Cyberspouse says he will put on my gravestone…
‘She voted to Remain, but now she has Exit.’
In a previous incarnation, new in the area, making friends with a mother who had a little boy the same age as mine, she mentioned her husband was always out at meetings because he was on the local council. Which party? I innocently asked. Conservative she replied, shocked that I would need to ask. I have never aligned myself to any political party; I always vote, but I’m often still trying to decide who for on the walk to the polling station. Will my vote be wasted on the Too Good to be True party, should I vote for the independent candidate or for Big Party B to stop Safe Seat Party A getting in?
A referendum on leaving the European Union was talked about for so long I didn’t think it would really happen. Then suddenly it was happening so fast that nobody was ready and there certainly was not a plan for leaving. But this time I knew for sure what I would vote – Remain. I have never run a business, been a farmer or a fisherman and was not qualified to hand out my informed opinions, but I still knew I was right!
We were never very good at being European, we never had EU flags fluttering proudly on all our buildings, many of us don’t bother to learn anyone else’s language, not all ex pats integrate. But a straw poll of our immediate family adds up to fifteen different EU countries visited, often numerous times. Over the years journeys have ranged from school trips to Euro Disney, charity, visiting friends, holidays, training and work; so we and many other families are European in mindset and in DNA. Britons are also inclusive, even people who have never left these shores will be working, travelling and socialising with people from all over Europe and the rest of the world. No country is perfect but why would we dump friendships with some of the most civilised countries in the world and pal up with regimes that are at best undemocratic, and at worst evil? The sharing of defence, policing, science, environmental issues, industry, the arts and humane standards has developed over the decades, hand in hand with the promotion of peace.
If I had known we would lose the referendum, I would have been blogging and Facebooking frantically back in 2016… even if no one was listening. If nothing else the whole Brexit fiasco has been such a waste of time and money when the planet needs saving and world problems sorting. Could it all have been avoided?
Have we all been riven apart? Families, friends, couples did vote differently, I don’t personally know of enduring feuds, perhaps we’re all united in our disgust at the behaviour and disloyalty of politicians to each other and their country. The Leavers had many different reasons. People did rightly feel forgotten by the government and saw it as their chance to be heard, others read the ‘wrong newspaper’ or ‘believed the lies’– but plenty of Leavers are intelligent and genuine and if they have any regrets it is over the way it has been handled, not because they admit to being wrong in the first place!
What happens next? I have no idea…
Why stay in airbnb when you can pay more for the same chance of not knowing what to expect at traditional bed and breakfast establishments? We have stayed in strange hotels and at the ubiquitous Premiere Inns, where you know exactly what to expect and we have stayed in a variety of B&Bs all over the British Isles. They are all different, that’s the fun. Some are wonderful, better than your own home. There are strange hosts and strange guests. We arrived at one place in a seaside terrace to find no one at home, the landlady was out walking her dogs.
But my most embarrassing near disaster was the second night of a holiday to Scotland with my daughter, sister and sister’s friend. This part was my responsibility as I had booked us to stay at a B&B in Blackpool, owned by relatives of an in-law, we had even met them once at a family wedding. When the door opened we were met with blank expressions, they didn’t seem to recognise us, let alone be expecting us. They weren’t, the booking had been forgotten, but that wasn’t the worst, the ceiling in one of the guest rooms had just collapsed.
All was not lost ‘I’ll pop across the road and ask the boys’ said the lady of the house. And so we found ourselves at the superior Hotel Babylon with delightful landlords Craig and David who kindly charged us only what we would have paid. The bedrooms were very swanky with red nets draped from the ceiling in one room and similar pink decor in the other. I’ve just looked them up and they are still in business, so if you are going to Blackpool I can recommend Hotel Babylon.
Our stay at the weekend was in a guest house in Hythe, Kent, a lovely old house with beautiful gardens. Satnav got us there, but the usually available private parking, a small triangle of gravel at the back of the house, was blocked with a huge horse box and a couple of cars. Further up the steep hill we found a side road. We then slid back down the hill, with our luggage, on a pavement carpeted in wet autumn leaves. A car was backing out of the guest house; it drove back in and a woman half climbed out, we assumed she was our hostess but she said ‘Mother will look after you’ and drove off.
At the back door we were greeted by an elderly lady who showed us into the hall and up to the landing; all the walls were covered in shiny silver flowery wallpaper. Upstairs everything was a pink time warp and the three rooms and guest lounge were named after Winnie the Pooh characters. In our room there was a 14inch television perched on the dressing table with lots of interference, but there was WiFi. The For Sale signs we had seen outside did make us wonder if the place was being gently run down.
We left from the front door to find somewhere for dinner, but as it was dark by then the descent of the uneven, steep front path was an adventure.
At breakfast four guests were seated at the other table, we were all sitting in the hall and the daughter and granddaughter wandered back and forth in their dressing gowns with mugs of tea. The other guests asked the elderly lady if she ran the place by herself.
‘Oh yes, I’ve been doing it for forty years’ she answered cheerfully as she brought us tea and coffee; no pots, the cups rattled in their saucers as they shakily descended to the table.
