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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Monday, 7 March 2016

More offshore notes

As to the European Union  (see News From An Offshore Island) I regard  "In" as the least worst option. But forget political, statesmanlike and commercial arguments; let's go sentimental.

A holiday is not a holiday unless I go "foreign". When we stay overnight at UK locations these aren't holidays: we go to London to see opera or visit the National Theatre, or Welsh fastnesses to celebrate a birthday. Real holidays lasting a week or a fortnight require a touch of the exotic.

"Exotic" starts with a foreign country's visual impact, typically its architecture. This doesn't mean cathedrals, they’re too rare; I'm talking day-to-day buildings.

It was a lousy grey day when we drove into Germany in late December for the Cologne Christmas market. We were on a motorway not a winding country road and passing by what Brits call industrial estates. Nothing quaint, nothing artistic, but already Germany's foreignness was beckoning, and I was reponding. German offices and factories (see first pic) are simply different: clean-looking, nearly always severely rectilinear, often in unexpected colours (black, for instance), tidily arranged car-parks. This won’t set your pulse pulsing because you're hoping for rolling hills and generous oaks; but I'm contrary, out for confirmation I'm in LvB country.

Then there are the poster hoardings. Horrible, you say. A blot on the landscape. Me, I'm eating up the posters. Language you see, and the thrill of being able to translate what's displayed.

We enter residential suburbs and now we know for sure we're not in Brit-land. Those steeply angled roofs, the plethora of windows, the use of tiles.

Even if the UK votes "Out" I can still visit Germany but it won't be the same. I'll be merely a non-European in transit. Nothing more than a tourist. No inside track.

8 comments:

mikeM said...

You may call Europe the "continent", but I was taught from an early age that the UK etc were part of Europe. That's the way we've always seen it here. The ability to drive one's car to France should have erased any doubt. Long Island is certainly part of NA, albeit an easier swim to the mainland. It's just a bit of water overlaying the connecting lithography....same with the rest of the planet if you want to get down to it. Did you feel un-european when you were still pounding and pencing?

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: Basically you're right, nationo-psychologically you're wrong. I fear what follows may be a mite tedious.

For some years in the fifties that magnificent if highly irritating statesman, Charles de Gaulle, president of France, kept us out of the EU which was then called the Common Market. Finally we were let in some time in the early sixties. Up to that point most Brits admitted the UK was part of Europe but it wasn't an emotional matter, strictly geographic. I used to write in my books: Roderick Robinson, 10 Gordon Terrace, Thackley, Bradford, Yorkshire, England, Europe, Northern Hemisphere, The World, The Universe as did many other kids.

A Conservative government, led by prime minister Ted Heath, got us in but during the years that followed the Conservatives began to dislike the idea of being attached politically to mainland Europe and in 1975 a Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson, decided to call a referendum (they're fairly rare in the UK) asking whether we should stay in what was then called the European Economic Community. The status quo won by a handy majority.

This didn't stop a mad-dog section of the Conservative party campaigning to become Little England again. And it was during this time that the term "Europe" started to be used by UK "anti" campaigners to refer to the others, the "enemy", in discussions about our political future. Lazily the media took this up as did much of the citizenry; only pedants like me kept on employing phrases like "the Continent" and "the European mainland". Much good it did.

Now, decades later, the argument has sharpened and I have to admit there are more cogent reasons for leaving the EU, even if what will then happen is hard to predict. Many more punters have a view than did throughout the nineties and the early oughties and the battlelines are drawn. For reasons that are not truly game-winners I favour staying in; I'm attracted by the cultural and (especially) the linguistic differences. And that's the reason why I called myself a European in the post; had you read a more right-wing UK blog (which I pray you won't) you might have discovered its author describing himself as an non-European for similar if opposite reasons.

So, the word "European" is temporariy tricky.

Avus said...

