Brexit: 29 days later

So this is it. The United Kingdom is on the way out of the European Union. Some are hailing Brexit as a victory for the common people against the monolithic government of the EU with its plethora of faceless, unelected and unresponsive bureaucrats. Some among them see it as a poke in the eye for the forces of “globalism” and “multiculturalism”.

However, the supporters of the “Remain” campaign have for the most part fallen silent. Most of them have realised the situation is not going to change no matter how much they protest. They realise also that we’re on our way out because not enough of them got off their idle backsides to cast their votes when they had the chance. Perhaps, most importantly, there is no sign of the economic disaster that the leaders of the “Remain” campaign were predicting.

It’s true the Pound and the FTSE-100 index dropped sharply when the vote was announced, but the Pound has been stable against the Dollar since then, (up slightly from its low point of £1=$1.2887 on 7th July to £1=$1.3101 today). The FTSE-100 recovered from its jitters of 24 June within a few days and today closed up 30.59 points at 6730.48.

Indeed, Britain’s industry is performing as well as ever and there has been a decline in the unemployment rate.

Now one would think that quitting the EU would be a fairly straightforward matter, one of just clearing your desk and warehouse and saying goodbye. Unfortunately this operation is run by politicians and bureaucrats and it will be a costly and convoluted affair, one which neither our new Prime Minister Theresa May, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor anyone else is looking forward to.

Brexit seven days on

10:00p.m. 30th June 2016 and it has been exactly one week since the polling stations in the U.K. closed and the votes began to be counted. Early the next morning the results were announced: 48.1% Remain, 51.9% Leave.

The last seven days have been extraordinary. David Cameron is resigning as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party and the remaining European leaders are telling Britain to make their exit as quick as possible.

Now, the Scots and the Northern Irish aren’t too happy about this. The vote in Northern Ireland was 56% Remain and the desire to Remain was strongest in Scotland with 62% voting to stay. So with the certainty of being yanked out of the cosy European Union against their will it’s easy to understand why there are protests and calls for a second referendum. In Scotland’s case there are also calls for independence from the U.K..

The youth of the U.K.are also upset. The percentage of those aged 18 to 24 who voted Remain was estimated to be 75%. Now if more of them had taken the trouble to vote then the Remain camp would have won, David Cameron would still be in No.10 Downing Street and it would be business as usual for the U.K. and the rest of the E.U..

But while the turnout for this poll was quite high- 72%- the turnout for those aged between 18 and 24 was a paltry 36%.

If you are in that age group and you voted Remain, well, I’m sorry, but you’re in a minority of spirited young people who actually care about the future of your country.

As for the sixty-four percent of young people who were registered to vote and had their polling cards ready but didn’t bother their backsides going out to cast their vote, you are part of the reason we are on our way out. And it’s very unlikely that any protests or petitions will have any effect.

Brexit: 23/6/2016

The events of the past seventy-two hours have given me a grand opportunity to reboot my blog which has been idle for the past three years. It’s a string of events that I never thought would come about, something that numerous people have been campaigning for and dreaming about for more than forty years. I am, of course, talking about Brexit.

Over the past few months there’s been intense debate about the European Union and the United Kingdom’s place in it and it’s been brought about by the Prime Minister David Cameron. On February 20th he called for a referendum to ask the people of the UK whether they want to leave or stay in the EU, and this referendum is something that so many people on every walk of life have been wanting for years.

When the UK joined the European Economic Community, along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark in 1973, it was a loose grouping of countries who traded with each other in mutual friendship and trust. Nine nations could swap money, goods and workers with each other without the usual boundaries and restrictions. Over the next twenty years, however, the eurocrats in Brussels took more and more governing powers away from the member states.

By 1995 the European Union had swelled to fifteen states, and since the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Iron Curtain came down more and more states wanted to join. There were signs that the EU could evolve into a single federal state like the USA, but Europe was never meant to be anything like that. Whatever the top brass in Brussels wanted has failed to come true. Today the EU has become like a cross between the Hydra (the giant nine-headed serpent that Hercules fought) and Victor Frankenstein’s monster. It comprises twenty-eight states and twenty-eight economies moving at as many different speeds, some managing to stay afloat and others simply drowning in debt. And yet at least seven more states, including Turkey and Iceland, want to join.