As we left on the second morning we asked if the place was for sale because she was retiring.
‘I am 82, so I suppose I’ll have to retire sometime, but I don’t want to.’
Visit my website ‘Travel Notes From a Small Island’ if you enjoy looking at other people’s holiday snaps and want to read about some very different places.
As new migrants in Australia, the first time the thermometer hit one hundred degrees we were very excited, a Century meant it was very hot; instead of sheltering behind venetian blinds in the relative coolness of indoors, in the days before most homes had air conditioning, I walked around marvelling at the sensation of the dry heat. If the thermometer hit one hundred degrees Celsius you would be dead. After a week of the temperature reaching over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit every day, the novelty wore off.
Since then the world has moved to Celsius, leaving only the USA and a few other countries using Fahrenheit. But one hundred sounds more dramatic than the slightly higher forty Celsius. When I worked at Heathrow, an English girl told me the first time she arrived in Kuwait she felt as if she had been blasted by a giant hairdryer. A Kuwaiti passenger told me no one had to work if the temperature rose above fifty degrees, but officially it never got hotter than fifty. A Singapore passenger told me the heat was not a problem as every building was air conditioned. I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He looked puzzled. Why would you want to go for a walk?
Those who have lived in hotter climes might wonder at the fuss we are making about our heat wave in Britain. Temperatures over thirty, so early in the summer, have weather forecasters excited. We have had heat waves before and after our wet winter the reservoirs were full, so we shouldn’t run dry yet. Despite the usual comments such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘we’ll pay for this later’ the heat wave shows no sign of ceasing, though some places have had rain. Our relatives, visiting back from Las Vegas, saw rain only once and looked forward to getting back to their air conditioned house.
We are not prepared for hot weather, we don’t have air conditioning, shutters and awnings or a tradition of siestas. In the garden, early morning or evening watering has become part of the domestic routine for those who cherish their flowers. The holiday atmosphere is fun; breakfast and dinner in the garden and days by the sea. Our beach hut feels worth the rates we pay the council for the tiny patch of concrete it stands on; it provides shade, changing room and a kettle. Daily swims have become the norm; as far as I’m concerned there is no point in having hot weather unless you can paddle or swim in a pool, river or sea.
Hot weather is no fun for those who have to work out in it and especially fire fighters. The heat has brought destruction to the moors with peat fires. It is equally oppressive for those who can’t get out. A lady told me it’s the first time in ninety four years she hasn’t worn a vest!
But the biggest cloud, or absence of cloud hanging over our holiday mood is What if it never rains again, is this another big warning about global warming?
If someone wanted to make a clone of you they could; people are already getting their dead dogs cloned, claims have been made that humans have been cloned. Most people have had a blood test of some sort, many of us have parted with gallons of blood to the NHS at blood donor sessions. If a blood sample was secreted away to the establishment of a mad or bad scientist they could be making clones of you at this very moment, supplying childless couples perhaps, it’s unlikely you would recognise your baby self in a pram. Or perhaps your hapless clone is being reared in a laboratory at this very moment for experimentation purposes, would your clone inherit your memory, is our DNA who we really are?
Recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at one of those on line tests, AncestryDNA. It involved spending money and quite a wait and how would we know the results were genuine? This particular test did not involve tracing your mitochondrial DNA back to Neanderthal man; it merely shows you what percentage of people in areas of the world share your DNA and is totally biased towards the Americas and Europe, because the system works on the basis of the data they have already collected. Did I believe the results? Yes; my husband’s results were neatly divided in half as we expected, although his born and bred Scottish half was classified as Ireland, a look at the map clarified that Ireland also covers Scotland and Wales.
I was hoping for something exotic, but was disappointed, I blame my parents; it seems I was neither mysteriously adopted nor are there any skeletons in our family cupboard. However I am only 14% Great Britain, so my gut instinct to voted Remain in the Eurpean Union Referendum was correct, I am 77% Europe West. The other 9% grey area of ‘low confidence region’ with some European Jewish, Irish, north west Russian and a dash of Iberian does add a bit of seasoning to the mix.
We have not so far delved into tracing family trees, finding out who shares similar DNA, but I did agree to accept a message from a name I’d never heard of and was astonished when one set of grandparents’ names came up. The granddaughter of my grandmother’s brother had traced me! I had never met this great uncle because he and his wife emigrated to Canada before they had their children. Perhaps my grandmother vaguely mentioned her older brother, but I now know for certain I have lots of Canadian relatives.
But does our DNA really matter? Only an adopted person who has never been able to trace a single blood relative can answer that question. We are all individuals who have to make what we can of our lot in life; the adopted person might be moved to have a large family of their own, or perhaps they will be forever genetically unique.
Depending on your religious beliefs you might subscribe to the wardrobe theory; the true individual a soul waiting to be popped in to any available baby body until the return to heaven or reincarnation, or perhaps you think our whole personality and memories are passed on through our genes.
DNA remains a delightful mystery for lay people and a source of inspiration for writers. My novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ explores what happens when the DNA of ordinary people is tampered with.