Archive for March, 2017

With Love.

According to a distant cousin that I met once at an even more distant uncle’s funeral, I am related to Jack Crawford.

For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Jack Crawford was apparently a sailor whose story is the origin of the phrase, ‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’. Folk legend has it that Crawford was ordered to surrender during the battle of Camperdown and refused to do so – instead, he allegedly climbed into the ship’s rigging and hammered the Union Flag (thereafter called the Union Jack) to the mast. This act ended up winning the battle for the United Kingdom. Crawford was hailed as a hero, and presented to the king from whom he received a generous pension.

There’s a great deal of debate surrounding his story, and in all likelihood, his is not the Jack attached to our national symbol. That said, the rest holds true, as does his rise to minor celebrity and his subsequent fall to the bottom of a bottle.

I’d like to think that the centuries between he and I have done away with the inclination to alcoholism and strengthened that stubborn refusal to fail.

Because this is me, nailing my colours to the mast. They’re blue, and yellow, and unlike the Union Jack, are not marred by war. The flag of the EU is associated the world over with bringing peace to Europe, and it’s an ideal I plan to uphold.

Article 50 was triggered today, but it wasn’t done so in my name.

From where I stand, fighting something like this on an international stage sometimes seems insurmountable, especially when those in government keep ploughing onwards with little regard for the incredible amount of dissent amongst the population. But we can fight it. And we should fight it.

This isn’t maths. Two negatives will never make a positive – hate only breeds more hate. It’s hard to look forward and be hopeful right now when there is nothing but doom from both sides of the argument, but that’s the only way we’re going to fight this thing; with love.

Small acts of defiance can be as simple as giving a European food to the food bank, having some friends round for a European themed supper or singing Nena’s 99 Luftballon’s in the original German. Download Duolingo and learn a second or third language, or watch a weird Danish movie – I’d recommend Adam’s Æbler, or Blinkende Lygter. There are countless thousands of ways in which you can nail your colours to the mast – today and every day – and show that no matter what our government decides to do, that culture, love and hope with transcend petty borders. Like it did in the Enlightenment, like it did in the Renaissance, and as it still does now.



Conversations with Randoms

When discussing the UK citizenship requirements on two separate occasions:

On saying that I only passed 3 of the 7 ‘Life in the UK’ practise tests I took (to show how arbitrarily irrelevant to life in the UK they actually are):
Random: But I guess it puts off people who don’t take the application seriously.
Me: Hmmm… (followed by dumbfounded silence).
What I wish I’d said: The people seeking the security of UK citizenship right now aren’t likely to waste silly amounts of money to book a test, travel to a test centre and use valuable days of holiday to not take the – frankly ludicrous – ‘Life in the UK’ test seriously. These people are worried enough about losing their families, jobs and lives to take the action of applying for citizenship in the first place – do you honestly believe that they’re not going to take the commitment they’ve made seriously?

On saying that the English test, necessary to prove fluency was an enormous waste of time:
Random: Surely the English test is a good thing? My (distant, tenuous relative) met a Sweden girl who came over here and couldn’t speak a single word of English.
Me: You’re sure they were from Scandinavia? Because I’ve met a lot of Scandinavians who span a lot of generations and even my husband’s 12 yr old Danish cousin could interpret for me at dinner.
What I wish I’d said: Do you have any idea how much courage that must have taken (if it’s even true)? I’m going to go out on a limb and presume you’re one of the majority of Brits who don’t speak a second language fluently and ask you to imagine that you’re on holiday and your car breaks down – you ask for help, but no one has a clue what you’re saying, and as a result start speaking with increasing volume and decreasing speed. Then they get mad at you and leave you to your own mess. Because that’s what every single simple every day task is like when you live abroad and don’t speak the same language as everyone else. Even after four years of university level Danish, two summer schools and in a country with a high level of English, I found it so terrifyingly difficult to move abroad and function. Things like opening a bank account, getting the equivalent of a national insurance number and renting a flat were mind-boggling affairs. In the beginning, there wasn’t a day I didn’t cry. And I’m not the sort of person who gets homesick.
And all that aside – do you have any idea how people even learn languages? I’m guessing not. Total immersion is the only real way to gain any degree of fluency. That’s why schools offer exchange trips, why language degrees insist on a year abroad… unless your brain has the chance to work with language in context, you’re never going to learn it well enough to live with it. People coming over here without a level of English you’re happy with is the only way they’re going to learn a level of English which meets your unrealistic standards.
And you – you want to punish people brave enough to do this for a minimum wage job?