Going Dutch

Monday, May 9th, 2016 02:40 pm
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The saleswoman at the garden centre was shocked and doubtful when I said I'd carry the bag of compost home on my bike. "Well, if you're sure..." she said anxiously after I'd told her about my bike's fabulous rack. Having a mishap after such confident assertions would have been embarassing, so I made sure I picked a bag without a hole in it and strapped it on. Wheeling off with 50 litres of compost at the back and a proud hydrangea in my basket, I imagined I looked quite Dutch. They are the ones that carry everything on their bikes, right?

It was in this frame of mind that I spotted my first pro-EU display in someone's front window. A cute and rather discreet garland of EU flags. The display was not in my village. The other display I've seen, which is, has much more of a pro-Brexit attitude.

This is the second time I'm the specator to an EU debate. The first one was in Norway in 1994, when I was too young to vote. It's interesting to compare the two. In the UK today, it seems to me that campaigners are talking mostly about economic issues, whereas most people have actually made up their mind pretty firmly already and mainly for emotional reasons. Either you hate the EU and think it's holding us back, or love it and therefore think we can't live without it.

In Norway there was a huge emphasis on the "Union" part of the EU, with the understanding that having fought hard and long to leave a previous union with Sweden (and now we're supposed to join a union with the Swedes and sundry other Europeans?!?!?!). The no camp won the referendum, which may of course also have had a teensy bit to do with the buoyant economy. And fish. Norwegians are precious about their fish.

There's less anti-union talk in the United Kingdom, not surprisingly. The no camp here seems to be really into the issue of immigration. Well, let me just point out that Norway, as an EEA partner, has had plenty of the same immigration that Brexiters so loathe. Also, now that the economy's less buoyant, many immigrants are leaving again. Seriously, immigrants are a good sign, it means there's hope in a country.

If I had a say and thought it would help, I'd vote against the unaccountable multinational companies that are taking over transport, cleaning and who knows what other services everywhere, from smaller local companies. Guess what? They're both in Norway and in the UK, and I doubt any single referendum's going to solve it. And I had another look at that hydrangea. Turns out it was grown in the Netherlands. It's globalizaaaaation... and it's here.
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There will be no more flying from now on - not for me, not for the longest time. The last 3 international trips I’ve done have not been of my choosing, so now I choose not to go anywhere for a very long time. I’m becoming rooted, increasingly averse to leaving my pets, my plants and my plans for this and that.

As I crossed several timezones on this last trip, I’ve had serious jetlag. It was worse going east, of course, lying awake and desperate to sleep in the darkest hours of the night. But even going back I seem to have been somewhat stuck. The first proper night I fell asleep early in the night and woke up at 2 am. The second night I got up at 4, and now I’ve progressed to 5. That’s when dawn begins, so that’s acceptable.

Insomnia sucks, but if you’ve gotten a little rest, you can actually do things. After a trip I usually feel energized and observant, ready to deal with stuff. I’m cleaning, planning, looking at rugs to cover up tatty carpets, out in the garden as soon as the sun rises, cooking Chinese from an intimidating cookbook for brunch. Was that six things? They’re not impossible. Only sleep is, for now.

travel by proxy

Monday, April 11th, 2011 08:47 pm
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i just visited Australia, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Chennai! through my husband, that is, who went on a research trip there and back again. i must say it's an incredibly comfortable way of travelling, especially considering his plane had a nervous breakdown which had him sit in it at the airport for seven long hours and delayed his journey mightily. but he did see some pretty amazing sights, such as a kookaburra sitting in an old, old tree.

tv presenters always talk about "going on a journey" to discover the origins of science, the universe or everything, their family roots, where to get the best burger in birmingham or well, any old purpose. i've been going on a journey right here in my home, experiencing the life of a single parent (not easy, even when you're not also going out to work), ferrying my daughter to and from her school. i have explored the fascinating easter rites of an english primary school, which involves parents buying hats and hat-decorating equipment so that children can make decorative easter bonnets, teachers dressing up as rabbits, and a healthy doze of choklit easter eggs -- and i have travelled to the deepest recesses of my soul and dredged up a sort of cook from there. gee, i'm glad that's over.

stuck without snow

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 06:42 pm
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i find it supremely ironic that while all of Britain is frozen under a layer of snow, i'm completely snowless (and quite warm) in its northerly neighbour, Norway. i'm here to visit my parents, although "bring their granddaughter to them" might be more apt. so far, it's had its ups and downs. we flew out after the first snow but before the really heavy snow, so our plane was only two hours late. the snow seems to have scrambled all information equipment, however, because no one got any information about the delay. not even my parents, who were waiting at the airport for us to arrive at the moment the plane was finally taking off.

the daughter took the journey well, with the help of some muffins. i, on the other hand, developed a headache. so the next day i lay low with that, while she played with her grandparents and their stash of toys. unfortunately my parents weren't able to appreciate her fully, as they were both ill with a rather nasty cold.

the next day everyone was fit enough to go shopping. yay! warm norwegian clothing! and shoes! and 11 pairs of socks! guess she won't be getting that for christmas, then. however, at the end of the shopping round, the daughter seemed quite weary, and kicked up a fuss about wearing her seat belt, or about me saying things like "there" or "oops". i should have known by then that the crankiness signalled illness.

daughter fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon, then woke up late at night, wanting to play. fine, i let her play. then we played children's songs (which thankfully are nice, non-annoying recordings) until she fell asleep. during the night, she became hotter and hotter, like an anti-snowman.

today, she's been doing little other than sleeping. my parents have been looking in on her and saying "poor thing". in the evening, grandfather made cake for her like he'd promised to do. he even managed to scrounge up some fresh strawberries! happily, she ate half a piece. it may not be the best sick-food in the world, but if it's eaten, it's good.

so i'm spending most of my time in a bedroom or within hearing distance of soft whispers. hopefully, it'll be better tomorrow... and that goes for Britain, too.
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Whitby is a gull rookery. The people here are just visitors. They climb up and down its slopes while the seabirds command the air. Forget about dawn chorus -- here they form their own shrieking choir at night, forging unknown dynasties from the roofs.
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