were compiling other collections. We have each even included one of our own stories.
Many, myself included, found May's statement disturbing. I'm British. There is much about being British and the British that I love but not quite everything and not at the cost of appreciating aspects of other cultures. I can't help it. I've lived abroad. I've taught modern languages for twenty-six years and in doing so used international friendship and communication as a motivator. I'm married to the son of a World War II / Holocaust refugee. He brings a lot of German qualities and a few Jewish ones to our everyday lives. Many of my teen years were spent with Elaine, Ingrid, Monica, Theo and Rene – all born in Jamaica and I never noticed the colour of their skin. Eating sweet-potatoes at a 4.00 p.m. dinner felt normal. Elaine and Ingrid's mum was a great cook and kept to her Jamaican domestic clock.   
We have a delightful mixture of interpretations of this theme.
Our collection is framed by two stories that make similar points: Alan Gibbons' From Our Own Correspondent and Jennifer Palmer's The Visitors. 
Ea Anderson brings us a story of the global citizen always on the move in Slowly Things Appear.
By contrast, Neil Campbell's These Boots Were made for Walking is firmly set in a Manchester that many of us know so well. It is a multi-cultural Manchester that worries about Brexit. My own story The Wedding Next Door shows how cultures can rub along together thought it's not always easy. Matevž Hönn juxtaposes for us in Perfect Day events across the globe which seem curiously connected. Debz Hobbs-Wyatt's Boarding House is indeed about a boarding house but one where all sorts of people from all sorts of situations have to get along and in doing this they get to know themselves better.  
Vanessa Gebbie kindly gifted us a recycled story: her The Kettle on the Boat. This is beautifully told in a child's voice. The story gives us a great insight into another culture. The child moves into another as yet to her unknown culture. We feel her fear. No, being a global citizen is not easy.   
Karen Kendrick's The Road to Nowhere presents a modern day problem: political refugees. Her story shows both sides of this problem in very human terms. A similar theme is explored in Vanessa Harbour's Home, but this time we have a child's point of view.
Shqiperia by Jennifer Burkinshaw shows us two people struggling with two cultures. More challenges for the global citizen.   
Sarah Dobbs tackles another form of Otherness in her story Something like Mohammed. Discrimination isn't just about race. Neither is diversity.
Global citizens face many difficulties and in many cases in the stories here they grow because they overcome huge obstacles. Should we not therefore welcome them and perhaps rename them citizens of everywhere?    
So Madam May' outrageous statement also brought us a fabulous title and concept for a book.       
Now I just need your advice. How best to ensure that Madam May gets this very important Christmas present in time for Christmas? And while we're talking about Christmas what do we think Jesus Christ would have made of her statement?

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Socrates and Brexit

It's a little bit like when small children keep on asking "why?". It is perhaps a little bit more sophisticated. I'm currently posing a series of questions on my Twitter feed which also send them over to Facebook. Look out for them. Get involved.

I asked the other day about how exactly leaving the EU would benefit our children and grandchildren. I received no convincing answer. Soon there was quite an argument between Brexit supporters and Remainers. Both sides were talking with emotions and few used verifiable facts.
There were some opinions, and these are fine, either way. Many of the claims on both sides, however, were not backed up with critical evidence. 

I still feel duty-bound to persuade people Brexit is wrong. I find the Socrative method useful.
It's a matter of using open questions:
Why is Brexit good for our children and grandchildren?
How is trading with bigger countries better that trading with those close by?
What do you understand by Brexit?
What is it you dislike about the EU?
How have we lost our sovereignty to the EU?
So, what is the role of the Euro MP?     
How could the EU be reformed to make it work better?
How does leaving the EU make our borders safer?
How does leaving the EU help us to avoid food banks and homelessness?
What are the advantages of Brexit?

Of course, you must be able to answer the same questions about Remain. How confident are you about giving a well-reasoned, critically informed response to the following?
Why is remaining in the EU good for our children and grandchildren?
How is trading with bigger countries better that trading with those close by?
What do you understand by the EU?
What is it you dislike about Brexit?
How can we retain sovereignty and remain in the EU?
So, what is the role of the Euro MP?     
How could the EU be reformed to make it work better?
How does remaining in the EU impact on our borders?  
How does remaining in the EU help us to avoid food banks and homelessness?
What are the advantages of staying in the EU?

Now the kiddies' version.

Why is Brexit good for me?
Because we can make trade arrangements with bigger countries.
Why is it better to trade with bigger countries?
Because they have more to offer.
What do they have to offer that we can't get here?
Gas, oil, cheaper clothes.
Why are the clothes cheaper in bigger countries?
Because they can make them cheaper.
How do they make them cheaper?