The economic meltdown of 2007 and 2008 had a grave impact, not just on Europe and the USA but on the whole world, and it’s a meltdown from which the world has still not recovered. Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, which had recently joined the EU in the hope of getting richer, suffered badly but not as badly as Greece. Greece’s woes were made worse in 2015 by a tidal wave of migrants fleeing the fighting in Syria. Italy’s problems were likewise worsened by waves of migrants fleeing the anarchy in Libya.

David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in February was welcomed by everybody for and against the EU. But he was doing deals with Brussels to get special status in the Union for the UK (whatever that means) and he was really seeking approval from the public and to appease his opponents within the Conservative Party.

As March, April and May went on, the campaigning intensified, with the Leave and the Remain camps blowing volumes of hot air about their respective causes. But people’s perspectives on the referendum were blurred by the constant sensational headlines that were splashed across the tabloid papers. The worst of them came from the Remain campaign with David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne adding to it. Unemployment will rise, prices will skyrocket, no more money for the NHS or other social services, Britain will lose vital foreign investment, Britain will lose its influence in the world…

Countless business leaders tried to sway the electorate to remain, but the majority of people could see these men had a vested interest in staying in the EU and didn’t care a bean about the ordinary folk. US President Barack Obama didn’t do much better in trying to influence voters to remain. He was told quite bluntly to mind his own business. Former Prime Ministers Sir John Major from the Conservative side and Labour’s Tony Blair united to tell the people that everybody of every political persuasion would be better off in the EU.

But their combined efforts (and by that I mean coercion, scaremongering and bullying) all came to nothing. In the early hours of Friday June 24th the final results were confirmed. 48.1% voted to remain in the EU, 51.9% voted to leave.

The greatest loser here is David Cameron. What started out as a ruse to get the whole of the Conservative Party on his side and silence the Euro-sceptics has blown up in his face and culminated in his resignation as Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, is also under pressure to step down for not backing the Remain campaign vigorously enough. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, is calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President François Hollande both say it’s a sad day for us all and the faceless brigade in Brussels say that the British had better make their exit from the EU fast. Oh, and Spain still wants Gibraltar back.

As for Northern Ireland, leaving the EU will impact on relations with the Irish Republic, but there won’t be a return to the stringent border controls that existed during the Troubles.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out, especially with the remaining twenty-seven member states of the EU. There are many elements in those countries, especially in Greece, France, the Netherlands and Sweden, who are calling for a referendum in their own countries.

As for me, it remains to be seen how Brexit will affect me. I’ve lived all my life in the United Kingdom and the only other EU member state I’ve ever visited is the Irish Republic. I have no contacts in any other EU state and I have no plans to go abroad. I’m as clueless as anyone about what the future outside the EU will hold. All I can do is keep living and hope for the best.

“Savoir se libérer n’est rien; l’ardu, c’est savoir être libre.”
André Gide

Mid-life crisis

I am now 42 years old.  At this stage in my life I should be in the throes of a “mid-life crisis” like so many men my age.  I’m already in the early stages of baldness; more than half of my threescore and ten years has passed; I’ve already lost one parent and I’m wondering how long it will be before the other one goes; I’m not getting any younger, only older… How long have I got left of this life?  These are all the things that should be haunting me…

 

But they’re not.  I wonder now and then why I’m not burdened with so many of the worries that male quadragenarians (that is, men in their forties) have.  Well this afternoon I put in a search for “mid-life crisis” on Google and came across a list that has been published in nearly all the UK national papers.  The list published in July this year lists forty signs of “mid-life” crisis in men.

 

“1. Desiring a simpler life” For someone living in a developed country in the early twenty-first century my life is very simple.  No mortgage, few worries about money, no children, no car…

“2. Still going to music festivals like Glastonbury.”  I’ve never been to anything resembling a “music festival” in my life and I’ve no desire to go to one now.

“3. Start looking up old boyfriends or girlfriends on Facebook.” I’m not on Facebook and I’ve no old girlfriends.

