10 Things We Need From Europe

Observatory

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I hate UKIP’s Nigel Farage because he considers himself the voice of common sense. He’s the voice of insulated Little England, the small thinker, the man who stays in the Olde Worlde English hotel with a hushed breakfast room serving bad food, the man who’s content to look and behave like a Tesco stock-buyer and whose house is probably beige and dusty pink with floral English furniture and lathe-turned lampshades.

When I look at Europe I see independent thinking, creativity, originality, expansiveness. We already panicked over the Poles and ranted about Romanians. Now everyone’s upset that the Poles are returning home. Right, Nigel, let’s stop all immigration, and while we’re at it let’s pretend it’s 1950 as well.

Now, I’ll admit there are downsides. The southern European cities smell of sewers in the summer and the service is variable, but you can get across whole countries quickly and cheaply without having to pay a fortune for a 5-hour replacement bus service every weekend, and contrary to being a nanny state there are flexible rules and freedoms we can only dream of. They don’t throw their seniors into care homes and stick their kids in front of TVs. They don’t exist solely to make money for corporations. We refused to adopt sensible working hours (my partner has worked from 9:00am to midnight most nights this week) and London has returned to its Victorian ideal as the world’s counting-house.

The problem is that when you have a good job, you fail to see how poor the quality of your life has become. As a freelancer, I see the whole work/life balance in painful microcosm every time I pass between London and Europe.

And then there are ten things I absolutely demand we import from Europe to London.

1. Biodegradable loo rolls you just drop down the toilet when they’re finished.

2. Fairy Liquid in bottles that pre-foam the suds for you.

3. Free gyms, water fountains, exercise areas.

4. Not charging for every last damned thing just because you can.

5. Real markets that sell pre-soaked pulses, chickpeas, lentils, 30 types of olives, fruit and veg that actually smell like they’ve been grown and rot if you don’t eat them in 2 days (Tesco tomatoes last for years, thanks to a technique which completely removes all taste.) plus ten types of eggs, including Emu and goose.

6. Parks which can open all night without filling up with drunks, malcontents and maniacs.

7. Affordable restaurants which aren’t lousy chains.

8. Lack of squeamishness about romantic gestures (our local bandstand is dedicated to a popular neighbourhood transexual).

9. Enforced cycle lanes that don’t randomly vanish.

10. Preferential treatment given to pedestrians and public transport over private cars.

I imagine Nigel (I mean, who is called Nigel anymore?) Farage would hate all of those things. But we need him – just to remind us how awful things could be. In Ian R Macleod’s wonderful novel ‘The Summer Isles’, we’re in an alternative-timeline England that has followed the UKIP vision (close to Germany’s pre-war ideal of nackt kultur) to its logical conclusion, and it’s a Dantean vision of Hell. Step Into Your Place, it says. And Make Sure You Stay There.

It’s the job of the creative thinker to remain an outsider because outsiders progress civilisation. And we demand toilet rolls you can flush away.

 

11 comments on “10 Things We Need From Europe”

  1. Jo W says:

    Particularly agree about the replacement bus service! That’s the reason I won’t be attending Whitlit this weekend. But I hope that it all goes well.

  2. pheeny says:

    Farage wants to take us back to a 1950’s Britain that never actually existed – Cameron is taking us back to a Victorian Britain that did – I don’t know which is the worse

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    Absolutely. But it’s good that there is a UKIP as we get to see who crawls out from under their offended rock to show support. To see who spouts the easy phrases and comfortable… well, not truths (but you see what I mean). I’m not at all surprised by who of those are my ‘friends’ on faffbook for example to come out and wave their little brown flags. Typically I’ve all sorts of such faffbook people who I’ve not actually clapped eyes on in fifteen or twenty years and I could probably have guessed it would have been them.

    After all, I’m 45 now. The young snipe of the board that might make me I’ll soon be a bit old to make any real contribution at the barricades come the unveiling of the latest flavour* of fascist, so I wish they’d hurry up as us veterans of the late 80s and early 90s demos and riots are ending up more Dad’s Army than V for Vendetta. 🙂

    *Prawn cocktail in case anyone wondered.

  4. Rachel Green says:

    I can’t fault your list at all. Bravo.

  5. Nigel says:

    When things get tough, we see the rise of the popular fix-it guy. We have one over here in the Netherlands called Gert Wilders (now you think Farage is weird?)

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Biodegradable toilet rolls? I don’t see any indication in either Belgium or Germany that they can be flushed away. Perhaps I’m missing something. Free museums? I don’t think that’s happening, although Aachen Cathedral definitely does not charge, just begs you for a donation and shows you the work that needs to be done. Oh, yes, and charges you a euro to take pictures. The complaints about government in Belgium were pretty much what I hear in Canada but I don’t read or speak German so I can’t answer for them.

  7. snowy says:

    11. Cakes, ….definately cakes, …….lots of cakes.

  8. agatha hamilton says:

    Excellent. Love the first paragraph particularly.

  9. steve says:

    The real problem is of course that there has never been and still isn’t a proper debate on the benefits or otherwise of being “part of europe” (on any level). That’s because british politicians have decided unilaterally that we’re all too dim to decide what’s good for us ourselves, hardly surprising that Farage can grow influence in such an environment.

    We obviously can’t do proper debate in this country, look at how the scottish devolution question has been handled.

    Sorry rant over…..

  10. John Griffin says:

    We seem to be in Weimar Germany with a joke candidate complete with weirdo party suddenly attracting support from all over the place. Whither the Reichstag fire? Can I request that any bisexual transvestite non-white immigrant please refrain from blowing up Parliament after ravishing apple-cheeked white virgins (of either sex) for a while, just to avoid giving Farage a foothold? 🙂
    Where I come from/teach BTW, virgins are largely only found in Yr 6 promary school (acording to my Post 16 students when we discussed chastity preferences in mate selection in different cultures). So my provocatur(se) would be a paedophile too 🙁

  11. John Griffin says:

    We seem to be in Weimar Germany with a joke candidate complete with weirdo party suddenly attracting support from all over the place. Whither the Reichstag fire? Can I request that any bisexual transvestite non-white immigrant please refrain from blowing up Parliament after ravishing apple-cheeked white virgins (of either sex) for a while, just to avoid giving Farage a foothold? 🙂
    Where I come from/teach BTW, virgins are largely only found in Yr 6 primary school (according to my Post 16 students when we discussed chastity preferences in mate selection in different cultures). So my provocateur(se) would be a paedophile too 🙁

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