Monday 6 November 2017

EU Funded projects

How will we do this in the future?



3D and 4D constructions on historical sites
Funded small press
Scottish poetry
Indie film Companies
International outreach  
Support for major gallery
Playwriting at a university
Animation companies



PERFORM – science learning


Lido refurbished
Railway stations revamped
Waterfront museum  
Marina transformed
Town centres improved
Sailing academy established
A465 improved
University estate restructured
Historic house restored
Welsh language centre restored
High-tech research backed at a university
Flagship employment programme backed
Marin energy backed
Funds for under-20s rugby
Welsh food centre supported
Youth apprenticeships backed
Long-term sick helped into work
Masters in Finance backed
Welsh-Irish partnership backed


NEC Birmingham
John Lennon airport
Manchester Museum
Birmingham: International Conference Centre, Symphony Hall, Think Tank Museum,  City University,   

= tip of iceberg – Google  "EU funded projects in UK" for many, many more and the details about these.      

Tuesday 24 October 2017

How the whole becomes bigger than the parts

There's a lot of angst about this £350,000,000 a week. Those who lied to us forgot to mention that £300,000,000 of it comes back to our regions. Post Brexit that will have to come from our own pockets. But we'll still be in the black, won't we, because there's £50,000,000 left over?  Oh but what about the farmer's subsidies and the big projects – new transport systems, new roads?  Sure, we can do that all ourselves (maybe) but isn't it better to get more brains and more brawn behind it all? And have a few internationally applied laws to keep us all safe? 

I'm a fan of the potluck supper / lunch. Everybody is asked to bring enough food for a certain number of people. An example: a choir I belong to recently hosted a visiting choir. We held a joint workshop and everybody was asked to bring enough food for two people. I brought along enough for four as one of our members had to rush off and do a translation. I provided a litre of flavoured water, a big pack of grapes, some elegant biscuits and two broccoli and cheese quiches. All for just a little more than I normally spend on a lunch in the canteen at the university where I used to work. I also had some spare cherry tomatoes in the fridge. 

What a spread! There were elegant trays of mixed fruits, all sorts of cakes, some specialty breads, crudités and dips, fresh pizza, salads, cheese, cold meat and much, much more. It looked lovely. It tasted lovely. There was more than enough for everyone to have several helpings.
We have long rehearsals in the same building sometimes. We all sit and eat our own packed lunches.  Not nearly as much fun. 

And should I add, perhaps, that the visiting choir was Danish? We sang and they sang and we sang together. We kept each other on our toes. When we sang together we made a new and interesting sound. 

Will such international co-operation be as easy post-Brexit?  
I've decided to collect signs that tell of EU-funded projects. I may make a collage of them for a future post. 

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Is Brexit lose / lose?

So what were people actually choosing on 23 June 2016?


Soft Brexit?

A soft Brexit is described as one where we keep the single market and with that we have to keep freedom of movement. Surely, though, a lot of people voted for Brexit because they didn't want any more immigrants and they didn't want to be tied to free trade only with the EU.

Free trade elsewhere?

Well, I note negotiations with Japan are going - well!  And even if they went brilliantly, dare I mention food miles?

Baby and bathwater

Why would we anyway want to keep these two restraints and not enjoy the other benefits of membership of the EU?      
Why give up:
·         The laws that are fair and keep your own state in check
·         The European Court of Justice – where do you go when your own country's judicial system lets you down?
·         Easy travel to other EU destinations.
·         Over 40 years of peace
·         Money, where the whole is greater than the parts

Myths challenged

The UK will not be £350,000,000 a week better off after Brexit. In fact, given that we will need to pay nearly that much to our regions, and goodness knows what to the farmers, that we will lose business, that the pound has weakened, that we lose access to magic money and that we have an exit debt to pay we'll be considerably worse off.  

We still have sovereignty. We always did and would still have even if we stayed. EU matters anyway are decided by the EU parliament. We all have an MEP who represents us. One, of course, had totally let us down and creates a bad press for the rest.

There always were controls on immigration even from the EU, as there are in each EU state.  However, we chose not to implement them. Now landlords, small businesses and universities are being asked to police this.

Our immigrants provide us with a net gain. They pay more in taxes than they cost in services. Particularly worrying is the effect of Brexit on the NHS. Much of the workforce is made up of citizens from other EU states. If they all go home and all the baby boomer ex-pats return to the UK – which the state of the pound may force them to do as their pensions rapidly lose value – we'll be in a heck of a pickle.       


The greatest loss?

Many of our friends from other EU states have returned home or are thinking about it. They feel unwanted here. In the eyes of the rest of Europe we look foolish and disorganised.