“4 Realise you will never be able to pay off your mortgage.” I don’t have a mortgage either.

“5. Joining Twitter so your bosses think you ‘get’ digital.” I’m not on “Twitter”—too many twits.  Besides, I work in retail.  Nobody I know would be at all impressed at my joining “Twitter”.  (Although my joining the Legion of Mary did surprise some of my relatives.)

“6. Excessively reminisce about your childhood.” My childhood in Belfast in the 1970s and 1980s was nothing to get excited about.

“7. Take no pleasure in your friends’ successes” Actually, that’s true; I don’t. CHECK!

“8. Splashing out on an expensive bicycle.” I did that right after Woolworths went bust and I became unemployed.  But the money I saved on bus and train fares was probably cancelled out by the money I spent keeping my bicycle roadworthy. CHECK!

“9. Sudden desire to play an instrument.”  I’ve already got a musical instrument, my voice, one that was given to me by God.

“10. Fret over thinning hair.” Yes, that is something I do now and again. CHECK!

 “11. Take up a new hobby.”  Does surfing the internet on your mobile phone count as a new hobby?

“12. Want to make the world a better place.” I’m only concerned with what beauty there is in the world now.

“13. Longingly look at old pictures of yourself.”  Looking at my baby photos from the 1970s I can see I was cute, quiet and happy.  Thirty-five years on, well, maybe I’m not so cute now, but two out of three isn’t so bad.

“14. Dread calls at unexpected times from your parents (fearing the worst).”  That’s something else I don’t worry about.  My mother is still in reasonably good health.

“15. Go to reunion tours of your favourite bands from the 70s and 80s.”  See reason no.2.

“16. Switch from Radio 2 to indie stations like 6 Music.”  I was listening to Radio 2 when I was a teenager and it was aimed at people more than three times my age.  I now listen to Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 Extra, Radio Ulster, Radio 6 Music, RTE Radio 1, RTE 2fm, RTE Lyric FM and occasionally Europe-1 and France-Inter…

“17. Revisit holiday destinations you went to as a child.”  My travelling was quite limited when I was a child and I’ve been to so many new places since I came back to Ireland.

“18. Cannot envisage a time when you will be able to afford to retire.”  Retire before the age of 65, you mean?  Retire at 55, or even 50?  And what would I do with my life then?

“19. Read obituaries in the newspapers with far greater interest — and always check how people die.”  False.  I have no such streak of morbidity in me.

“20. Obsessively compare your appearance with others the same age.”  I’m going grey and I’m going bald, but most of the time I couldn’t care less.

“21. Start dyeing your hair when it goes grey.”  Nope.

“22. Stop telling people your age.”  J’ai quarante-deux ans et je m’en fous!

“23. Dream about being able to quit work but know that you’ll just never be able to afford to.”  I’ve spent something like half of my working life on the dole.  I’ve no intention of quitting work.

“24. Start taking vitamin pills.”  I’ve never been one to pop pills.  I have a deep-rooted mistrust of pharmaceuticals.

“25. Worry about being worse off in your retirement than your parents.”  There is a possibility that will happen to me and I’m not entirely sure if my state pension will be enough.  Well, I’ll worry about that when I’m fifty…

“26. Want to change your friends but don’t meet anyone new that you like.”  I’m happy with the friends I’ve got now, thank you.

“27. Think about quitting your job and buying a bed & breakfast or a pub.”  I wouldn’t have the gumption to run a bed and breakfast and I’ve never heard of a teetotal pub landlord.

“28. Flirt embarrassingly with people 20 years your junior.”  What twenty-year-old girl would flirt with me?

“29. Look up your medical symptoms on the internet.”  I’ve been very lucky with my health and I hope I will be for many years to come.

“30. Start thinking about going to church but never act on it.”  I’ve been going to church regularly for nearly four years now.

“31. Always note when politicians or business leaders are younger than you.”  That’s quite rare, mainly because I’ve no interest in politics or business to speak of.

“32. Contemplate having a hair transplant or plastic surgery.”  No, I can’t afford it, and even if I could I almost certainly wouldn’t”

“33. Take out a direct debit for a charity.”  Yes, I had a direct debit for the British Red Cross for a year, but I cancelled it.  I was talked into setting it up by two pretty young women who called at my house one morning and…

“34. Can’t sleep because of work worries.”  False.  I’ve no problems falling asleep at night.

