Sunday, 31 July 2016

Europa Neurotisch

It is the weekend.  It is hot here and my brain is frying and I have a few days off work.  Hooray.  This is no time to be writing about German work visas when there is an extended weekend of fun to be had.  Instead, let's go for a trip down Euro-memory lane before I jump on a train for a short break in the land of lederhosen and delicious beer. You can skip all the reminiscing and go straight to the the main point in the last paragraph but then you'll never know what you're missing out on.

When I was a boy growing up in South Glasgow in the 80s I used to listen in to European radio stations in my bed before I went to sleep. I even got a special shortwave radio for Christmas that had a micro-tuning knob to better track the shifting broadcast signals. (You're right,  I don't have a girlfriend.  Happy now?  Can we continue without those snide remarks, please? Thank you.) The randomness of AM broadcasting meant that I listened to whatever happened to have good reception. Sometimes that was Russian state radio reporting in English about increased tractor production in the Urals and Breshnev's visit to a flower festival in Fergana. When the earth's magnetic field was conspiring against global communism I would listen in to random Belgian, Dutch and German pop stations. The DJs came from the same school as Glasgow's very own Tiger Tim Stevens but the strange words and not-quite-right pop music kept me hooked in a way that Radio Clyde never could. If one station faded out I could spin the dial a few degrees and choose from 20 others. Just imagine all that life out there, a world far beyond Calder Street swimming pool,  Friday night Boys' Brigade and my Gran's potato croquettes.

Europe has always felt like a strange home to me, simultaneously exotic and familiar.  Can you imagine "Trans-Europe Express" if you replaced all the stops with Hull, Manchester and Kirkcaldy? Yet, when you go on a Trans-Europe express it isn't all that much different from a train journey across Scotland or from Glasgow to London. Sometimes the train stops in a major city, sometimes you go past some fields or spy a mountain in the distance or find yourself staring at an abandoned factory complex. Despite that, I still have a sense that European train travel is impossibly glamorous and refined. Just last week I saw the overnight Zurich-Prague train about to depart Zurich's main station.  With the advent of cheap air travel it seemed like a journey backwards in time as well as to the Czech Republic. You can imagine that it completely made my evening, thinking about the complicated politics of the train and the positive changes it must have seen since the fall of communism and the end of borders in Europe. I could even have jumped on that train without needing to go home for my passport.  What a time to be alive. What's more, Brexit doesn't affect the train or my ability to jump on it and enjoy the journey. Let's take the positives where we can.

Anyway, so much for my trip down memory lane.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did because it it's time to get back to 2016 and see what is going on in the here and now. Urgh, it doesn't look too good.

Careful you don't set fire to your shirt, there.
I'm guessing not everyone shares my lifelong romantic ideas of continental living, then.  That's fine, we're not all the same, but does it need to mean this, this, this, this,  this and this?  I could easily go on but I'm sure you get the picture by now. I'm guessing none of these people stayed up late back in the 80s to listen to Schlager hits on Radio Bochum.  Actually, I can't imagine many people did that, except for the good people of Bochum (say hi to Bernd if you ever get to Bochum, great guy).

It just occurred to me that you never hear anyone come right out and say that being an EU citizen is  f***king great.  Nobody ever says that and I'm at a complete loss as to why. The Remain campaign lost because nobody could bring themselves to talk about the positives of EU membership.  Seriously, if the Remain campaign had been marketing ice-cream they would have focused on how brushing your teeth regularly can counteract the dental decay caused by all that sugar. After that they would have yelled at us that we'd be glad to have ice-cream if we lived in a world where the only available food was ice-cream. Imagine that, we would theoretically all die a horrible and lingering death if there was no ice-cream to save us from starvation.  They would never have come out and said that ice-cream is basically awesome and comes in a range of delicious flavours and don't worry too much about your teeth because plans are being discussed around Europe to limit the sugar content and set minimum standards on dental floss.   

This has been a meandering post, hasn't it? Hey, it's a holiday weekend, my brain is too hot and sometimes I just like to prattle on about trains and radios.  Don't worry, though, as promised I'm going to really get to the point now.  If you are a UK national working in or around the EU there needs to be a plan A and a plan B.   The plan B is finding out about EU Blue Cards or how to get citizenship in your chosen land. I've touched on some of that already and it is a thrilling topic with endless philosophical consequences moderately interesting.   The plan A, if you're Scottish, is to remain in the EU with Scotland an independent nation.

Scotland might soon be faced with the choice of staying in the  EU or the UK.   If Scotland is to remain in the EU then there will need to be a campaign to promote the values of the EU and demonstrate that EU membership is completely ace, despite all its faults. Think of it as a popularity contest that the EU must win.  It will now be the purpose of this blog to pursue plan A as much as plan B.  So, expect posts about the working time directive and the ERASMUS scheme, the ECHR and  the ECB. There will still be meandering trips down memory lane, links to pop videos with semi-appropriate song titles and not-hilarious anecdotes.  Boy, this is going to be a thrilling journey.

Over and out,


PS Drake is no longer Nr 1 in the hit parade.  Are we entering a new era of consciousness?

PPS You're probably thinking, "17 posts in and he just worked out what his blog would be about?" Well, that Brexit result really knocked me for six.  I think everyone is still working out how to react.


  1. Yesterday's march seemed to me like the start of the revival of the YES campaign.

    6 000 people in Freedom Square; Glasgow City Council's camera breaking down just in time NOT to broadcast it, and the main stream media more or less ignoring it. But 6 000 happy and friendly people (not any trouble at all) making their point.

    Add to that, yet another plank in the vow, ie "Your pensions are only safe in the UK", broke in two, with ministers looking at reducing the cost of the triple lock So the lowest pension (in relation to average wage) are about to suffer another blow. I fear no one told the British government that people were getting older and living longer. Oooops.

    That goes along with all the jobs that would only be safe, and yet have disappeared; and all the powers that we would have devolved, but didn't; and of course, the promise that we could only stay in the EU if we stayed in the UK.

    I seems to me that there were very few words of truth in Gordon Brown's vow on behalf of his mate Cameron... and more of them were prepositions!

    I really don't know what BT will hit us with next time round.

    BTW, do you have a copy of the Wee Black Book?

    1. I don't actually have a copy of the Wee Black Book. I'm going back to the old country (always wanted to use that phrase and now I have) in a few weeks and I'm sure that friends back there do.

      The interesting part about the pensions thing is that pensioners are the most pro-Union age group. I need to experiment on my Dad to see what changes his mind. His generation really have a different outlook on the UK and Scotland's place in it from mine.

  2. PS: Loved the music, and I used to try to listen to European radio at night, but I didn't have a very good radio! :(

    But I remember the first time I heard Petula Clark singing in French and fell in love with the language.

    1. Petula Clark really nailed it in French. Didn't she even live in France? On the other hand, Sandie Shaw certainly didn't live in Germany.

      I always find it really funny that hit songs used to be recorded in multiple languages by the same pop singer. There isn't so much pop music now that isn't in English. Even Eurovision is pretty much all in English. The Germans still sing their beloved (by pensioners) Schlager auf Deutsch, though, and that more than makes up for it.

    2. She married a Frenchman, moved to Paris and still appears on French tv. She now lives, would you believe, in Switzerland (pop round for a cup of tea). Her German version of Downtown is great!

      Yes. I guess pop music is English/American today, but there are some amazing French pop singers.

  3. I think we should bomb the coast of argentina.

  4. I think you mean "get bombed on the coast of Argentina". Are you on a permo?


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