For the first time since starting this weekly blog I’ve been struggling to find something to write about. Next week should be be pretty easy as we’re going to be visiting Amsterdam for the first time and it will be the first trip away of 2013 so next week there should be plenty to report on.There’s no real purpose for this trip except that it’s my Christmas present from Cally having mentioned to her a few months prior that if we ever had the chance to go there at some point then I’d like to go. We haven’t yet decided on where, when or even if we will have a proper holiday this year but the first 6 months are already filled up with some trips away so it feels like we have a lot to look forward to for at least for the first half of the year. For example after Amsterdam I have a busy few months at work before we have a few days away in Edinburgh to see Micky Flannagan on tour in April, followed by a few days in Paris in early June to see Iron Maiden. Then a week or so later we contine the early summer music shows when we have a weekend off to go to the download festival at Castle Donnington before a Wembley stadium show to see Robbie Williams in early July. And then that’s it, no more trips away to come which is sad as we often find a cheap one somewhere nice for a few days away. One of the other things that we like to do is have a mad day out somewhere in mainland Europe. The rules of this are pretty simple in so far as we have to be able to fly out, visit a city, take in the atmosphere and fly back the same day. The first one of these we did was Dublin, and if you’re even only half contemplating doing this I suggest you DO go. We flew Ryanair, took a bus from the airport to the city centre where we shopped a bit and then had a great lunch and a few guinesses at temple bar before a quick tour and then back to the airport. The second one was to Paris where we flew at 6am and arrived in the rush hour and then spent the day on trains and the metro seeing all the sights. Sure, at one point I was the most tired human being in the world but It was a great day and again I strongly recommend you try it for yourself. If you think its too expensive, I need to point out that it cost us less to fly to Paris and back than it would have cost to go to Thorpe park for the day. Our next planned big day out will probably be to Barcelona as its a quick flight,easy transport as well as a great city.
And in a way, this is what I like about Europe. I like the fact that it’s close enough to get to and explore and yet far enough away to make it feel like you’ve had a break or a new experience when you get there. I like the fact that it’s a journey to get there and that it’s all very different to home. I read somewhere that most Americans don’t ever leave their own country so therefore wherever they travel, even by plane, the currency is the same, the culture is the same and the language is the same. For us, it’s all different. 20 or so miles separates us from France where the language,currency,culture and even weather is very different to ours meaning that when you get there it feels different. This difference is something that should be embraced and celebrated rather than altered to make everything the same. I don’t want to travel away somewhere, only to get there and find its the same as the place that I’ve just left. If it was the same I might as well just drive to Milton Keynes or Telford. Normally in these discussions it’s the done thing to say “no disrespect to..” but I’ve been to Milton Keynes and the bits that I’ve seen really do need to be disrespected. So while the politicians of this and other countries seem to be hell bent on creating a borderless superstate with the same rules and the same currency,it’s my view that the people of Europe actually want to maintain these differences. Sure it’s nice to be able to cross borders freely but it’s also no real inconvenience to have to change money up or drive on the wrong side of the road for a bit when we get there.
This week, finally, the prime minister announced that at long last we would actually get a vote to decide once and for all if we wanted to remain in Europe.This immediately prompted all manner of reactions from foreign politicians all eager to get on the tv or their faces in the papers. As I see it over the last 30 years the European union, which was only intended to be a trading market, has morphed into a power hungry über state, setting its own rules and agenda resulting in an interference in our laws and everyday lives.If they had their own way our taxation would be set by them too.Thankfully we are not involved in the Euro as that is only ever going to lead to ‘Harmonised’ interest rates and banking rules. Bare in mind that most Europeans don’t benefit from free banking like we do, I don’t see this as an advantage at all. For years now we have been bombarded by scare stories from the tabloids telling us that eurocrats will be banning bananas that are too bendy, allowing the Spanish to steal all of our fish and inviting anyone from Poland or Romania to come over here and steal our jobs,healthcare and council houses. Some,none or all of these stories might be true for all I know, but as we have discovered during the last 12 months what you read in the paper is very strongly linked to the opinion of the person who owns the paper your reading rather than the actual truth, so therefore no paper is without an agenda of its own. The Daily mail for example, still blames France for killing Lady Diana, The sun still blames Germany for beating us at football and the Daily Mirror just agrees with whatever the labour party says.
So David Cameron I think has played a bit if a blinder here. What he’s said is that if the conservitives are re-elected after the next election we will get to have a referendum on Europe which he knows full well will mean that on this issue alone he will win hands down. He knows that we are fed up of Europe and fed up of having no money of our own yet paying billions of pounds to prop up other countries simply because we are in the club. A foreign politician said this week that wanting to cherry pick the rules for ourselves was like wanting to join the football club and making them play rugby. Actually a it’s a bit like joining the football club and finding that your paying the most subs every week, being told what kit to wear, what rules you have to adhere to and having no say over changing them. Then when you say you might want to leave the club you’re told that if you do,you won’t be able to play with any of the members ever again and will have to find new friends instead. European membership isn’t as straight forward as a yes or no vote especially as the very people being asked to decide our national direction are the same people who voted for Rylan every week on last years x factor.
So do I think we should be in Europe? Yes I do. And no I don’t. I don’t know to be honest. If we can’t negotiate a new set of club rules just for ourselves and the euro zone is still on its knees then maybe we should look to find new friends and a new club to join, I still think that our current friends will still talk to us rather than turning their back on us.I think that we will still want to drive German cars, drink French wine, eat Italian food and buy Scandinavian furniture. We will still want to drink Danish and Belgium beer,eat Swiss chocolate and admire Spanish football. Europe will still only be a flight away, the culture will still be there and hopefully we will still have to change our pounds up before we travel. I see Europe like a group of friends that you might see a few times a year and enjoy their company immensely and stay in touch with,but once you’ve had sometime together you’re very happy to come home. I suspect they feel the same about us too. We have lost our national identity over the last 30 years or so and perhaps this leads to our desire to take what we want from the continent we belong to and not want to contribute a lot back to it so no wonder the rest of the club members are getting fed up with us.