“35. Hangovers get worse and last more than a day on occasions.”  I’ve never had a hangover in my life.

“36. Constantly compare your career success with your friends.”  Hmm, no, can’t say I ever do that.

“37. Worry about a younger person taking your job.”  The place where I work is full of people younger than me.  My job is safe enough and I expect to move on over the next twelve months or so.

“38. Take up triathlons or another extreme sport.”  Oh, no, extreme sports have never been for me.

“39. Find that you are very easily distracted.”  If that was true this blog entry would have taken me several days to write.

“40. Realise that the only time you read books is when you are on holiday.”  False.  I read all the time, and not just books.

 

So, of the forty signs that I’m going through a mid-life crisis only three apply to me and a fourth only half applies.  If this finding is anything to go by, I’m not even close to experiencing middle age, let alone a crisis.

Digital One is here at last

Digital One is a clutch of radio stations on DAB, or multiplex, that has been broadcasting to Britain for more than ten years. It includes Classic FM, TalkSport and Planet Rock. But because of “frequency scarcity” and “regulatory issues”, two arcane and abstruse reasons which I can’t be bothered to investigate, Digital One was not available in Northern Ireland until last month.

Of the fourteen stations in this multiplex, BFBS is the one I tune into most often. That’s not to say I can’t pick it up on FM;  I can, but the signal from Ballykinlar is very weak in Downpatrick. It takes very careful positioning of the radio and the extended aerial for the signal to come through and even then there’s still a lot of hissing. With DAB I have no such hassle. I don’t have to be close to an army base to get decent reception.

The Longest (Barefoot) Day concluded

I’m back home again in Downpatrick. I would have written this update in Newcastle but for some reason the internet connection on my phone just wouldn’t work.

So what did I do on the beach and for how long was I barefoot? Well, to answer the second question, by my estimate it was ten hours.

To answer the first question, I arrived on Murlough Nature Reserve at 8.20am where I too off my shoes. I walked along the wooden walkway to the beach and turned left. I headed up towards Dundrum, turned back and walked down towards Newcastle. On the way I took a detour off the beach up to the caravan park and into the little cafe where I had a pot of tea and a lemon flavoured muffin.

By this time it was high tide and the lure of the sea (combined with the glorious summer weather) was getting stronger. I started off by having a paddle in the surf, gradually going in deeper; and even though my jeans are rolled up they still end up getting soaked. And then the water comes up to my hips and I think, oh well, I may as well let them get totally soaked.

After a few minutes larking in the surf I continued my journey to Newcastle. Now although it was unusually hot, especially by Irish standards, my jeans were still wet so I couldn’t very well take a seat in Maud’s ice cream parlour, so I got a baguette and a tea from Subway instead and had them on the grass beside the promenade.

I played on the sand dunes after that before I took the bus back to Downpatrick. So, from 8.20am when I arrived at the murlough nature reserve to 6.50pm when I left the beach at Newcastle to catch the 7.00 bus I was barefoot the whole time (except for the twenty minutes when I was buying my lunch from Subway) – more than ten hours!

A whole day on the beach in the sun! This has been my best Twelfth Day of July ever!

The Longest (Barefoot) Day

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The anniversary of D-Day was last week and the  summer solstice was three weeks ago. And today, the twelfth day of July, will be a special day for me. Why? Am I going out on the march to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne? Nope.

Today I’m planning to spend no less than eight hours in the sunshine by the beach barefoot. I arrived at Murlough Nature Reserve at 8.20am where I slipped my shoes off and stuck them in a plastic bag and padded down to the beach.

It was low tide so I turned left and walked along the sea front until I was almost in reach of Dundrum. In fact if I’d been wearing swimming trunks instead of jeans I would have been able to ford the little river and walk to the town.

At present I’m in the little cafe in the Murlough Nature Reserve near the caravan site. I’ll give you a further update when I get to Newcastle.

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I’ve said this many times before and I’m saying it again: Sunshine, I love you!