|My blood pressure as measured soon after the June 2016 Referendum on leaving the EU|
"Your blood pressure's a little high" said one of the researchers.
She showed me her readings; in the hypertension range.
"That's odd. That's never been a problem for me"
"Well I need to point it out. Check with your GP"
"Gosh Emma, do you think I'm stressed by the Referendum result?"
"Could be." she said "We'll see how your blood pressure looks on your next visit next week"
|Sunday lunch with the family - Oliver, Amy, Guy, Hannah and Linda. - weekend after the June 2016 Referendum. New potatoes from our allotment in Handsworth|
1st January 2021. MM: I wanted to write a Happy New Year message but ended up writing this instead. If you hate doom and gloom please scroll by. This is an X-rated post.And so it comes to pass (weeping emoji's). We have woken up today no longer able to call ourselves EU citizens. And I am unspeakably sad. I don't know whether, in the long run the UK, will be better off in or out. I don't know whether there will be queues in Kent or food shortages in Tescos. But I do know that all of us who value that delicious sense of tumbling into a new culture, a new language, a new landscape have been left immeasurably poorer by the UK's decision to leave the EU.I speak for all of us in here who one fine day, wearing but a pair of skimpy shorts and an old T-shirt, clambered onto a charter at Gatwick to some random destination in Greece and drank so deeply of the delights of this beautiful country that we mysteriously find ourselves decades later sharing our (zoomed) βασιλόπιτα with children who speak two languages, in-laws who have never set foot on the green shores of Britain and Greek friends and colleagues who we hold dear in our hearts.We are heartbroken that the next generations will not know this. Those who already made it out of the gate will have their rights protected. The (richer) retirees will retire. The well-heeled will inevitably find a way. Some of our young will no doubt make it through the portcullis even after it clangs shut. But please allow us to shed a tear on this inauspicious day for all those who won't, and will never come to know what we know.
SB: Happy New Year, M. In your eloquent lament you write "But I do know that all of us who value that delicious sense of tumbling into a new culture, a new language ..." I know so well what you mean. I didn't so much 'tumble', given that my Dad - divorced post-war, then married to Maria in the lovely little church of Panagia Kapnikarea off Syntagma in Athens in 1949 - first invited me to beloved Greece when I was 16, during Easter 1957, and I, on my occasional stays with the 'Greek' side of the family in England was used to hearing my dad and Maria speaking Greek. I never looked forward to those brief childhood visits on which my mum insisted. Too much shouting and disorder and kissing and hugging among unruly half-siblings, though I liked being entrusted with a glass of wine now and then. It took four days, travelling alone on the Simplon-Orient from London, turning Balkan-wards after Venice, to get to Larissa where in the middle of the night this callow English youth, with a compartment to himself, was interrupted by a wedding party bursting in, joyfully noisy. I - a foreigner had the nerve to glare at them and ask them to be quiet. Instead of taking justified offence they laughed uproariously "Oh Englishman!" and had the effrontery to offer me a drink which I turned away. A few hours later I arrived in Athens…There, at dawn, on a low platform, the Greek side of my family awaited with joyous greetings and many disturbing hugs and kisses. Through a tiny window from the loo of Yia-yia's flat in Kolonaki I saw the Parthenon - no longer the familiar schoolbook illustration, the real place!.. ... ... Well! ... Two weeks later, when I departed from Greece, all had changed; changed utterly and forever, but that's another story, a good one. That first visit over 60 years ago was the start of an affair that I will take to my grave. You could say that 'some enchanted Easter' long ago, I saw Greece 'across a crowded room.' Even now, in dear Ano K, strolling or cycling on a small back road I hear a family, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon, laughing and talking under their veranda, and I'm possessed by an impish impulse to stroll over "Excuse me! Με συγχωρείς. Θα μπορούσατε να είστε λίγο πιο ήσυχοι!" They will laugh indulgently, even ask me to join them. I know that the UK leaving the EU can never efface - nor portcullis block - that 'delicious sense of tumbling' you describe so beautifully and which I still feel over and over when my old feet touch the soil of mother Greece.
James S, neighbour on National Opposition Street below our Democracy Street in Ano Korakiana: it’s exactly that Simon! The total mind opening of travel that Brexit seems so ignorant of!