I know I said I was staying out of this one, RR. And I don't know how often you visit your previous blogs to view comments, but I have left another (and final one) on your "Notes from an offshore island"

mikeM said...

So, (this is the word now commonly used to begin responding sentences during NPR interviews nowadays) the cultural and linguistic differences are not going to disappear, your travel privileges are in no danger, and you may continue to call yourself a European (knowing that you ARE one). Those who disagree will probably pass it off as some sort of geriatric/vestigial thinking and not batter you into submission. I had forgotten the terms Common Market and EEC...thanks for the history buff up.

Roderick Robinson said...

Avus: All comments to my blog - however late they are despatched - are copied to my normal email account. Any other checks are unnecessary. I will in due course respond.

MikeM: You appear to be making me out to be a poltroon if not a cadaver. Perhaps I am both. Certainly my peculiarities are born out of geriatric tendencies. As I say in my post losing the political ties with continental Europe is - at worst no more than a theory - but even theories can leave after-effects. It never pleases me to be thought of as just a tourist and this is what I would become, despite my attempts to force natives into conversation. A minor matter.

Here's a hypothesis. Suppose, due to some lapse in politesse by their neighbours to the south, the Canadians decided they no longer wanted to be known as North Americans and chose instead to rename their part of the land mass as Eastern China; a self-inflicted apartheid if you like. Might more sensitive US citizens regard this as the equivalent of being poked in the eye with a short stick?

Oh well, I only arsked.

mikeM said...

The U.S. thrives on feeling poked in the eye - the entire presidential campaign is based on "Don't let 'them' do it to us any more". Canada strives to be benign and, miraculously, pretty much succeeds, but U.S. anger has a hair trigger when it comes to appellations. While China(lit. "middle kingdom) and the U.S. are now Chang and Eng at the (economic) torso, there's no denying we're of different minds... they are still the red threats and NORAD would have to be dissolved were Canada (lit. "settlement" or "village")to switch kingdoms. No one in the U.S. is REALLY going to be "up in arms" about walling off Mexico, but Canada has an air force AND natural resources, so they would probably want to study the history of break-ups (successful and unsuccessful)the U.S. has been involved in before taunting "us". I've never heard anyone except aborigines described as "North American", and I think most USers view Mexico and Canada as foreign. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires strict border checks and documentation similar I expect to the isles which entered not into the Schengen Agreement. In my view the Americas are still one island, held together by the walkways over the locks of the Panama Canal. Oh, and age is in your mind. I'm just a kid kidding an older kid.

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: Aha. So often you prefer to remain cool, the master of the measured soundbite. Here I detect a slight spray of saliva and the sound of words forced through clenched teeth. Careful old boy, old son: this quick run-through of modern history and political interdependency may leave you in a state of passion.

I'd completely forgotten Norad. Or that Canada had an air force.

What these exchanges are really about is patriotism - a state of mind that has no fixed definition but is rather a spectrum running from "deeply disgusting" to "well, actually, deep down, I have to confess, something stirs when I hear 'And the rockets' red glare' and I'm reminded of Iwo Jima."

You'd rather be driving your pick-up down to the dry-goods store and spending time in the diner reflecting on a doughnut and a cup (made of strangely thick pottery) of coffee than being promoted governor of Manitoba with all the tranquil authority that post would confer. You're a Yank and I'm a Brit and neither of us - short of removal of our central cortexes - is likely to be anything other. Despite Dr Johnson ("last refuge of a scoundrel") we have signed up, whether we like it or not, to what seemed like the awful proposition of "my country right or wrong" simply because there is no real alternative. Fallible beings unable to change things, we rail ingeniously and articulately, then switch off the telly and go to bed. There, if we're lucky, to dream about strangely edited versions of our homeland, mine derived from a picture on a tin of chocolate biscuits, yours from the front cover of Saturday Evening Post.

Both blest, I think and hope, by being keen to give each other houseroom.

Lucy said...

I like reading you and Mike.