Thursday, 6 February 2020

Rejoicing or 'Remoaning': How's your Brexit journey?

So how is it for you? Are you basking in those sunny uplands yet? Enjoying the gold dust of the Golden Age?  Celebrating your newfound status as OfBoris?

Me neither.

As many of you know, three years ago, as a direct result of the Referendum outcome, I applied for, and got, restored German citizenship, as my Jewish parents were forced to flee their birth country and my grandparents Alma and Rafaele were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. You can read about it here.

What I did not realise at the time, was that the after-effects of the Holocaust were felt not only by those who survived the camps, or escaped from Nazi Europe, but can be tracked, by some process I do not comprehend, in those born later.

In combat terms, it is like having PTSD. Another description could be 'survivor guilt'. For Jews like me, born to parents who got out of the utter hell that was Nazi Germany, it manifests as a constant reminder that however safe we feel, there lurks in the shadows of our past, a time when a whole nation lost its reason, when millions of people who had done nothing more than not be 'them', were denied basic human rights and dignity, rounded up, starved, worked to death, experimented on, or shoveled into huge ovens and gassed.

And we were told, over and over, by concerned parents and relatives that the time could easily come again, if the right circumstances and the wrong leaders align.

Listen, I grew up on stories of the gradual indifference of neighbours, the relentless seeping into public consciousness, via a carefully controlled media, that certain races and religions were responsible for all society's problems, and needed to be expunged from the face of the earth. I lived with it. I still do.

But back to you. How's your journey? Did you just shrug when the media was full of photos and video clips of Union Jack-waving white guys setting fire to EU flags and singing Rule Britannia? Were you concerned when certain journalists were banned from government briefings? Does it worry you that attacks on EU citizens (and Jews) have now become so frequent, they almost don't register as shocking any more?

You should be worried.

We, who carry the horrors of the past in our DNA, are lighting our candles and stepping out into the encroaching darkness, and as we hold them up in front of us, we can clearly see shapes and contours that are both alien and strange, and yet chillingly familiar at the same time.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The Joy of Buses

I have written several pieces about the Joy of Buses. Basically, since getting my Freedom Pass, and selling the 2CV, I have taken to using local buses whenever I can because, apart from being ecologically better for the planet than other forms of transport, they are a source of great fun and adventure.

And there is so much fun to be had.

For instance, we regulars really enjoy it when we get a brand new driver who doesn't know the route too well. We all have a tacit agreement not to say anything when they go down the wrong road, because we like to see where we will end up. OK, it is a bit irresponsible, and yeah, we are sorry afterwards. Just not very sorry.

The other main source of amusement comes from the invisible bus stops. These are places where the bus has to stop, but for some reason, there is no actual bus stop to indicate it. There is a bus stop on the opposite side of the road, which has a timetable for 'the bus stop opposite', which gives the invisible stop viability, but there is no physical bus stop. We don't know why, but there are several on the main route into town.

The following true, if surrealistic, story took place last week, and to understand it, you have to factor in some roadworks, which meant that one of the regular bus stops was closed and moved 20 yards down the road to a 'temporary stop', chained to a lamp post so that the locals couldn't walk off with it, place it outside their houses and then complain to the bus company that the buses weren't stopping there. I am pretty sure this isn't why the temporary stops are chained to lamp posts, but it's what I'd do, given half a chance if they weren't.

I was on the bus with regular passenger and friend Rita. We rang the bell to get off, but the driver completely ignored us and kept going. Cue loud shouting from the back of the bus. Eventually the driver stopped. We made our way up the bus to his cab and pointed out that we'd rung the bell.

Driver (new one): I didn't stop the bus because there's no bus stop.
Me: There is a bus stop, it's just that it isn't an actual stop.
Rita: Look, there's a bus stop over the road, so there's a stop over here. That's how it works.
Driver: But there isn't a stop over the road.
Rita: It's only because it's been moved temporarily coz of the road works.
Me: And the stop on this side, that isn't an actual bus stop, hasn't been moved.

At which point the driver rolled his eyes, gave up, opened the doors and we got out. We decided to chalk it up as a point to us, because it was and WE are the bus queens!