Hi James. For people who have learned - or, in my case, taught against my will - to be happy the new border bureaucracies may bring temporary impatience, frustration and even misery, but love finds a way. I 'tumbled' (M's good word) into Greece long before the UK joined the EU, when post-war restrictions enveloped all Europe, customs examined our cases spilling out our belonging, transfers of cash were strictly limited. Through Yugoslavia I saw how the communist guards abused their own citizens, fellow passengers trying to cross their border (they were scowlingly deferential to me on my dad's diplomatic visa stamped in my dark blue passport). I was alerted by my father about the dreadful psychic scars of occupation and civil war in Greece - things that could not be spoken of, better forgotten. I've learned to accept - or, at least, to live with - queues, rationing, paperwork, inconvenience. I've been abused by immigration on arriving in New York, waited hours to enter Canada and Australia. I suspect from now - COVID restrictions notwithstanding - there'll be a couple of years of 'pain' as this bizarre event is sorting in the wash, but far worse pains have been surmounted in the past. I voted Remain, but I know other people voted to Leave the EU. who enjoy other lands beyond the English Channel as much as I.
|The mainland of Greece across the Sea of Kerkyra from our home in Ano Korakiana|
|After many years, return to Greece in 1995 with Amy, Linda and Richard|
Standing in the cockpit of our Airbus (full of screens and no joystick) where passengers could – pre-9/11 – still be invited for a pilot’s glimpse of the world ahead, I stood behind my family, as with Linda, Richard and Amy, we flew high over the border of Greece; able to see, to port, the glow of Thessaloniki; ahead the greater glow of Athens; to starboard a moonlit Ionian Sea and far below, in inky blackness, clusters of tiny glittering diamonds - villages in the foothills of the Pindos.“Children! There’s Greece”In the dim cabin tears welled from my eyes with the delight – and the idea – of sharing ‘my’ Greece with my wife and children. I could not speak for a moment, and Linda, more English than I, was irritated at me.
|A third generation in Greece - our Amy with her cousins Natasha and Anna at sandy Pylos in 1995|
Winter 2009: The sun came up into a cloudless sky. It’s so bright and hazy, but for the crackle of awakened logs I’d mistake this winter morning for summer. Yesterday as we pottered on tasks I became so chilled I began to sniffle. By evening I was squeezing fresh lemons to mix with honey to warm in a glass. We’d been down to CJs Bingo Quiz in the evening, me in two under vests and long johns, to struggle with questions that were almost entirely about things in films and TV series. Our friend Trish, in CJs after cold day’s work cleaning charter boats at Gouvia, won. She was playing with Sally who runs CJs for Chrissie and John, also there - the latter cursing merrily to the delight of all. Trish is married to Dave, met at Ipsos Harbour in the first hour of our arrival in September 2006, who first raised our spirits as we surveyed Summer Song’s worn and musty interior, wondering if we’d been sensible buying her on ebay, sight unseen. “We’ll make a list” he said “Norman and Pauline loved that boat and she’s worth it”. And so she was and is. Dave keeps an eye on Summer Song – not only on the boat but also on the harbour politics that allow us to keep her safely berthed there. C remarked from far away on the Pacific coast. “Enjoy Corfu. Greece, no matter what, is a beautiful place to wake up in the morning" but I’m as superstitious as any atheist about reflections on the rewards of fortunae.
|'Greece, no matter what, is a beautiful place to wake up in the morning'|
The names of people who rejoice in their luck are selected by a divine factotum and placed face-down on a gilded dish that passes around the table on timeless Olympus. Amid merriment, each God selects the human whose card is to be their post-prandial plaything. Here a brilliant climber says “There’s a window for the summit at dawn”; there a mother says “Our child is so perfect”; and over there a father says “There are police officers, a man and a woman, at the door. Must be about those parking fines”; and here a wife who says “no need to hold the ladder darling. Go and make us a cup of tea”; and there, in the deep ocean, an exhausted sailor says “We’re through the worst” but see this one, here’s a gem “The war will be over by Christmas”, but what about that popinjay Confederate General who said “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” Far below a fisherman on the Peneios and a woman waiting for a train at Litochoro know they hear, not the rumble of endless thunder reverberating among the peaks of Olympus, but laughter.
|Good Friday picnic on a shore in Corfu. A fourth generation in Greece|
|Covid Tier 4. Restrictions from 00.01 Thur 31 Dec 2020|